About 6% of Australian houses have a timber deck or balcony. Of these, around 2% could cause fatal injuries if they collapsed or had a balustrade or railing fail. Living in Queensland, with weather to enjoy more time outdoors, these percentages are even higher.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot that the untrained eye cannot see when it comes to decks. These include:
· Fixing and post brackets that are bent or rusted.
· Rusted nuts, bolts and screws
· Wooden posts that have degraded in the soil.
· Steel posts that are rusted at the base.
· Bracing that is warped, cracked or damaged.
· Bearers and joists that are warped or cracked.
· Balustrade anchor points that have weakened.
· Wet rot
Building and Planning Approvals for Decks
As a Brisbane building inspector, one issue that appears quite regularly are decks that haven’t been built to current Australian Standards. We are a DIY culture in Australia, and many deck builds have likely been DIY jobs with incorrect materials and construction methods. Also, many older houses built around the 1940s and earlier were constructed using outdated practices and old parts.
Building a deck means building approval, and planning approvals may be required. Building approval is the process of checking that the deck is structurally sound and performed by a private building certifier or engineer. On the other hand, planning approval confirms that the deck will fit in with the local area and that it won’t affect neighbouring properties.
If you’re unsure about the approval process, check with your Local Government or a private building certifier to determine if you require planning and building approvals.
Do I need a permit to build a deck in Queensland?
Under the Queensland Building Act 1975, you will require a building approval if you plan to construct a balcony, deck or verandah where any of the following apply:
· A plan area of more than 10m²; or
· an overall height of more than 2.4m; or
· a mean height of more than 2.1m; or
· any side longer than 5m; or
· the floor height is higher than 1m above the natural ground surface; or
· not freestanding (attached to another building or structure).
Natural ground = the finished surface level when the lot was created on the plan of survey.
Mean height = total elevational area of the building divided by the horizontal length of the building.
Although your small, low deck may not require approvals, it’s essential to make sure they don’t pose a fall risk to young children. Balustrading can be used to make your deck a lot safer.
How to check a deck
Carrying out a self-inspection is a good idea; however, a thorough inspection should be carried out on a deck by a licensed building inspector. This includes timber decks, metal decks and concrete decks. You may see decking boards in good condition, but it’s likely a building inspector that will find the decayed joist underneath.
If you’re buying a house, It also pays to check if the previous owner had the deck approved. Not only will this help you avoid safety issues, but an approved deck will also make it easier to sell your property down the track.
Don’t go through building a deck or buying a house with a deck, only to demolish it and start again. Take the guesswork out of the process, contact the experts for guidance, check the certification records if you’re buying and enjoy the great outdoors on your safe and approved deck.
Published by Alison Lurie