One of my bugaboos as a home inspector is deck installation. Or decks in general. So often installation is incorrect. And among decks, my least favorite are the kit decks.
What are kit decks? These are decks that are picked out of a catalog at a hardware store or design center. They offer different designs, with decks that are put together with panels which fit into slots created by framing. The patterns are pleasing, checkerboard, herring bone, alternating angles, and so forth. Different guardrails are offered and you can mix and match and design a deck! Kit decks have personal appeal.
The big problem I have with them is they are put together entirely with 2x4s and 2x6s, pre-cut to length and put together on site.
Nothing is solid wood. The columns are 2x6s put together and posts 2x4s put together.
And if the crew putting it all together on site is not diligent, or experienced, here is the result!
I can tell you the problem with this deck in one word:
Nails get loose over time.
Nails rust over time.
Nails can't hold over time.
Nails aren't made for heavy loads.
THIS DECK IMPLODED UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT BECAUSE OF NAILS.
This is what it looks like from underneath.
The only thing keep this deck section from total failure is a single cross brace, made of 1x6" stock.
DANGER, DANGER, DANGER.
Of course my client wanted to know if it could simply be fixed and salvaged.
Well no. I will show you why.
My client's delightful agent, Kieno Simeon, whom I met for the first time on this inspection, walked around the deck with me as I explained some of its finer features!
When we were done he also understood that this was not something his client wanted to save.
So, am I sure NAILS were the problem here?
Look at the light fixture in both of these photos.
It was in the way of the putting-it-all-together crew!
So what did they do?
Just move it down!
The support beams (2x4s NAILED together) merely rested on that double 2x4 ledger beam (bolted to the house with lags, which are not approved in this county). This section merely slid off that beam!
Look at the red box. The next section is barely hanging on, with about 1/2" still resting on the beam!
It has slid so much the support underneath, NAILED on, is loose.
How much longer does it have?
Dunno! Duncare! It's dundone!
Here are some more of the finer features of this deck!
Here's another section hanging on with 1/2"! Timber!
This is the other end of the collapsed beam, NAILED on with a similar 1/2" left to go!
Dryer vent? We don't need no stinkin' dryer vent!
Let's see... is this an indoor our outdoor lag screw?
Not much aplomb getting columns plumb. Oh, they are three 2x6s NAILED together.
These are special stair posts that don't need to be buried. Oh, they are two 2x4s NAILED together.
And, if we cut the stair tread too short, we can just screw it tight to pull it together, right?
My recommendation: beware the kit deck! Beware the installers! Beware the NAILS! Beware time and gravity!
Just beware! And hire a home inspector...
I know one you can call. But there are others. And get an experienced one who can control his laughter in front of the client.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560