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Deck Safety: 3 Things Everyone Must Know

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Deck safety should be on every homeowners mind, but unfortunately for some it is an afterthought. For example, did you know that decks are one of the most common places for accidents to occur in the home? In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2002 and 2012 there were more than 2,900 reported injuries associated with decks. That's why it's important to take steps to ensure your deck is safe before using it.

Here are three things you need to do to make your deck safe today: 

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Railings for Deck Safety

Deck safety railing is a primary consideration for every homeowner that is building a new deck or refurbishing an old one. Railings can prevent a child falling off, safeguard an unstable elderly guests, and prevent an accidental slip off the edge. To help you decide on which type of railing to choose, we have compiled the ultimate deck railing guide below.

Wooden Railings

Wooden railings are a popular choice for decks because they inexpensive, sturdy, and durable. They can also be painted or stained to match your deck's d├ęcor and they are easy to fix if they become damaged.

Additionally, wooden railings are relatively affordable to build, making them an inexpensive option for those on a budget. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting wooden railings:

  • Wood can rot and decay over time, so it's important to choose a type of wood, such as treated lumber, that will stand up to weathering. If you are looking for a weather resistant option, use wood types such as cedar, teak, and Ipe. These can be used if you are looking for durability, strength, and a custom look.
  • A downside of wood is that it can become slippery when wet. To prevent them from becoming slippery, clean them and seal them annually to prevent the growth of moss, algae, or other biologicals on their surface.

Vinyl Railing

Vinyl is another popular option for deck safety because of its strength, weather resistance, and minimal need for maintenance. Unlike wood, vinyl does not need to be stained, primed, or painted annually. This one requirement alone makes it an optimal choice for those who are looking to build a low-maintenance deck for their home.

An additional benefit of vinyl is its resistance to rot and decay. This is a big advantage for decks that are located in the harsh sun or extreme weather conditions such as East Tennessee. Additionally, Vinyl is relatively affordable when compared to steel, making it a good option for the budget-minded deck builder who is looking to balance cost, durability, and maintenance requirements.

However, like any product, there are some things to keep in mind when considering vinyl for a deck project:

  • Vinyl is not nearly as durable a material as wood or metal. If vinyl is heavily impacted, it will easily crack or splinter. So if you choose to use vinyl for your project, be aware that you will need to treat it gently so as not to damage it.
  • An additional downside of vinyl is it is easily scratched. These scratches can be entry points for dirt and algae over time which can cause the material to look dingy and old. So when handling this material, take care not to get deep gouges on the surface.
  • Lastly, vinyl railings, like wood railings, are prone to becoming slippery when wet. For that reason, it is important to keep them clean of all oil, dirt, moss, or algae. Annual pressure washing and scrubbing can help to prevent these issues.

Overall, vinyl railings is a cost-effective and easy way to improve the safety of your deck. Just make sure you take into account the durability and upkeep required when you use it as a railing material.

Steel Railing

Steel railings are an excellent choice for deck safety because it is strong, durable, and potentially corrosion-resistant. Depending on the type of steel that you choose, steel railings can last much longer than Vinyl or wood.

For example, if you choose to make your railing out of stainless or galvanized steel, it can resist corrosion and give you many years of use over vinyl or wood products. Additionally, steel railings with a galvanized coating can be non-slip making it a perfect choice for decks located in wet environments.

However, like any product, there are some things to keep in mind when choosing steel railing:

  • Bare carbon steel railings can rust and corrode over time. To prevent this, it is important to apply some sort of anticorrosive barrier on the surface. Whether you choose to paint and prime the surface, powder coat the metal, or galvanize the railing, you must keep in mind that bare carbon steel must be protected from the elements.
  • Steel railings, out of all the materials to choose from, are the most expensive to buy. It is difficult to fabricate, must be coated, and the raw material costs more per foot than wood or vinyl.

Overall, while steel railings are expensive to install they are a durable and easy way to improve safety on your deck.

Deck Railing Requirements

Building code requirements for deck safety railing vary depending on the International Residential Code (IRC) for the region in which the deck is located. It is the responsibility of the builder to ensure that all applicable building codes are met.

