Backyard Safety: Don’t Get Decked

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I don’t know about you, but the minute the weather gets above 60 degrees, we open up the back doors and make our deck into a sort of kitchen-backyard mashup. (I know the trendy thing to do is call it an “outdoor room,” but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it. “Mashup” makes me feel like a cross between Ty Pennington and the teacher from Glee.)  (That would be another mashup. You think I’m getting carried away?)

Before you and your family set up camp out back, take a moment — while you’re doing the rest of your post-winter maintenance — to give your deck the once-over. An outdoor-architecture company called Archadeck has come up with a handy acronym that includes all the safety points you need to think about: BE SAFER.

Hey, it’s easy to remember, right? So let’s break it down:

B: Are the Boards of your deck warped, splintering, or mildewed? Give the surface a good brush-down, sand problem spots, and clean stains as you would if it were an inside floor. Clean between the cracks, too. Because there’s no way you can enforce a no-bare-feet policy, no matter how many pairs of Crocs you pile up just outside the kitchen door.

E: Check Every connection in your deck. How does it connect to the house, to the stairs, to itself? Does the railing wobble? Make the rounds with a drill, screwdriver, pliers, and hammer to get all the screws, nuts, and nails in line (now that I think of it, that sounds like how my mom talked about us kids).

S: How’s the whole Structure looking? Take a step back — to the other end of the backyard, or as far as you can get — and assess your deck for any sagging, tilting, or off-kilter leaning.

A: How does your deck Attach to the house? When decks do collapse, this point of connection is usually the culprit. So whatever method was used to marry your house and deck together, make sure it’s still doing its job. And if it’s not, call a contractor, not Dr. Phil.

F: Now check out your Foundation. Are any of your Footings sinking into the ground? If so, that is going to affect the whole structure, and you’ll want to compensate for that sooner rather than later — while the problem’s small enough that you didn’t notice any sagging two letters ago.

E: How do people Exit the deck? Check all the points of egress to make sure they’re still safe, especially any stairs. You should also make sure you have shatterproof glass next to any spots where people could stumble against your house’s windows. If you’ve been thinking about guard rails, this is a good time to act on that thought.

R: Let’s talk some more about Railings. Wiggle them (they shouldn’t wiggle back), check where the posts meet the deck, and run your hands down the length to check for rust or splinters there, too. And if, over the winter, you found yourself baby-proofing the house, you need to take a moment to do the same for your deck. The slats should be no more than 4 inches apart, and you might consider a deck guard (usually some kind of non-climbable mesh screen).

A good handyman should be able to help you with these adjustments, and you can call a contractor if you feel like the repairs will be considerable. Most likely, they’ll cost less now than they will in a year, I can tell you that much!

For more on home safety, check out the Tools and Resources section on

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