Tag Archives: deck safety

Why Aren’t We Framing All Decks With Steel?

If you’ve read this website much you know I speak a lot about problems with wood framed decks; dry-rot, termites, fungus, water intrusion, these all lead to shorter life spans and costly repairs. We’ve seen the results, Berkeley, 7 dead, 6 seriously injured…and frequently, all to frequently, we read about a deck collapse somewhere with numerous people taken to a hospital when a deck at a home fails and they all fall to the ground.

A dry-rotted deck being replaced by Philip Purdy of Stonecroft Construction. Photo courtesy of Philip Purdy.

I’m on LinkedIn and one of my connections, Philip Purdy of Stonecroft Construction LLC is a deck contractor in Colorado Springs/El Paso County in Colorado. He’s been posting photo’s of his deck projects, many which are of his crew replacing a wood deck with a new deck. But Philip stands out because his new decks aren’t framed with wood. They’re framed with steel.

I checked out Stonecroft Construction on Google and found this gem- Philip’s company has a five star rating on Google. One of his clients said “Philip’s crew built my deck as if they were building their own.” 61 five star reviews out of 61 reviews. Another of his clients said “…and I was even told by one of the inspectors that the deck we received was very impressive and absolute quality work.” Outstanding and extremely impressive. Obviously Philips dedication to his craft pays off with reviews like these.

It hit me after I made a comment on a post of his that I asked why aren’t waterproof decks being built with steel framing? What are the advantages of using steel? So I asked Philip if I could ask some questions so I could write this post; he said yes and here we are. My questions are in bold italics with Philips answers following.

How long have you been a deck contractor?

Since 2014.  We started as a general contractor and then slowly specialized into decks.

Were you framing decks with wood before going to steel?

We built about 75 wood frame decks before moving into steel.  We have built close to 90 steel frame decks at this point and we are not looking back.  We don’t even offer wood frame any more.

How/why did you start using steel framing?

I grew up on a family farm in Kansas.  We built most things out of steel for the farm.  I noticed anything my grandfather built out of wood had to be replaced.  Anything he built out of steel was still around.  I learned how to build things out of steel from boyhood.  When I moved to Colorado Springs and found out about steel it was an easy choice.  We were becoming increasingly frustrated with the wood frame problems. Finally, I had enough of the warping, cracking, shrinking and rotting.   It was at that point, I decided we would install all steel all the time.  At 90 decks with steel frame, we have not had any callbacks.  It makes me sleep better at night knowing I am building on a solid foundation.

What are the advantages of steel framing over wood framing?

Steel is lighter to carry on the job site. It does not warp, shrink, crack or bow. It stays straight.  It resists rot.  It is more dimensionally stable than wood.  It is more uniform. You do not have to crown it. It can do greater joist and beam spans with less material. Steel is stronger by weight. This leads to the need for less piers. Steel is easier to work with in my opinion.  It goes together with self-tapping screws. Steel does not absorb water and get heavier to work with.  If anyone wants to know the advantages of steel, they just need to look at the joist hangers on an old rotted deck.  If the hangers are rusting, it is possible that is not a good location for steel.  If they look like the day they were put on (most all of them do) then that tells you what steel does in that location.  We use Fortress Evolution Steel Framing. It is additionally powder coated which adds another layer of protection from rust or corrosion.

What about cost differences between wood and steel framing? 

The costs are hard to compare.  By the linear ft steel is around 2.5 to 3 times more.  If you consider sorting out the bad boards, needing more footings, crowning, planing the joist flat, taping the joists and beams, I believe they even out pretty quick.  The lighter weight of steel means you are not as tired at the end of the day. How do you quantify those advantages?

How are the deck boards fastened to steel framing? 

Wood framing usually gets clips or screws of some sort. There are several different clips that work well with steel deck framing. One is the Trex Hideaway Clip for Elevations.  We use it exclusively at this point as it works with most decking brands.  Camo is coming out with some interesting ideas with their new Edge Clip and X Clip that work well.  We are constantly trying out new ideas. For screws, we use Cortex Drillers or Deckfast Metal Screws. We use these with one of their decking plug systems.  Cortex seem to work the best for us with their specialized TTap bit system.  We typically use the screws on stairs and picture frame.  The hidden fasteners are for the decking field. 

Can I screw plywood to the steel framing for waterproofing over?  

We have not done this, but I imagine it would work just fine.  There are a number of panhead screws available that self tap and should work fine for this purpose.

Can the steel framing be adjusted to have a slope to it of 2% per foot to drain water off?

You can do most anything with steel that you can with wood.  We do not do this, but it is something that could be done.

Can a finished soffit be installed under the deck framing or do I have to look at steel framing?  

Absolutely, you could add furring and your own boards if you have waterproofing above or an aluminum underdeck system like Underdeck Oasis.  The Fortress Evolutions Steel offers a black joist that looks nice even if you don’t plan on covering it up.

What other advantages does steel framing offer over wood from your point of view?

Steel framing can be recycled if you are going to tear it down in the future. Because steel is put together with screws you can also take it apart easily to fix mistakes that inevitably happen.  Then you can put it right back together again.  Taking apart wood that has been nailed together requires considerably more effort.  Commercial, industrial and agri-business have proven steel as a durable, viable building material over the last 100 years.  The deck industry is catching on and steel’s time has come.

After talking with Philip I’m more interested than ever in exploring using steel to support pedestrian traffic coatings. Philip’s brand of choice for steel deck framing and stair framing is Fortress Building Products https://fortressbp.com/. A look at their website and specs shows a robust product that has an Intertek compliance report on its structural properties and non combustible properties.

