How to ‘hula-hoop’ test a deck to make sure it’s safe

First, a deck collapsed in Germantown, Maryland. And then, less than a week later, another deck behind a home in Aspen Hill came down.

Nine people were hurt between the two incidents, and now Montgomery County Fire and Rescue is warning homeowners to examine their decks to make sure they are structurally sound.

“As you go up to the deck, or up the stairs, touching the handrail, does that handrail wobble, that means that your railing and the post that the railing is attached to is not fixed securely to the deck structure,” said department chief Scott Goldstein.

There also shouldn’t be any feeling of sponginess while on the deck. If there is, Goldstein said, the deck boards need to be looked at.

There is also a test called a hula-hoop test that can help determine deck safety. To perform the test, stand on the deck and make the motions of hula-hooping. The deck should not move in the process.

Goldstein also recommended looking underneath the deck to see if there are any signs that it needs to be repaired or replaced. Goldstein said to look for loose nuts or bolts, screws or nails that are backing out, or the sign of a gap between a home and the deck.

“All of those are indicators that the deck is moving away from the house,” Goldstein said.

The chief said if any issues are spotted during inspection, call a professional to look at them, so an expert can help come up with a game plan for making the deck safe.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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