Saturday, November 03, 2007

Deck Inspections - Another Failing Grade

More often than you expect we get calls from pensive clients asking strange questions about what they should reasonably expect when it comes to decks and fences.

Yes, your gates should operate without jamming--there should be an inch of clearance, yes, it should have a brace. No, your deck should not have black spots all over it, no, it shouldn't sag between the joists.

I've received enough of these calls in the past that a few times a year I am inspecting the competition's work and preparing a report to arm the client with a definitive list of deficiencies to negotiate with the contractor.

Now, I will preface this by saying, I know what these people paid for this deck, and it was a low-ball or "Cheap" price.

In the above shot you will see the most common design flaw in decks. An 11 inch step outside a door and marks on the wall where the previous deck was. It is dangerous and certainly a tragic flaw since it makes the deck feel uncomfortable as you enter.

Taking a peek at the substructure the skirting touches the ground which means that it will lift the deck off the footings as the frost sets in.

Second issue is the strange footing... two footings to support one post. Since I viewed this I have been trying to imagine a situation where I would do this. I am still trying.

At least they put gravel and a drop sheet down.

The post to footing connection and beam to post connection are a long way from secure.

Now, Hand rails are a pretty important part of any deck.

These guys used "A cedar 2x4, top and bottom" and called it a hand rail. Zoom forward a few years. When you toenail a 2x4 into a 4x4 post and it starts to rot... it eventually falls off.

As well when you lay a 2x4 on the flat and span 42" it will sag in short order. The bottom member of this rail will not support the glass. A hand rail is not a picture frame. It could also be called a safety rail...certainly when it is 8' off the ground.

The trims are simply 3/4" x 3/4" cedar fastened with brad nails.

I wouldn't want to be the one to trip towards this rail and have to rely on it. This deck rail would never pass an inspection by the building department. It would never receive a stamp from an engineer. Any contractor that would knowingly install this hand rail and charge the client for it is simply a negligent greedy pig . If you don't know how to build a hand rail...research and find out. Laziness is no excuse for putting people in danger.

Now, this is my pet peeve of 2007. They changed the formulation for pressure treated materials a couple of years back. ACQ is now the standard and it eats steel fasteners within a couple of years.

ACQ fasteners are "Double Galvanized" to withstand the corrosion caused by ACQ pressure treated materials which this deck frame is made from. "ACQ FASTENERS DO NOT RUST IN THE ELEMENTS". This means that within a couple of years these fasteners will not be holding themselves into the pressure treated frame. The deck will fall to pieces.

Metal reacts with the tannins in Red Cedar to cause black staining throughout the entire thickness of the wood, causing a stain that can NEVER be removed.

These guys cleaned up all the materials from the deck, (which left a perfect outline on the lawn of dead grass), and left the box of what they fastened the decking to the ACQ rated under structure. Ouch...

"Ummm, I used fasteners that will turn to dust in 2 years...but can I have my check now?"

This is one of the largest deck companies in the Toronto Area. They have a website and I know one of their managers personally. I don't want to provoke a law suit so I am not going to name them but what I will tell you is that this deck is just off Avenue Road, south of the 401 and they do a lot of work in the area.

The lowest price is rarely the best deal.


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