Consumer Reports: Is your home deck safe for summer and fall?

If you have an older house, it's a good idea to have a professional deck inspector come and check.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- If you're lucky enough to have a deck, chances are it's gotten a lot of use over the past year.

Perhaps you've spruced it up, adding things to make it more like a four-season living area. As Consumer Reports remind homeowners, keeping a deck in tip-top shape not only makes it look good but also makes it safer.

Start with looking for any wobbling. Deck and stair railings that aren't secure could mean trouble. You can fix that by tightening fasteners, screws, nails and replacing rusty ones.

You should also hammer down any screws or nails that are popping up.

If fasteners or nails don't go in as they're supposed to, that may mean a supporting joist or structural element is damaged and needs to be replaced.

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If a screw or nail won't go in the wood, it could also mean that the wood has decayed. If you can poke a screwdriver into the wood more than an eighth of an inch, it's probably rotted, and you'll need to replace it.

For a deck that's connected to your house, look at the ledger board to be sure it's secure. It's a long piece of wood that's screwed or bolted to the house and runs parallel to the deck.

The connection should be capable of supporting the load or you'll run the risk of a deck collapse.

The safest ledger connection goes all the way from the ledger on the outside through the wall of the house to connect to the interior floor support. It's called a rim joist.

If you have an older house, it's a good idea to have a professional deck inspector come and check.

And stop slips! Some composite and plastic decking materials can get slick from morning dew, light frost, and heavy rain. Traditional wood and aluminum are better at resisting slips.

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But no matter what material your deck is made of, you can reduce the chance of slips and falls by adding area rugs or mats.

CR says to look for outdoor rugs made from solution-dyed acrylic. It's a high-quality and inexpensive material that's also colorfast, and water and stain-resistant.

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