Photo - BalconiesIn 2012, Dehavilland Baugh had a Memorial Day cookout in Southwest Atlanta. Midway through the party, a dozen people were eating and playing cards when the deck collapsed underneath their feet. Seven people were sent to the hospital. Last year, six people were killed when a fifth-story balcony in Berkeley, California fell to the ground during a 21st birthday party.

These incidents are tragic. And preventable. In each case, the collapse was caused by cracked or rotted wood. So as you embark on the holiday weekend, it is important to check your balconies and decks for any signs of disrepair. Here are seven tips to help you do that:

  1. Check footings and posts for cracks or rotted wood, and make sure post and beam connections are secure.
  2. Inspect for missing or rusted fasteners and replace, as needed.
  3. Building, condo, and apartment owners should post the maximum capacity for balconies and decks.
  4. Check for symptoms of deterioration, such as discolored areas and splinters, buckled, or loose boards.
  5. Document the age of your deck or balcony. Even the best-constructed decks are only built to last 15 years.
  6. Try to keep your deck clear of dirt, debris, and water. Dirt and water only speed up the decaying process of wood.
  7. Evaluate the weight of furniture, appliances, air conditioning units, or other heavy items on your deck or balcony to make sure it’s not overloaded.

This issue is especially important for hotel or rental property owners. Hotel and rental property owners have a responsibility to meet the highest standards of guest and resident safety. In addition to the potential loss of life, criminal and civil cases resulting from balcony or deck collapses can be costly and extremely damaging to a brand’s reputation.

So before you fire up the grill this weekend, be sure to check your deck or balcony for cracks, rot, or weakness. It can save lives. From everyone here at Distinguished Programs, we wish you all a happy (and structurally sound) Memorial Day weekend!