May is Deck Safety Month and Water Safety Month — get your deck and pool area ready for days of summer enjoyment.
As Memorial Day Weekend — the unofficial start of summer — approaches, we’re thinking about spending time outside, enjoying barbecues on the deck with friends and family, hanging around the pool, toasting marshmallows around the fire. Whether you’re adding a pool or spa, building a new deck, or enhancing what you already have, make sure your backyard entertaining area is safe and worry-free all season by following a few important guidelines.
The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) suggests critical check points for keeping kids, pets, and guests safe all around the yard. It’s important to use a licensed contractor or inspector, especially for structural matters, and always consult with your town’s building department to ensure you are code-compliant, and check with local utility companies before you dig.
“The number-one priority and message to all homeowners is to ensure that their decks are safe for use,” says Michael Beaudry, Executive Vice President at NADRA. “Providing a safe outdoor living space for your family and friends comes down to three simple action items: Educate. Inspect. Correct.™
Doing these three things to ensure your decks are safe for the year ahead is every homeowner’s responsibility. Decks are the same as your home’s roof, doors, and windows, these products all have life expectancies. The exterior is exposed to sun, rain, snow, salt, and extreme temperature changes over the years. The need to maintain and provide annual inspections is critical for keeping decks strong and safe.”
Here are key ways to keep your backyard deck and pool area safe.
- Make sure the wood is sound. Inspect your deck for jagged, rotting, or split surfaces, including the ledger board where the deck attaches to the house, joists and support posts. Look for insect damage and any areas that are in regular contact with water or tend to remain damp, which can hasten weakening of the wood and potential structural breakdown. Also, pay attention to the flashing — the metal or plastic guard that channels water away from the home or deck and protects the area where the deck meets the house — which should be secure with no leak points.
The solution: Replace rotting or damaged wood; sand and repaint or re-stain areas that are jagged or splintering; replace or reseal flashing if water is seeping behind the guard.
- Inspect fasteners for tight connection and corrosion: When fasteners — nails, screws, anchors, joiner plates — are loose or compromised, they can weaken the structural integrity of your deck, and cause injury to bare feet, crawling toddlers, or pets. Stairs and railings should not move, sag, or sway.
The solution: Ensure that fasteners are tightly secured and rust/corrosion-free. Replace damaged fasteners with coated or stainless-steel fasteners, clips, screws and other joiners. Re-hammer or replace nails that have popped up. If the fasteners and boards require extensive repair, consider replacing them using Grip-Rite® Ninja Hidden Deck Clips. The patented hidden clip makes grooved board installation quick and easy, and the universal fit means the same clip can be used to create multiple board patterns, all with a seamless surface finish.
- Keep handrails and stairs safe and well-lit: Be sure your railings and handrails are firmly held in place, don’t wobble, and ensure all parts of the stairs — treads, risers, and stringers — are all solid with no rot or worn edges that can cause slipping. Always keep stairs free of debris, planters, and other tripping hazards, and add low-voltage or solar lights to illuminate walkways.
The solution: Replace worn stair treads and replace or add lighting on stairs and pathways. If handrails or other parts of the banisters or balusters are worn, splintered or otherwise compromised, consider replacing the system with RailFX cable railing. Whether your style calls for modern aluminum framing or more traditional wood posts, RailFX provides sturdy barriers for safety and protection without disrupting your sightlines.
- Around the Pool: The most important consideration is a safe pool perimeter that will prevent children or pets from accidentally getting near the pool unsupervised. Pool fences reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 80%.
Gates should be lockable, self-closing and self-latching, and the hardware should be at least 54 inches from the ground so small children can’t reach it. Also ensure it’s not climbable. Check local code for height requirements and inspect for loose fence rails or posts so no one can sneak through.
The solution: Replace rusted or non-working gate latches with durable models, such as these safety gate latches from Lockey USA. Keyless combination locks add extra security from individuals reaching over or through a gate to open it. Consider installing pool, door and gate alarms for an extra layer of safety, especially on doors that open from the house directly to the pool area. More pool safety tips and latching hardware can be found at Nationwide Industries.
- Lighting and electrical safety: Debris, moisture and dirt may have built up on your exterior lighting fixtures over the winter months. Inspect to see if electrical lines or power cords might be frayed, damaged or exposed.
The solution: Be sure your lights are working with tight connections, secure bulbs, and clean covers so maximum light shines on pathways and surfaces. Replace or re-bury damaged or exposed power lines — and always check with your local utilities before digging new lines.
PrimeSource Building Products and its extensive portfolio of brands can streamline the process with a comprehensive selection of tools and supplies for outdoor living, construction, repair and security needs. Fast and efficient installation makes these products ideal for pros as well as DIYers.