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Dangerous decks: 5 things every deck owner should inspect for safety

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MUSKEGO — Dangerous decks and balconies -- experts say they're all over SE Wisconsin -- so how do you know if the one you're stepping onto is safe? There are five things you can look for on a balcony or deck.

John Paulakos

The lifespan of a deck can be short in Wisconsin. Couple a wooden deck with a harsh winter, and it simply ages faster.

"Because of the snow load, you're putting constant weight on there," explained John Poulakos with Valley of Wisconsin -- a company that specializes in the construction of decks and fences.

Balcony where two people were injured in July.

Poulakos said he often sees balconies that are not up to code and potentially dangerous.

In July, two people, including a child, were hospitalized in Milwaukee after a balcony collapsed.

Back in 2013, a fourth story balcony collapsed beneath a contractor's feet at a Milwaukee apartment complex. Amazingly, he suffered only minor injuries.

"You should inspect your deck every year," John Poulakos recommended.

Check to see if fastening nails have turned red and are rusting. This is a safety hazard.

Poulakos said there are five big things every deck owner should have on their inspection list:

  • Quality of boards: Look for any mold, mildew or deterioration.
  • Handrails and posts: Give them a shake. They shouldn't flex more than two inches.
  • Rail width: The rails should not be more than 4 inches apart. If they are too far apart, a child could fall through.
  • Supporting posts: The posts should be at least six inches by six inches.
  • Fastening nails: Look for rust or if they've turned red.

The average life of a deck is 20 to 25 years, but they can last longer depending on what they are made and how well you take care of them.