120. Make Deck Safety a Priority with Justin Ford

Jul 15, 2021

When it comes to safety, it always feels like an accident will never happen – until it does.

Justin Ford, our Safety Captain, is professionally trained by the coastguard, volunteers as a firefighter, and previously ran a 600-property vacation rental company. He has personally experienced tragedy at one of his own properties, so he speaks from a high level of experience.

This time, we’re talking about deck safety. There is an epidemic of deck collapses in the United States, and we need to get it under control. Here are a couple of easy ways to address the problem.

First, you need to understand how many people can safely fit on your deck. A deck should be built to hold 50 pounds per square foot as a minimum – but expect to see them hold more than that at a short-term rental. There are so many unknowns at a rental – you never know who is using the deck, how much they weigh, or what they’ll be doing on it.

How do you determine what capacity your deck can hold? There are a few terms to know when it comes to decks and weight:  

  • “Dead load” is basically the load created by the weight of the deck itself. This is usually about 10 pounds psf (per square feet).
  • The live load is created by all the extras like furniture, planters, and people. This is usually about 40 psf.
  • Together the design load of a deck would be 50 psf. 

To determine the maximum load capacity of a deck, start by calculating its total area and multiply by 50 pounds psf. So, a 10-by-10 foot deck is 100 sq ft and would be designed to support 5,000 lbs.

We need to know that the average human in the USA weighs 178 lbs, but rounding up to 200 lbs keeps the numbers nearer and accounts for additional weight such as clothing and belongings. At a minimum, a short-term rental deck should be able to hold one person for every four square feet.

Next, make sure you are inspecting your deck every year. You should have a professional inspector come by every three years, but do a personal inspection annually to make sure you catch early signs of rot. Rot can happen fast and doesn’t take a lot to compromise the integrity of your deck.

All of this can also be found in Breezeway’s Safety Certification so that you can avoid the biggest mistakes that most people make when it comes to rental property safety. While you can often get away with avoiding this work, if something does go wrong, the results can be devastating.




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