5 Tips for a Family and Pet Safe Deck

Decks are wonderful outdoor spaces for hosting parties, playing with the kids, and gathering for a meal.  With so much going on, it’s important to be mindful of proper safety precautions.  Below are some helpful tips for making your deck more family and pet safe.

Nick Swanson

Nick Swanson
Deck Specialist

Deck Railings

In most instances, railings are mandatory features on a deck just in terms of code compliance.  However, even when your deck is a mere foot or foot and a half high off the ground, a railing is still is a smart idea if you expect to have small children roaming around.  Furthermore, make sure that the gaps between balusters are no more than 3-4 inches each.  That will prevent kids and animals from getting stuck in-between them or slipping through and falling off.

Shading your Deck

If you deck is exposed to direct sunlight for most of the day, then you may want to consider installing an awning.  Sunshine is great and often a motivating reason for being outdoors.  At the same time, extensive heat exposure can be harmful to children and pets.  Pets with heavy coats need a way to stay cool.  Also, you won’t want toddlers crawling on their hands and knees if the boards are absorbing all of the day’s heat.

Deck Gates

Anytime there are stairs attached to a side of your deck, installing a gate is always a good idea for safety proofing.  Gates are great for allowing pets and children to move freely about the deck without fear that they’ll wonder off.

Regular Upkeep

Doing routine deck maintenance is a must for extending the life of any project.  When it comes to decks, the crucial areas to check are the fasteners and braces that support the structure.  These will wear and loosen over time and if they aren’t re-secured, eventually they won’t be able to bear as much weight.  One attachment that is commonly overlooked is the ledger attachment where the deck meets your house.  Over time, your deck can pull away.  Since your house is the main anchor point for that attachment, the deck will no longer be structurally sound and it could collapse.

Deck Finish and Refinishing

If you have a hardwood deck, splinters can be a concern.  Barefoot traffic and pet paws are all susceptible to splinters.  Be sure to reapply finish to your deck boards whenever it’s needed.  Sometimes sanding the boards is also sufficient.  Again, general upkeep can also help in this regard because old, cracking boards are most often the culprits.