PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There have been more than 1,100 injuries and 20 deaths in the last 10 years because of dangerous decks.

If you are getting a new deck built this summer or if you plan to get yours redone, there is one important safety step you need consider.

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In the state of Pennsylvania, you need a permit to build a deck. That can be key in making sure you get a deck that’s built right.

Pittsburgh Building Inspector Brian Ralston has seen it all.

KDKA-TV’s Susan Koeppen: How often do you find a deck that is just not built correctly?

Ralston: It happens a lot and it’s usually on decks that just don’t have a permits. People think they can build a deck in a weekend and think that’s it.

Ralston showed Koeppen some of the things he looks for when he inspects a deck for the city.

“The rails for example you [have to] make sure the pickets are four inches apart or less so nothing fits through. You need 4x4s for the railing and then you have the 200 pounds of pressure test. If you put 200 pounds of pressure on this, would this deck hold, would this railing hold?” Ralston said.

One deck in the West End received a passing grade, but another up the street was a different story.

“The steps are supposed to be enclosed. You should not be able to slide through those risers,” Ralston said.

The family that lives there did get a permit and it was a good thing too. When Ralston came to do his inspection, he found a host of problems.

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Ralston pointed out that the deck was missing the hardware needed to keep it from twisting away from the house.

Also, instead of the required 4x4s to hold up the railing, the deck was built with 2x4s.

Ralston said there’s no way the railing would hold more than 200 pounds of pressure and the drop from the deck is a steep one.

Koeppen: This looks like a really nice deck.

Ralston: Looks can be deceiving. Not something I would want to lean against.

The city has now contacted the builder of that deck and he is required to come back and fix it.

If they didn’t have a permit, things could have been much different.

The deck could have collapsed because the homeowners had no idea anything was wrong. Also, if you are caught without a permit and it’s built wrong the city can say you need to tear the deck down.


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