Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education

How to Inspect an Outdoor Home Deck

Posted by: Kaplan Real Estate Education

Updated: January 15, 2019

Learn How to Inspect Outdoor Home Decks with Confidence

Some of the most news-advertised problems with homes are related to collapsing outdoor home decks. Get tips on how to inspect an outdoor home deck with confidence from one of our instructors. Learn how to test an outdoor deck to ensure it is structurally stable, see how to inspect the safety rails, and discover the signs that will let you know if a deck was installed correctly.


Video Transcript
You know, as we come around the corner, we are meeting up with a deck. Let me talk a little bit about decks because there's a concept here that I want you to get a hold of. It's going to apply to other types of the house. I think great home inspectors can almost see through walls. What I mean through that is, based on how things are built, they are either going to be comfortable or uncomfortable with something they cannot see.
As I come around here, I see this deck footing. Looks pretty professionally done. I need to be comfortable that that was done right. Because of the extension of footing and the tube around it and the metal bracket fastening the post to the footing, it would tell me that the probability is high that that's done right. I'm comfortable and I'm not going to say anything. When you compound that with the fact that as you look up, the ways that the beams sit on the posts is all very professionally done. The bolts on the beams where they put two boards together to create a beam is all professionally done. What does that do for me as the home inspector? It makes me more comfortable with the deck. That doesn't mean I don't keep looking at the deck, but I'm going to look less hard cause I need to find problems.
I'm coming over here and I look up and I see it looks like maybe the homeowner installed the light fixture. Why do I say the homeowner? Because you can see the wiring stapled on the outside of the siding. You can't do that. You're not supposed to do that. That's called unprotected wiring and it's subject to damage and we certainly want to point that out in our report. As I continue to flow across the back of the house, I am looking at more of the deck and as I see it over there, I can see lateral bracing nailed to the bottom of the deck boards. That's excellent. What that stops the deck from doing is swaying from side to side. That again speaks to the professionalism of the installation of the deck. A lot of times, you're going to get up there and kind of go out there on the outside corners of that deck and rock a little on the deck. If it rocks, it's not structurally stable. One of the ways you can recommend people to correct that is by putting on some good lateral bracing.
The deck is looking good. The siding looks really good. If I could point this out, which I think will explain a lot of things. Even in the basement of the home, we're always concerned about having a footing and when someone relocates a post, or sets a post on a basement floor, or sets a post on a patio slab, or sidewalk, those slabs are only four inches deep. There is no footing for that. We would define those as unsupported posts. But here, as I might see in a basement floor, they put a post down on the patio, but before they did, if you'll notice the patching, they cut a whole in the cement, dug the footing out, and poured the footing up flush with the patio. Good install and that's exactly what we want to look for. Had I not seen that patching, I would have said structural problem, unsupported posts. Just didn't apply here, but nonetheless I want you to get the concept of that cause, particularly, in basements, you're going to run across unsupported posts all the time where they've relocated them. We're going to take a look at the deck from the top side. As your coming up the stairs, be sure and just kind of shake things around. They shouldn't be moving. A deck is supposed to be built just as strong as the main level of your home.
Notice here that this is not your handrail. In the old days, we used to leave this flat 2 x 6, or 2 x 4 as a handrail. Doesn't make an acceptable handrail any longer, so they've installed this nice grip-able handrail which is exactly what they should have done. As we go here, remember that lateral bracing that we had. Just verify, look at how it doesn't move because of that lateral bracing. Bump into the guardrail, make sure it is nice and secure. Remember that kids are going to be up here, adults having fun, they can bang into this, make sure that they're not going to go over the top. Some of our most advertised types of problems that happen to houses when it hits the news is decks that have problems, collapsing or something like that.