It’s important you do your research before you begin a large deck building project. Firstly, you must obtain the proper permits before you begin. Secondly, you have to make sure that your deck is load bearing and safely built. Refer to the following advice on how to build a safe deck.

Advice on How to Build a Safe, Strong Deck

Why Do I Need a Building Permit?

If you don’t obtain the proper building permits before beginning your deck project, you may incur costly upgrades in order to make the deck compliant. Even worse, you may be required to remove the structure completely or face prosecution or hefty fines.

Building permits are meant to regulate the various types of construction that are allowed in a community to help ensure safe building standards are being met. Their main goal is to make sure construction projects are not only done legally, but also safely.

A building permit helps you avoid legal complications when selling your home or if you decide to re-mortgage it.

Federal and provincial building codes and local zoning by-laws vary quite a bit based on where you live. In many places in Canada, you will require a building permit to begin building a deck. Some places only require a permit if your deck is a certain height above the ground, or if it’s anchored to your home.

In any case, it’s crucial that you check in with your local building department to determine if you require a building permit. Also, ask them about other factors you need to consider before building, or even planning, your deck.

I’m Ready to Build a Safe Deck. What Should I Consider?

Types of Deck Building Material

There are various materials available to you when building a deck, each with their own list of pros and cons. Therefore, it’s very important you do your research before getting started.

Pressure Treated Wood. Pressure treated wood is a popular choice. It’s protected against damage from water, sun and pests. Therefore, it lasts a long time. However, some people don’t like this option as pressure treated wood contains chemicals, some of which can be known carcinogens. Different types of pressure treated wood are Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), Alkaline Copper Quat (ACQ) or Copper Azole (CBA-A).

Natural Wood. If you want to skip the chemicals, you can go with wood that contains natural preservatives such as cedar or redwood.

Composite Materials. Or, you can skip wood plans entirely and opt for composite materials. They’re made of recycled plastics and wood by-products. Composite materials require much less maintenance and are rot, insect, salt, and weather resistant. Though, they are quite a bit more expensive.

Types of Deck Building Structures

Joists. Joists are used to support a deck’s surface. The size and spacing of joists are proportional, so the larger the joists, the more space you can place between them. It is very important that joists are properly secured. Otherwise, regardless of their size, they won’t be able to support the deck. Joist hangers are used to connect joists to the ledger board.

Beams. Beams provide support to the end, and sometimes the middle, of the joists. They reduce vertical flexing and side to side movement. Similar to joists, the size and spacing of beams are directly proportional.

Posts. Deck posts transfer the load of the deck from the beams, onto the ground. An undersized post or posts installed too far apart won’t be able to support the load of the deck and will eventually crack, which is a serious safety concern. Deck posts should be at least 15 ¼ cm x 15 ¼ cm (6” x 6”), unless the deck is very close to the ground. Very high and/or very large decks may require larger posts, or posts spaced closer together.

Guards and Railings. Guards or railings keep guests from falling off your deck. Therefore, it’s crucial you’re your deck’s guard/railing is very sturdy and at an adequate height. If your deck is more than 1.5 m off of the ground, you’ll likely be required to install a guard/railing. Normally, the higher the deck is off the ground, the higher the guard/rail must be. Check your local building codes to confirm the proper height.

Can a Home Inspection Determine If Building Permits Were Obtained?

During a home inspection, the deck will be evaluated based on safety, rather than whether or not it’s code compliant. Home Inspections are different from Code Inspections. Poor connections, improper railing height or undersized supports will be identified as safety issues during a home inspection. However, standard home inspections won’t determine whether or not a permit was obtained before building the deck. When buying a home, if you’re concerned, reach out to the vendor (if available), or your lawyer. They will help you determine if the proper permits were obtained before the deck was built.

It’s not in the scope of a standard home inspection to evaluate whether a building permit was obtained to complete any renovations. Similarly, whether renovations were completed in accordance with permit/building code requirements. However, some Home Inspection companies will provide additional services that can investigate permits for historic renovations.

Visit the home inspection experts at AmeriSpec of Canada for more tips and valuable home improvement information.

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