While Kim Katwijk states (in “Another Deck Failure,” May/June 2014) that his research shows that fewer than 40 deck collapses occur per year in the United States, my own quick Google search came up with more than 25 million deck-collapse articles. Granted, each incident produces dozens and dozens of stories about it due to the nature of the Web, but experience tells me that I could probably find 40 deck-collapse incidents in the Buffalo, N.Y., area this year alone. In fact, many of them never even make the news.
Based on what I’ve seen in the field, the vast majority of decks would fail if they were actually loaded to their code-required design capacity. Remember, a 10x10 deck should be capable of carrying 4,000 pounds of people who are dancing and jumping around, and should stand up to at least 90-mph wind loads over and over again. I think the reason that we don’t see exponentially more deck failures is that most decks usually experience only 10% to 20% of their design loads.
Unfortunately, I know of many general contractors—who also build decks—and even deck specialists who just do not understand the importance of the details and don’t try to learn them. And, sadly, it seems that there are almost as many code officials who do not understand proper deck design and detailing either.
Code Enforcement Officer
Town of Tonawanda, N.Y.