Deck Collapse Statistics

Every summer, the news is filled with stories of decks and balconies collapsing and seriously injuring or killing people on and under them. According to WSB-TV Atlanta’s Web site, an estimated 6,500 people have ended up in emergency rooms and 29 have been killed in deck collapses since 2003.

One of the most notorious deck collapses happened at a mansion in Atlanta when a deck collapsed during a fund raiser for the Salvation Army, sending 59 people to the hospital. A cardiologist suffered a head injury that hospitalized him for six months and forced him to retire. His wife was permanently paralyzed in the accident.

Recent Deck Collapses Incidents in the News:

  • On April 20, a deck collapse in West Knoxville, Tennessee, seriously injured the homeowner, who was the only person on the deck. Neighbors heard the thunderous crash and called 911.
  • On April 30, a second-story deck collapse at Cedarville University in Ohio sent 8 students to two different hospitals.
  • On May 15, a deck collapse in Lithonia, a suburb of Atlanta, sent 5 people to the hospital.
  • On May 24, a deck collapse in southwest Atlanta sent 7 people to the hospital.
  • On June 16, a fourth-floor balcony in Berkeley, California, collapsed and killed six people.
  • On July 4, the deck of a North Carolina beach house collapsed, sending over two dozen people plummeting 10 feet to the ground below, injuring 24 people, two of them critically.
  • On July 4, a deck with 15 people on it in Lehi, Utah, collapsed and sent 4 people to the hospital, one with a serious back injury.

Experts widely agree that the leading cause of deck collapse is ledger-board (the long board that attaches the deck horizontally to the house) failure. The ledger board typically splits or pulls away from the house because it is attached incorrectly or because it suffers water damage and becomes weak.

According to InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors), about 90% of deck collapses are the direct result of ledger-board failure.

Older decks are especially at risk because ledger boards were not commonly bolted to the house before around 2007. They were simply nailed to the house, a construction shortcut still used today, and one that absolutely spells disaster.

Another common reason for injuries involving decks and balconies is failure of the railing.

Deck collapses and other deck failures are almost always devastating. People are usually seriously injured or killed, and, on top of the emotional trauma of injured guests, the financial and legal consequences to the homeowner can be ruinous.

Advanced Bio Treatment has been hired to clean up after many deck collapses and accidents, and the aftermath is always horrendous. What is most horrendous is that these accidents are so preventable.

Protect Your Guests, Your Deck, Your Home, and Your Liability:

  • Know the load limit of your deck, including furniture and appliances, and don’t exceed it.
  • Check your ledger board. It should be bolted, not just nailed, to your house, and it must be bolted correctly or the bolts do absolutely no more good than nails. According to The American Society for Home Inspectors, the best bolts are thru-bolts, but lag bolts are sufficient. Bolts not only have at least nine times the pullout resistance of nails but also resist the expansion and contraction of wood.
  • Know whether the rim joist of your house is designed correctly for the load of a deck.
  • Inspect your deck for missing, rusted, and loose nails and fasteners and replace them.
  • Inspect your deck for buckled and loose boards and replace them.
  • Make sure the railing is not loose or wobbly.
  • Make sure the railing height meets safety regulations that stipulate a minimum of 36 inches for residential properties.
  • Inspect posts and footings for cracks and rotting wood.
  • Keep your deck dry and clean. Water and debris speed up the decaying process of wood.

We are Advanced Bio Treatment. We are here for you 24 hours every day of the year. Should you need our services, please call us at 800-295-1684.

Deck-building and Deck-maintenance Resources:

North American Deck And Railing Association – Deck Safety Month

Deck Magazine – New Ledger Bolting Code Requirements

Deck Magazine – New Ledger Attachment Requirements Adopted

House Logic – Deck Care And Maintenance


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Posted in Blog, Safety Tips
Ted Pelot Owner & President of Crime Scene Cleanup Company - Advanced Bio-Treatment