Why Deck Inspections Matter

  • -
By George DeMare, Vice President Business Development–

There are 40 million decks in the U.S. and maybe half of them are code compliant.

States and municipals are establishing more rigorous codes thanks to an increase in deck failure injuries. With safety concerns driving more stringent deck codes, remodelers and builders are finding ways to ensure projects pass inspection.

Local building inspections are the source of enforcing code compliance. When it comes to decks, this usually means separate inspections for footings, framing, and the “final”. The biggest challenges in following deck code are the consistency in which rule changes apply if your company is working in multiple municipalities – each has its own departments and inspectors.

Builders being present at the inspection can help answer any questions an inspector may have.

The biggest challenge when building a deck can be issues encountered on site and resolving them in a way that conforms to code. Making extra effort to be there at the time of the inspection to answer questions, ease concerns, and interpret plans ensures a higher pass rate. Even with all the plans, inspectors do not know the project like the contractor. Having the homeowner there as well helps!

Be prepared to discuss anything in the project that differs from the approved plans. It is better to bring these up with reasons why things changed instead of waiting for the inspector to notice. It is never helpful to question an inspector’s observations or dispute decisions. Code passing should have been addressed back in the design stage and plan review. If you have approval for how it is built, refer to the plan (have a copy of the current IRC codes) and logically explain.

What if you fail an inspection?

Seasoned deck builders turn their failed building inspections into a process to ensure the work passes. Experience is a useful teacher. As a builder/contractor, showing up to township planning departments with designs (and a full set of structural drawings) mindful of property lines, easements, setback requirements, square footage to floor area ratio components, and anything else code requires can be key. Always be mindful of the initially approved plan.