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5 Signs your Deck Needs a Professional Inspection or Repair

March 27th, 2023 | 4 min read

By Aaron King

Firepit with hardscape design and a 2-story deck

Your deck is a pleasant gathering space that you will use frequently during the beautiful, warmer months of the year. To make sure your family and friends stay safe on your deck, a professional inspection can discover potential hazards that only manifest once it’s too late.

As a Mid-Michigan deck builder with decades of experience designing and building decks, we have firsthand encounters with many safety issues that can put your family at risk as a result of a deck going uninspected. 

Knowing what problems to look for is the first step to finding and addressing any potential problems with your deck. These warning signs will be visible and evident to you as a homeowner but may indicate that a professional inspection or repair is needed.

Inspecting your deck early in the year gives you time to address problems before spring, so that you and your loved ones have full access to your deck in the summer, free from worry about any potential safety hazards.

In this article, you will learn five noticeable signs that your deck needs a professional inspection. An inspection provides you with an expert opinion on the best next steps to repair or replace your deck to make it safe for you and your loved ones.

1. Your deck boards flex when you step on them.

Have you ever walked on a deck and felt the boards bend beneath your feet? If you have, you might also have felt unsafe in that moment, and you’d be correct.

Deck boards that bend when you walk on them can pose a major safety concern. Left unrepaired, they can lead to breakage and someone falling through, causing potential injuries.

Flexing deck boards are primarily caused by deck joists being spaced too far apart. Deck joists are parallel wood beams that run perpendicularly beneath the deck boards. An essential component of your deck’s framing, they should be installed 12” - 16” apart.

Deck structure with exposed deck joists

The 12” - 16” deck joist span provides enough support for people to walk on, but as that span increases, you’ll notice the deck boards start to dip further down under your weight.

Over time, the bending effect will only increase as the deck boards lose structural rigidity, a process that is further worsened by moisture seeping into the wood.

A professional inspection will be able to determine what your best next steps are. Flexing deck boards might be able to be repaired by replacing a board or two. On the other hand, your deck may need to be entirely replaced if the whole joist structure is unsafe.

2. Your deck railing moves or doesn’t feel secure.

Loose or unstable deck railings are a serious safety concern. In the event of a railing failure, you or your loved one could be seriously hurt.

Railings add an appealing aesthetic to your deck, but also serve as a safety feature. They guard against falls when your deck is raised off the ground, as well as provide support for walking and going up and down stairs. Keeping your railings sturdy and supportive is crucial to ensure that those who use your deck are safe.

If you notice that your deck railing moves or feels insecure, it’s best to reach out to a professional. They will be able to figure out the cause of the problem and develop solutions for you to repair your railing to a safe condition.

Deck railing surrounding curved deck surface

If left unresolved, your railing may become even more unstable, increasing the likelihood that a structural failure could result in a fall and injury.

To ensure your safety, it’s important to have unstable railings evaluated by a professional deck inspector. You’ll want to address and fix these issues early.

3. Your pressure-treated lumber deck is over 20 years old.

Pressure treated lumber decks typically have an expected lifespan of 15 - 20 years. Over time, the wood starts to lose its structural integrity, increasing the number of potential fail points.

Fail points can cause your deck to break down unexpectedly, resulting in serious injury.

If your treated deck has visible wear or damage, or if you suspect that it is close to 20 years old, a professional inspection can evaluate the structural integrity of your deck and determine if any repairs or replacements are necessary to protect your well-being.

4. Your deck’s wood has cracks or splits.

Wood cracking and splitting are common problems, especially with decks that have reached or are near the end of their 15 - 20 year lifespan. If left unrepaired, water and moisture can seep into the wood through the cracks and further worsen the problem.

Cracking and splitting are more common in decks that are not well-maintained and have not had a stain or seal applied in some time. Additionally, deterioration will be worse on a deck directly exposed to the elements.

A professional inspector can assess the extent of the damage and recommend appropriate repairs or replacements.

Wood deck boards splitting

5. Your deck’s surface has a slope or lean. 

Initially, decks are installed flat, but due to some factors, you might begin to notice the surface of your deck has developed a tilt.

If left unresolved, slope and lean put unnecessary stress on your deck’s ledger board, the component that is the main connection point between your deck and your home’s exterior. It can also present a safety hazard, making it difficult to walk on your deck.

A deck that is not level can be a sign that your support posts are sinking into the ground. This can happen due to poor soil conditions, inadequate or absent footings under the deck posts, or improper installation.

You can verify whether your deck has an incline by using a bubble level. Place it on your deck boards in various locations and multiple orientations. You can also place a basketball or baseball on your deck and notice if it rolls in a specific direction. 

If you notice your deck is sloping or leaning, contact a professional. A thorough structure and footing inspection, which examines where your deck meets the ground, will bring clarity to this issue and provide insight into possible solutions.

Next steps to professionally inspect and repair your deck

Because your deck is a significant gathering place for you and your loved ones, it’s imperative to keep it in as safe a condition as possible. While many warning signs will be visible to you, having a professional inspection will help you catch potentially significant problems early on and repair them before someone is hurt.

As professional deck builders in the Mid-Michigan area, we have decades of experience designing and building beautiful decks for homeowners like you. We’ve helped hundreds of clients inspect and remedy safety issues with their decks. 

If you’ve noticed any of these warning signs with your deck, porch, or balcony, contact our team of professional deck designers and builders. We’d be happy to take a look at your deck and advise you on the best next steps for you to take to fix your deck.

To learn more about decks and outdoor living spaces, read the following articles:

Aaron King

Aaron has been in the building industry his entire life. He worked in his family’s housing business growing up in Dewitt, MI, and for nearly 40 years, built homes in the Mid-Michigan area. He has also worked with the Greater Lansing Home Builder’s Association since he was 18 years old.