I’ve been collecting every news account of a deck collapse that I can find since about 1998, and I read recently about one in New Albany, Ind., that was captured on video (Wave3 News,wave3.com/story/24805209/family-hopes-deck-collapse-video-will-educate-about-potential-deck-dangers). It also prompted a member of the victims’ family, Jeremy Wilt, to post his own “deck collapse prevention” video, at youtube.com/watch?v=SvCXTyX-Q4k.
In the news story, NADRA is cited as saying that “the number of aging and failing decks has been increasing at an alarming rate.” While the story also includes a link to a useful NADRA deck safety checklist (nadra.org/DSM_checklist2012.pdf), I’m concerned about the negative message that NADRA seems to be sending with this rather alarming statement.
Any professional viewing the video will recognize that the deck in question was guaranteed to fail, thanks to nailed beam-to-post connections and other details that have not been allowed by building codes since 2000. This deck was clearly not built by a deck professional to meet any code, nor was it likely to have been properly inspected, if at all.
According to my research, deck failures aren’t occurring at an “alarming rate,” but are in fact relatively rare, fewer than 40 occurrences per year in the U.S. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the innocent victims of this collapse, but this is an example of a system of codes and inspections that has failed, not an indictment of the deck-building industry.
To prevent this unfortunate scenario from recurring, NADRA—and all professional deck builders—should highly encourage proper inspection of existing structures, and code-compliant construction of new decks, not just during the month of May, which is NADRA’s Deck Safety Month, but year round. We all need to do more to help get the word to homeowners to check their deck, and to push each other to be better in all our business practices.