Summer is just around the corner, and for many homeowners in Minnesota, that means spending more time outdoors on their decks. But before you invite friends and family over for a BBQ, it’s important to make sure your deck is up to code. As a contractor and building code expert in Minnesota in 2023, I’ve seen firsthand the consequences of not following building codes. In this blog post, I’ll share with you some of the most common deck code violations in Minnesota and what you can do to ensure your deck is safe and up to code.
Decks are a great way to extend your living space and enjoy the outdoors, but they can also be dangerous if not built to code. In Minnesota, building codes regulate deck construction to ensure safety for homeowners and their guests. As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your deck is up to code and safe for use. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common deck code violations in Minnesota and what you can do to avoid them.
Why is it important to follow deck building codes?
Building codes exist to protect the safety and well-being of the public. When building a deck, it’s important to follow these codes to ensure that the deck is structurally sound and safe for use. Failure to follow deck building codes can result in accidents, injuries, and even death. Additionally, if a deck is found to be in violation of building codes, the homeowner may be required to make costly repairs or even tear down the deck.
Common deck code violations in Minnesota
There are many code violations that can occur when building a deck, but the following are some of the most common in Minnesota:
Deck footings are the foundation of the deck and provide support for the entire structure. Improperly installed footings can cause the deck to sink or collapse. According to Minnesota building codes, footings must be installed below the frost line to prevent heaving.
Insufficient railing height
Railings are required on all decks that are 30 inches or more above the ground. The height of the railing must be at least 36 inches, measured from the surface of the decking to the top of the railing. If the deck is more than six feet off the ground, the railing must also include a mid-rail.
Decks are designed to hold a certain amount of weight, and exceeding that weight limit can cause the deck to collapse. The weight limit for a deck is typically 50 pounds per square foot. Homeowners should be mindful of the weight of furniture, people, and other objects on the deck.
Improper joist spacing
Joists are the horizontal supports that hold up the decking. If the joists are spaced too far apart, the decking can sag or even collapse. According to Minnesota building codes, joists should be spaced no more than 16 inches on center.
Lack of proper fasteners
Fasteners, such as nails and screws, are used to hold the deck together. If the wrong type of fasteners are used or they are not installed correctly, the deck can become unstable and unsafe. It’s important to use the right type of fasteners for your specific decking material and to follow manufacturer recommendations for installation.
Inadequate stairway design
Stairways on a deck must be designed to be safe and easy to use. According to Minnesota building codes, stairways must have a minimum width of 36 inches and a maximum rise of 8 ¼ inches. The depth of each stair tread should be at least 9 inches.
Failure to obtain proper permits
In Minnesota, homeowners are required to obtain a permit before building a deck. Failure to obtain the proper permits can result in fines and the requirement to remove the deck. It’s important to check with your local building department to ensure you have all necessary permits before starting any deck construction.
Using non-code approved materials
Using non-code approved materials can result in an unsafe deck. It’s important to use materials that are approved by Minnesota building codes to ensure the safety and structural integrity of your deck.
How to ensure your deck is up to code
To ensure your deck is up to code and safe for use, follow these tips:
Hire a professional
If you’re not confident in your ability to build a deck to code, it’s best to hire a professional. A professional contractor will have the necessary skills and knowledge to build a deck that is safe and up to code.
Inspect your deck regularly
Regularly inspecting your deck for signs of damage or wear can help prevent accidents and ensure that your deck is up to code. Look for signs of rot, decay, or insect damage and make any necessary repairs as soon as possible.
Use code-approved materials
Using materials that are approved by Minnesota building codes can help ensure the safety and structural integrity of your deck. Check with your local building department for a list of approved materials.
Obtain necessary permits
Before starting any deck construction, be sure to obtain all necessary permits from your local building department. This will ensure that your deck is up to code and prevent fines or the requirement to remove the deck.
Building a deck can be a great way to extend your living space and enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to ensure that your deck is up to code and safe for use. By following Minnesota building codes and taking steps to ensure the safety and structural integrity of your deck, you can enjoy your deck with peace of mind.