You'd think that homes built in the Rocky Mountains would have higher deck live-load requirements to account for the heavy snow that the area typically gets. And you'd probably be right. But as residents of Colorado's Summit County—home to ski areas such as Breckenridge and Copper Mountain—are finding out this winter, Mother Nature doesn't pay much attention to building codes. Following a January that saw more than 6 feet of snow, officials are warning homeowners that with warming temperatures and more snow in the forecast, their decks, porches, and roofs are at risk, especially those of absentee vacation-home owners who aren't around to monitor their properties. Heavy snow is finally piling up in the drought-stricken Sierra Nevada mountains too, much to the relief of state officials and the delight of skiers.
But snow doesn't just fall in the West. The last couple of winters have been relatively mild for much of New England, but just a few years ago the eastern U.S. was getting slammed with snow—remember Snowmageddon 2010? Winter Storm Jonas? The Valentine's Day Blizzard? PDB has weighed in on just how much snow it takes to turn a winter wonderland into a deck-owner's nightmare, and it turns out that decks built to code should be able to handle most snowstorms with ease. According to Boston deck builder Jim Finlay, though, alarms should start to go off when the snow starts drifting up over the railings and when warming temperatures or a little rain is in the forecast. That's when things get sketchy, even for a deck built to code (and there are a lot of decks that aren’t built to code).