5 Simple Steps to Safety on Your Deck and Porch

May is my favorite month of the year. Besides the excellent celebrations of Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and my birthday, May brings some of the best weather we have in the Pacific Northwest. That means spending time outside on our decks and porches. We want to make sure that both are safe. Here are 5 steps towards your deck safety:

Check the Deck
Winter weather can do damage to decks by snow and rain causing cracks and loosening connections. Look all the way around your deck, including underneath if possible, checking for loose or rotting boards, rusty connections, and screws in the structure. These things need to be fixed right away.

If you don’t have the skill or experience to do this kind of work, find a handyman. The BIAWC website and Angie’s List are great referral sites for qualified contractors.

Test the Railings and Stair Treads
Just like the deck, stairs and handrails can get cracked or loosened over the winter. Make sure that treads are sturdy, with no wiggles. Handrails should be tightly fastened. Harsh weather can make paint blister, causing cracks and splinters on the handrail. Sand these down until they’re smooth and repaint as necessary.

Handrails for Safety
Consider adding handrails to stairs that don’t have any, even short sections of stairs. They’re good for everyone using the stairs and particularly helpful for older people who have less mobility.

Clean the Deck
A winter’s worth of weather will add debris and dirt to the deck. In some cases, mold and mildew can develop, making the deck slippery and dangerous. Sweep the deck first, getting rid leaves and dirt. Some people like to pressure wash at this point. Be sure to read the warning labels about the recommended pressure to use on wood or composite deck before starting. It’s easy to take off paint and even crack the wood if you are too enthusiastic.

Once the surface is clear, it’s time to use a deck cleaner for the wash cycle. Cleaning agents TSP and bleach have been used for years, but they are toxic both to the user and the environment. Consider using a homemade mixture of vinegar and water or baking soda and water, or an environmentally approved cleaner like Simple Green. Look for the Green Seal to know a product has been certified for environmental and health excellence.

Add the Finishing Touch
After cleaning, your deck may need to be repainted, stained or sealed now that it’s been cleaned. Consider using a paint that has non-slip texture in it for added safety. Anti-slip stair tread tape is easy to install. Add lighting to avoid tripping accidents and a nice glow in the evening. Solar powered sensor lights are great for this purpose.

Clear the Clutter
Most decks and porches don’t have built-in storage, but there is lots of stuff that accumulates on them. Chairs, cushions, barbeque tools, planters, and hoses are some of the items that may end up on your deck, causing tripping hazards. Attractive weather resistant storage boxes provide a way to stow the stuff and additional seating.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 33,000 people are injured because of structural failure of a deck, porch, railing or staircase. Now is the time to make sure your deck is a safe place to enjoy the sun. A little maintenance will go a long way towards your summer enjoyment and safety.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.