Decks, porches and balconies

The Old House Web
Editor's note: This story is adapted from theU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Residential RehabilitationInspection Guide, 2000. Clickhere for other stories in this series.

The joint between the two parts of this support creates a hinge that can affect the roof structure.

A rotted corner post on a screened porch. In this case, the rotted section of the post and a small section of the floor beneath it were removed and replaced with sound wood.

Decks, porches, and balconies are exposed to the elements to a greater extent than mostother parts of a building and are therefore more susceptible to deterioration. Inspect forthe following:


Examine all porch, deck, and balcony supports for signs of loose or deterioratedcomponents.

Masonry or concrete piers should be plumb and. Make sure that structural connections tothe building are secure and protected against corrosion or decay. Examine porch floors forsigns of deflection and deterioration. Where the porch floor or deck is close to the levelof the interior floor, look for signs of water infiltration at the door sill and check fora positive pitch of the porch floor or deck away from the exterior wall.

Exterior railings and stairs

Inspect the condition of all exterior stairs and railings. Every stair with more thanthree steps should have a handrail located 34 to 38 inches (865 to 965 mm) above the edgesof the stair tread. Shake all railings vigorously to check their stability, and inspecttheir fastenings.

Most codes for new construction require that porches, balconies, and decks located morethan 30 inches (760 mm) above the ground have guards not less than 36 inches (915 mm) highand intermediate rails that will not allow the passage of a sphere 4 inches (100 mm) indiameter.

Check wooden steps for proper support and strength and for rot and insect infestation.Inspect steel stairs for rust, strength, and attachment. Deteriorated stairs should berepaired or replaced.

Stair treads should be as level as possible without holding water. Stair riserheights and tread depths should be, respectively, uniform.

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