In general, though, most building codes require that deck safety railing be at least 36 inches high and have a minimum of four balusters (spindles) per linear foot. The balusters must be spaced no more than 4 inches apart, and the space between the bottom rail and the deck surface must be less than 4 inches.

Railings must also be designed to withstand a force of at least 200 lbs. in any direction anywhere along its length. In addition, any gaps or openings in the railing must be small enough to prevent a 4-inch diameter sphere from passing through. This is to prevent a small infant from getting their head stuck.

These requirements are designed to ensure the safety of those using the deck, and failure to meet them can result in liability issues. As such, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the building code requirements for deck railings in your area before beginning any construction project.

Anti-slip Surfaces for Step and Deck Safety

When it comes to safety, one of the most important features of a deck is the steps. Steps that are wet and slippery can be a serious safety hazard, especially if they are leading up to a higher deck. For that reason, it is important to take measures to prevent slips and falls.

One way to do this is by using an anti-slip surface on your steps. There are many different types of anti-slip surfaces available, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the more common anti-slip surfaces include:

  • Stair tread covers: These are applied directly to the step and provide a textured surface that prevents slips and falls. These covers can be easier to install than treads, but they may not last as long or provide as much safety protection.
  • Non-slip paint: To prevent slips and falls, use non-slip paint on your steps. This paint is specially formulated to create extra friction on the step surface, helping prevent slipping and falls even in wet conditions. However, it can also be more difficult to apply than other types of anti-slip surfaces and may need to be reapplied over time.
  • Tread Tape: Tread tape is a self-adhesive tape that can be applied to the surface of stair treads to create a non-slip surface. It is easy to install and comes in a variety of colors and designs. However, it can be difficult to remove once it is applied and does not last very long.

When choosing an anti-slip surface for your steps, it is important to consider factors like safety, cost, ease of installation, and durability. No matter which anti-slip surface you choose, it is important to keep it clean and free of debris. Annual pressure washing and scrubbing can help to prevent any build-up of dirt, moss, or algae on the surface. With the right product in place, you can help keep your deck safe and prevent dangerous slips and falls.

Should you add outdoor lighting for deck safety?

An easy safety measure that you should use for your deck is safety lighting. If done right lighting can help make your deck safe and can add a bit of customization to help set your deck apart. Luckily for you, there are many different lighting options available today that can help to illuminate your deck and provide safety for you and your guests.

Common Types of Deck Lights

  • Solar Landscape Lights: Solar lights use energy from the sun to power themselves, making them an eco-friendly option. They can be a good choice if you don't want to have to worry about wiring or running power to your deck. However, they may not provide as much illumination as other types of lighting, and some require regular maintenance to keep them in good working order.
  • Post Cap Lights: A common and beautiful way to add light to your deck is post cap lights. These lights typically fit over the top of deck posts and add a great lighting accent around its perimeter.
  • LED lights: LED lights are another popular choice for deck lighting. They come in a wide variety of styles and colors, and can provide bright colorful illumination for your deck. Additionally, they are more energy-efficient than other types of lighting, making them a good choice from an environmental standpoint.
  • Rope Lights and String Lights: Rope and string lights are a simple and cost-effective way to provide safety and visibility for your deck. They can be used to highlight key areas or simply add some ambient lighting for safety. However, they may not provide as much illumination as other types of deck lighting, so you will need to decide if this is the right choice for your needs.

Locations That Deck Lights Should Be Installed

  • On Steps
  • Around the perimeter of the deck.
  • On Posts
  • Near the entrance to the deck. 
  • Anywhere that is dark or otherwise difficult to see in.

Overall, there are many different lighting options available for decks that can help to improve safety and visibility. When choosing the right lights for your deck, you should consider factors like safety, cost, ease of installation, and durability. With the right lighting in place, you can enjoy your deck at any time of day or night and feel confident knowing that you and your guests are safe.

Deck railings, lights, and non-slip steps are the most important safety features for your deck. Without railings, guests could fall and seriously injure themselves. Without lights, guests could trip and fall. and without non-slip surfaces, guest can slip on wet on wet or icy surfaces.

So if you are looking for a reliable and professional deck builder who can help you add these important safety features to your deck, contact us today. We would be happy to discuss your specific needs and provide you with a free estimate for our services.

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