Philip was kind enough to provide photograph’s of his work, which is here in the gallery below. Take a look at his decks and the framing supporting them.

So readers what do you think? Is steel the material to consider and select for your deck project? I’m definitely intrigued and will be exploring this option more for upcoming deck replacement projects my firm William Leys Waterproofing Consultants LLC is involved in.

Please support our sponsors! www.sb326inspector.com
Advertisement

Excellent Read for Condo & HOA Managers “Footing The Bill Paying for SB 326 Balcony Inspections”

Visit Our Sponsors!
Let’s make balconies safe by building them right with the best materials and skill available.

I stumbled on this article by Rachel Miller Esq and Sarah Brown with Reserve Specialist Dennis Eckert RS PRA on CAI’s website. Here Ms. Miller and Ms. Brown discuss the balcony bill in detail and raise a very good point-that Condo’s less than 10 years old may have additional rights under SB-800. Hidden damage exposed during destructive testing may qualify as a latent defect under SB 800 and therefore repairs might be paid for by the builder.

Continue reading Excellent Read for Condo & HOA Managers “Footing The Bill Paying for SB 326 Balcony Inspections”

Grilling Season Is Here… And Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Grill On The Deck

First I’ll tell you that I love to cook steaks and Santa Maria style Tri-tip over oak on my @webergrills .

However, my grill will not be found on the deck. Why? It’s simple, when I read headlines like this one, and see what happens to homes that burn down and how lives are upended, I know my grill is safest when away from the house and off the deck.

Grill on the ground not on the deck!

People always express amazement at how fast the fire started and how fast it spread into the house.

So we’ve been tweeting to Weber, Big Green Egg, Traeger, Solo, Charbroil and others to help get the message out… But they’ve all been silent. Don’t know why, but these companies could help spread the message and save customers homes from damage… But silence is an answer as well. So shame on them.

Grill on the ground away from the house. I don’t like seeing burned homes and the headline “Grill gets away and burns down house”. Maybe it’s just me but I think others think like I do too.

Lucky this time! A gas grill flared up and ignited the deck. Always clean your grills gas venturi tubing. Spiders etc can block the flow causing an explosion.

Deck Inspection’s Save Lives! Consumers, Download A Free 10-Point Deck Safety Checklist & Check Your Deck Today!

URGENT! CONSUMERS ADVISED TO HAVE THEIR DECKS INSPECTED    

DECK COLLAPSES INJURE THOUSANDS EVERY YEAR    

Deck inspections are advised for every deck every 3 years. The rate of deck collapses is alarming and more must be done to prevent injuries and deaths.

Watch this short video on deck inspections and why they are so important-the first hand experiences from survivors of deck collapses are chilling. Please download the safety checklist and get an inspection done ASAP if you find anything questionable.

DeckExpert.com, as a member of the National Deck & Railing Association, encourages professional deck inspections. Download NADRA’s consumer checklist, designed to help owners of wood/composite decks to determine if they need a deck contractor or specialized inspection to determine if repairs or replacement of your deck is necessary. Don’t become the next victim and a become a statistic on a ever growing grim listing of deaths and injuries from deck collapses.  Click the link to open and download the  NADRA_Homeowner Checklist

Inspect your deck before that party you are planning, be safe, be sure!

 SB 721 Will Force the Inspections of Decks-Who Should Perform the Inspections?

DeckExpert.com supports the inspection bill for decks. The Berkeley tragedy, the lives lost and the survivors who are left with serious life long injuries, has brought us all to realize the need to implement an inspection & repair program on a statewide level. This “accident” was no accident. 

The collapse at Berkeley was on a path to occur somewhere-the building industry in California and beyond will argue against my points, but this tragedy was years in the making. There are many reasons for this-from architecture schools that don’t teach it’s students the basics of waterproofing.  For example, right here at Cal Poly SLO, many courses, not one on waterproofing. I’ve offered to give a lecture at Cal Poly; my offers have been meet with silence.

http://www.catalog.calpoly.edu/collegesandprograms/collegeofarchitectureandenvironmentaldesign/architecture/#courseinventory

The architect who designed the balcony in Berkeley designed it poorly. Continue reading  SB 721 Will Force the Inspections of Decks-Who Should Perform the Inspections?

CA Senator Jerry Hill Introduces SB-721 Contractors: decks and balconies: inspection

DeckExpert.com Supports Requiring Deck Inspections

Bill Duplicates Berkeley Bill Langauge in Who Can Perform Inspections

Should structural pest control operators, general contractors, architects or engineers inspect deck inspections as the state of CA is proposing?

They will be if the consulting and inspection industry doesn’t act quickly and object. Senator Hill has just introduced a bill that uses much the same language Berkeley’s city ordinance does.

“The inspection shall be performed by a licensed general contractor, structural pest control licensee, licensed architect, licensed engineer, or other licensee as approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The purpose of the inspection is to verify that all of the balconies and other elevated walking surfaces covered by this section are in generally safe condition, adequate working order, and free from hazardous dry rot, fungus, deterioration, decay, or improper alteration to the extent that the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants is not endangered.”

My thoughts-

Structural Pest Control Licensee-pest control licensee’s inspect buildings for termites/wood destroying organisms. They do not test roofs (or balconies) for water tightness, nor are they qualified to do so. Roof contractors can do so, but generally exclude themselves from inspecting decks. Pest control licensee’s do not know about waterproof coated decks, how they are installed, what problems to look for when doing an inspection and even if they do see a problem, don’t understand what caused it, what degree of a problems it is or how to repair it. Continue reading CA Senator Jerry Hill Introduces SB-721 Contractors: decks and balconies: inspection