Deck, Balcony and Porch Safety

​​​​​​​As structures age, routine evaluation and maintenance becomes a necessity. Regular inspections of decks, porches and exterior staircases are especially important as these structures are often built with materials that weather and deteriorate over time. Tragedies caused by decks, balconies, or porches that have collapsed or failed in some way can be prevented by following proper guidelines for new installations and by performing regular inspections and maintenance on existing decks, porches and staircases.

Deck, balcony and porch failures can occur because of age, lack of maintenance, improper installation or when the load capacity is exceeded. Code Enforcement suggests that property owners and/or property managers have decks, balconies and porches inspected annually by a licensed professional, and that all necessary repairs are completed in a timely manner. The optimal time to have your deck or porch inspected is in the spring to ensure that these structures are in a sound condition before heavy seasonal use.

What should a licensed professional check for during an inspection?​

  1. Proper attachment: the deck, porch or stairway must be properly attached and secured to the home or main structure (most decks fail at the ledger board where they attach to the main structure)

  2. Fasteners: approved fasteners were used during construction and remain tight and free from corrosion

  3. Overall condition of wood surfaces: no decaying, splitting or sagging wood is present; surface coatings, stains and/or sealants can be applied to wood surfaces to prevent decay

  4. Boards and rails: all deck boards, stairs and rails are intact and secure

  5. Supports: support posts and joists are secure and free from deterioration

  6. Flashing: flashing is in good repair and properly protects the ledger board and main structure from water intrusion

Proper permits and inspections are required by the Planning Department's Permits and Inspections Division for the construction of new deck, no matter the size or height. In addition, a permit is required for any structural alterations or repairs of decks 30” or more above grade. Permit fees are based on the size of the deck, with the minimum permit fee of $35.00 + 0.70 levy + 5.00 tech fee = $40.70. A final inspection is required. For more information on obtaining the required permits and inspections, please contact Permits and Inspections (Permits & Inspections: Official City of Virginia Beach Web Site​) at (757) 385-4211.

For more information regarding deck and railing safety, visit the North American Deck and Railing Association's website at www.nadra.org.

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