Safety inspectors on deck at Reliable Home Maintenance

“It’s only a deck.”

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: Ed Dee checks out a house with three stories of decks. Dee recently joined the ranks at Reliable Home Maintenance to inspect and fix decks where safety may be compromised.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
Ed Dee checks out a house with three stories of decks. Dee recently joined the ranks at Reliable Home Maintenance to inspect and fix decks where safety may be compromised.

Many people have heard, or even expressed, this kind of comment, but for Ed Dee of Reliable Home Maintenance, a division of Miken Builders, the sentiment does more harm than good. With an estimated 40 million decks nationwide that are 20 years or older, Dee explained that, even though they might have been built by superior craftsman, a deck’s expected useful life is only about 10 to 15 years.

So, Dee and Reliable Home Maintenance and joined forces with NADRA (North America Deck and Railing Association) and Simpson Strong-Tie, one of the largest suppliers of structural building products in the world, to bring customers a 10-point deck inspection to help be sure their decks are still safe.

“You can load a deck up with a lot of people. It’s an area where people go to have fun,” Dee said, adding that it’s also a place where people usually let their guard down.

Just this spring, more than a dozen people were injured in a deck collapse in upstate Delaware, when the deck they were on collapsed, dropping them about 10 feet to the ground. With many of beach-area homes having one, two or even three decks – sometimes three stories up – it makes sense to be sure those decks are safe.

Dee had been in the building industry for 30 years before starting to do home inspections.

“It’s in my blood to build,” he said. “Inspection is fun, but I was yearning to get back to building.”

With his new position at Reliable Home Maintenance, working on the 10-point deck safety inspections, he gets to do a little bit of both. He gets to get back into the basics of how things are constructed and be out in the field, and he also gets to work with customers to be sure the end results are safe.

Dee took a continuing-education course offered by Simpson Strong Tie and was literally amazed at the wealth of information offered about decks that were not up-to-par.

“It was a two hour class, and I went in there thinking, ‘I know how to build, I’m a good builder,’ and I came out amazed. Everyone did. Sometimes, you’ll go to a class and there will be people that argue the other side, but this was two hours of dead silence. A bell went off that we have to pay more attention.”

With the highly corrosive salt water and air of this area, decks around in coastal Delaware are subject to faster deterioration – something Miken staff said prompted them to want to offer this new service.

“We are not trying to scare people,” emphasized Mike Cunnings, principal of Miken Builders. “We are just trying to educate them.”

Cummings said deck codes have changed even in the last 10 years – something homeowners might consider when deciding if they might need an inspection.

Even on some newer decks, because of the relationship between the type of wood and the type of fasteners used, corrosion and rust can happen fairly quickly – another reason even an owner of newer decks might want to get them inspected, he said.

The inspections will have three possible results: pass, fail with retrofit recommendations, and fail completely – which would mean a tear-down and re-build is recommended.

“The whole purpose is to bring an awareness to the public about safety issues associated with sun decks,” said Dee, adding that, in this area, with as many rental properties that are out there, homeowners can protect their guests and their pocketbooks simultaneously with an inspection.

“One failure could cost you a fortune,” he said. “And your deck may have been built secure, but it has just gone through its life.”

For more information, call Ed Dee of Reliable Home Maintenance at (302) 541-0200, and he said he will return the call the same business day.