6 Signs of an Unsafe Deck

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Unsafe Deck

1) Motion

loose

This is an obvious sign that your deck may need some attention. If you are under capacity, there should be NO movement when you are using your deck. Be sure to know what the maximum deck load is. Decks Go has a great tool for helping to determine this. http://build.decksgo.com/calculators/deck-load-calculator.php

2) Ledger Board

The correctness of the ledger board is very important. Not only is it weight-bearing, but it actually connects your deck and home together. Be sure that it is fastened with ½” galvanized lag bolts, instead of nails. Many times, the ledger boards on older decks used nails. This is dangerous because nails have a tendency to pop out of place. The ledger board should sit up against the home. A gap between your home and ledger is unsafe. The bolts may need tightening or attention in some other form.

3) Loose or corroded Fasteners

Loose or corroded Fasteners

Over time fasteners may become weakened or corroded. If you notice any of the following symptoms you might have a problem.

A) Loose Railings

Wobbly railings are a sign that fasteners are loose and/or corroded. This is a big safety hazard. Also check the height of the railing? Is it at least 3’ high? If not, they might not meet local code criteria.

B) Wobbly Stairs

Do you feel movement when walking on your stairs? Have any of the floor boards popped up? Both of these circumstances are indicative of loose or corroded fasteners.

C) Gap between ledger and house

As we stated above, if you notice the ledger board pulling away from your home, screws may need to be tightened.

4) Difficulty Opening Deck Door

Trouble opening your deck door might indicate movement within the deck structure. It could be that the ledger board is pulling away from the home or that structural elements have become compromised.

5) Missing Joist Hangers

lack of joist hanger

Older decks may not have joist hangers. This can be dangerous over time, and is not built to code.

6) Premature Rot

Premature Rot

Industry standards and building codes deliver building practices that will keep your deck healthy for up to 20 years. If your deck is rotting before 20 years, it may not have been built properly. A common mistake is a failure to install flashing around the ledger board to prevent moisture from being held within the wood. If the flashing was not installed properly or left out of the design completely, often times, you will notice wood rot.

Remodeling dilemma’s

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home remodel

 

So you want to remodel, but you have questions!  So many times homeowners want to remodel their homes but don’t know if they can.  They ask themselves; 1) can I remove that wall to open up more space? 2) will the deck be able to be converted into a three season porch?  3) can I put in a header to support a load bearing wall? 4) can the attic be converted into living space? 5) how big of a footing do I need in order to support the remodeling I want to accomplish?

Complete Building Solutions, a structural engineering consultancy & engineering firm based out of Minnesota, can help with your dilemma!  We have assisted many customers with answering these type of questions. Our staff and engineers can help determine the proper construction detail you will need. We will work with you to develop a potential budget for your specific remodeling plan, and can recommend several contractors to bid your work.

Keep in mind that many cities in the Minneapolis metro are calling for engineered plans before they will issue a permit.  We can provide you with the consultation and plans required for project advancement. CBS will also explain if your plans just won’t work or are not cost beneficial. So when you are ready to remodel and you have your very own dilemma, please consider CBS to assist you in answering your questions.

Patio Door Malfunctions

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This time of year we tend to receive a lot of calls from homeowner associations regarding operational issues and failures related to patio door assemblies.  These include inoperable doors, locking devices not joining properly, weather stripping issues, cracked drywall finishes around door assemblies, etc.

In January, I spent a great deal of time with a 100 unit association on the east side of the Twin Cities and a 40 unit association on the south side.  CBS was called out to investigate failures in both sliding and French patio doors, finding that the bulk of them were inoperable.  While we found the doors themselves to have little to do with the problems, unit owners were less than thrilled because they bought into homes that contained quality name brand doors.

In the case of the 100 unit association on the east side of the Twin Cities, the patio doors were skirted by a concrete slab belonging to individual patios on the outside of the structure.  During the original build, the grade on the concrete slabs was improperly set and did not shed water away from the doors.  Instead, the grade actually invited water back under the doors.  On a molecular level, concrete has porous properties and because of that will absorb some amount of moisture.  During the winter months the concrete will freeze and thaw with the seasonal changes and the concrete and exterior building components that are now saturated will take on a new demeanor.  As the water turns into a solid state, the concrete slabs as well as framing members beneath the door begin to expand.  This expansion in materials causes the door itself to rise up.  Many of the doors cannot handle the increased expansion from the water turning to ice.  Sometimes the door itself will change enough to where the locking mechanism will not work, and often times the sheetrock finishes inside the home will crack above the door assembly as the entire frame moves up.  The natural warming of the spring weather turns the ice back into water and then allows the door to settle back into its original location.  Not only is this entire seasonal process a nuisance but the integrity of the building materials around the door are being jeopardized.

This situation can be corrected in one of two ways: the annual arrival of spring or by lasting, engineered solutions from CBS.

In the case of the 40 unit association on the south side of the Twin Cities, there are no elevated patios or decks.  Instead, there are walkout ground level concrete patios beneath the doors.  The failure in patio doors at this complex comes under the guise of unsuitable soils beneath the patio slabs with the absence of water management leading to the patio doors.  Many of the issues and damages are similar to the ones described above.  Water turning to ice in this case stems beneath ground level with water being invited back to the foundation by faulty soils at the concrete patios.  Expansion of the soils during the colder months pushes the concrete slab up against the door sill thus raising the entire frame of the door assembly.  The door frame and surrounding framing is no match for Mother Nature and the pushing forces that are instilled upon this component of the home.

Again, there are two ways to correct this situation: that annual arrival of spring or by lasting, engineered solutions by CBS.

A previous blog by another member of the CBS Team talks more in depth about negative grade, water management, and its lasting effects on your home.  If anything in this blog is a problem you are experiencing please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and end your patio door problems once and for all.

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