Germantown deck collapse still being investigated — here’s what homeowners should know

The exact cause of a deck collapse at a Germantown house that sent six people to the hospital remains under investigation, but an official with the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services said Monday the deck failed at the “ledger attachment” — where the deck meets the townhouse.

“Most of these catastrophic collapses are happening at that point,” said Jeremy Schupp, who handles residential inspections and code compliance. Schupp said the deck at the Walnut Cove Circle house in Germantown was 33 years old, according to county records.

Schupp said the county has made requirements more stringent since 2018. “Instead of just being able to screw this deck to your house, we actually require through-bolts. So we actually want to see those bolts going from the outside to the inside of the house.”

Each May, Montgomery County offers free deck inspections as part of Building Safety Month. Officials will “make a visual observation,” said Schupp, “and offer the customer a checklist of some recommendations that we might have.”

He recommends regular inspections to head off any potential problems.

Among the things to check, said Schupp: dark spots at the points where bolts and fasteners connect to the deck, which can be the result of water damage. “Make sure that there’s no water getting in there, which can cause an issue down the road,” said Schupp.

Other things to look for: soft or spongy sections in the wood, wobbly handrails, and loose nuts or bolts and fasteners.

Even if you have composite decking, Schupp said, you still want to make sure the point at which the deck joins the house is securely attached and in good repair: “The structural issues are virtually the same.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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