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Highlighting Safety in Decking with NADRA

Corner profile of wooden garden decking a popular feature outside modern homes
To safely evaluate a deck, the focus should be on key components such as stairs, footings and posts, joists, joist connections, girders, ledger connections, deck boards and more.

During the 2021 International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, co-located with Deck Expo (PSP/Deck Expo), the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) held two pre-show education courses—NADRA’s Deck Evaluation/Inspection Certification and Master Deck Professional–CODE Education Certification. NADRA is a sponsor of the PSP/DeckExpo. 

Here is a look at those. 

NADRA’s Deck Evaluation/Inspection Certification 

This program allows industry professionals the opportunity to employ the ability to safely evaluate a deck.  

There are more than 60 million decks in the U.S. and since deck building began 35 years ago, more than 30 million are past their inspection, said Simpson Strong-Tie Co., Inc. Training Specialist/Outreach Coordinator, Jim Mailey, who led the course. 

Regarding existing decks, there is no grandfathering of unsafe conditions. 

“Unsafe systems or components should be repaired immediately, regardless of when the deck or porch was built or whether the system or component has passed an inspection,” Mailey said. 

It is estimated that 30 million decks are past their useful life and need to be replaced or repaired. 

Outdoor components have varying life expectancies. 

Aluminum and vinyl windows have a lifespan of about 15 to 20 years. 

When it comes to decks, Mailey cited a technical report from Forest Products Journal that indicated that the average treated deck lasts nine to 10 years.  

A deck under ideal conditions can last about 20 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders

It has a similar lifespan of roofs and windows—somewhere between 10 and 20 years. 

The deck replacement market is potentially worth more than those markets combined. 

Additionally, 50% of decks are built by DIYers and 38% are built by a contractor who specializes in something else. 

What does it mean to be built to code? 

By definition, building codes are minimum requirements. However, not every jurisdiction has a mandatory code. 

Inspectors can only enforce code violations. 

According to a code noncompliance study, the top safety violations are improper handrail/guardrail installation and improper ledger connection to the home.  

The next two are improper lateral support and improper post anchorage or post footings. 

The class covered other items such as stairs, footings and posts, girders, ledger connections and more.  

NADRA’s Master Deck Professional—CODE Education Certification 

From the decking to the foundation, this course covers, in detail, all segments of a deck load path (except for ledgers and lateral loads. 

This course reveals how the 2021 IRC is the most helpful yet in prescriptive deck design and construction, according to NADRA. 

The class was led by Glenn Mathewson, president and instructor at BuildingCodeCollege.com, whose career in construction began when he was 19. 

"Most decks aren't built by professionals," he said. "Most decks are built by homeowners . . . That's actually not supporting code. 

"It's a huge Frankenstein['s monster] of people contributing their experiences and ideas from across the country to try to establish what is the minimum safety and maximum freedom that we want to recommend to governments," Mathewson added. 

Mathewson also discussed new IRC tables specific to deck joist and beam spans, including little-known details that increase their design flexibility.  

Foundation and posts can now be sized using tributary areas and provisions for their connections provide for many methods. 

Register HERE for the Feb. 8, 2022, Deck Evaluation Class. 

About NADRA 
NADRA is made up of deck builders, inspectors, manufacturers, dealers/distributors, lumberyards, wholesalers, retailers and service providers to the deck and railing industry. By working together, we can be one voice for the industry and deliver a clear message to the consumer and the code development bodies. NADRA serves as a trade association with an emphasis on safe building practices, and deck safety. NADRA connects great ideas and great people to inspire leadership and achievement within the industry. In its simplest form, NADRA helps all categories and professional levels of the outdoor living industry with a specific focus on decking; connect and empower each other by collaborating and working together as one voice to benefit the industry we serve. 


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