Compared to a normal deck, elevated decks provide better views, are less likely to be damaged by flooding and other severe weather events, and are also less prone to pests. However, many homeowners question whether an elevated deck can support the weight of friends, furniture, and other essential outdoor appliances.
Under the current International Residential Code (IRC), decks elevated higher than 30 inches above the ground must be able to support a live load of 50 pounds per square foot. This means that, for a 20-foot by 20-foot deck, the structure must be able to support at least 20,000 pounds. However, many modern decks are built with high-quality materials that can support even more weight.
If you are concerned that your deck might not be able to support enough weight, continue reading to learn more. This guide will explain how decks are built to code, the current regulations that determine weight limits, and how you can go about gauging your deck’s structural integrity.
The Size of Your Deck Affects its Weight Capacity
As a general rule, the larger the deck, the more weight it can support. This is because, when it comes to construction, bigger is almost always better. With more surface area, the deck can evenly distribute more weight across its surface without buckling. So, a deck that is 20 feet by 20 feet will have twice the support of a 10-foot by 10-foot deck, and so on.
Currently, the IRC requires that all decks support a live load of 50 pounds per square foot. This means that, for every single square foot of space, your deck can support the weight of a child. If you have a 400 square-foot deck, it could—in theory—support 400 kicking and screaming children. Or, more likely, the weight of furniture, a grill, friends, or even a hot tub.
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The Materials Used to Build Your Deck Also Affect its Weight Capacity
In addition to the size of your deck, the materials that it is made out of will also affect how much weight it can support. For example, a deck made out of all composite materials will have a lower weight capacity than a deck made out of wood. This is because modern woods are pressure-treated to be stronger and more durable.
They are also less likely to warp or otherwise be damaged by the elements. As a result, wooden decks can often support more weight than their all-composite counterparts. If you are unsure about what materials your deck is made out of, you can always contact the manufacturer or the company that installed your deck.
They will be able to tell you what materials were used in its construction and what the weight capacity of your deck is. They can also come to inspect the deck and guarantee that it hasn’t lost structural integrity due to weather, damage, or aging.
The Age of Your Deck May Also Play a Role in its Weight Capacity
Even if your deck is made out of high-quality materials and is the correct size, its age may still affect its weight capacity. This is because, over time, even the best-built decks will start to show signs of wear and tear. As the building materials age, they can lose strength and eventually give out.
These are all problems that can decrease the weight capacity of your deck. If you are concerned that your deck’s weight capacity may have decreased over time, you can always have it inspected by a professional. They will be able to tell you if your deck is still safe to use and, if not, what needs to be done to fix it.
Signs That Your Deck May Not Be Structurally Sound
There are a few signs that you can look for that may indicate that your deck is not as structurally sound as it once was. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to have your deck inspected by a professional as soon as possible:
- Warping: As decks age, the boards that make up the surface will start to warp. This is often due to changes in the weather or the amount of moisture in the air. If you notice that your deck boards are no longer lying flat, use caution and consider having them replaced.
- Loose Nails: As the boards of your deck shift and warp, the nails that hold them in place will also start to loosen. If you can easily remove a nail from your deck with your fingers, it is time to have the deck repaired.
- Rotting Wood: If any part of your deck is made out of wood, it is susceptible to rot. This is especially true if the wood wasn’t properly sealed. If you notice any soft, spongy, or dark spots on your deck, it is important to have it inspected before the wood gives out.
- Sagging: If you notice that your deck is starting to sag or that the boards are no longer level, it is time to have it inspected. This is often a sign that the supports beneath the deck are no longer strong enough to hold up the weight of the deck.
- Cracks: Finally, if you notice any cracks in the surface of your deck, it is important to have them repaired. These cracks can allow water to seep into the deck, which can lead to rot, mold, and other problems.
If you notice any of these signs, it is important to have your deck inspected by a professional as soon as possible. They will be able to tell you if your deck is still safe to use and, if not, what needs to be done to fix it.
Under existing building regulations, your deck should be able to support several tons of weight, depending on its size. However, the actual weight capacity of your deck will be determined by the materials that it is made out of, its age, and the condition that it is in. If you’re concerned about its structural integrity, consider having it inspected as soon as possible.