Don’t skimp on safety when planning your deck: Expert tips for creating a safe outdoor space

When dreaming of your at-home outdoor oasis, safety may not be top-of-mind. But when making decking decisions, a key element to enjoying your retreat for years to come is ensuring it is safe and structurally sound.

The experts at Trex, the world’s No. 1 decking and railing brand and leader in high-performance, low-maintenance outdoor living products, offer the following tips for building a safe and worry-free deck:

1. Build a solid foundation. The substructure is the foundation that supports your deck, not to mention your family and friends. Here, again, pressure-treated lumber can warp, rot, twist, split and decay over time. From 2003-2007, more than 20,000 injuries resulted from a structural failure or collapse of decks with a wooden substructure.* For maximum stability and longevity, opt for a steel substructure such as Trex Elevations Steel Deck Framing System. Designed specifically for the outdoors, Elevations is the only steel framing product in the U.S. to be deemed IRC compliant for exterior use. In addition to unmatched structural integrity, steel improves the overall aesthetics of a deck both above and below.

2. Choose durable decking. Decks are exposed to the elements 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Over time, wood can begin to rot, crack and splinter, increasing the risks of injury and structural failure. To avoid these issues, consider a wood-alternative decking material, such as composite, which offers superior stability that won’t weaken under harsh weather or heavy foot traffic. Composite boards also deliver a smooth deck surface, require very little upkeep (no sanding, staining or painting) and are guaranteed to last twice as long as the average wood deck.

3. Reinforce with railing. In addition to style, railing adds security and support to a deck. Available in a variety of styles, composite and aluminum railings are ideal choices for stability and durability. Keep in mind balusters should be spaced no more than four inches apart to prevent small children and pets from squeezing through.

4. Light the night. Prevent unwanted trips and other mishaps by incorporating lighting into your outdoor space. There are energy-efficient lights that are dimmable, weather-proof and salt-air resistant. Because they are LED lights, they also are cool to the touch, making them safe for homes with children or pets.

*Consumer Product Safety Commission, “Outdoor Deck and Porch Injury Study,” 2010