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On July 4, 2010 in Hoover, Alabama, an apartment deck at the Waterford Landing Apartments collapsed and killed a 25-year-old man. The deck was on the third floor of the apartment complex and was approximately 6 X 10 feet in size. The Hoover Fire Department investigated, and the owner’s insurance company is also investigating. I’m sure this insurance company is investigating in order to determine who to compensate (yea, right!). To read more about this incident, go to the Birmingham News Article.

This article further discussed the issue of decks across the country and the prevalence of this problem. For example, the article cites Frank Woeste, a professor emeritus at Virginia Tech University and a consultant in wood construction and engineering. According to Woeste, deck collapses have been a problem for years. Woeste maintains that properly constructed decks cannot be overloaded with too many people. However, many times, decks collapse as a result of faulty construction.

There are numerous contractors who will build decks for homes. We see them advertised all the time, and a quick Google Search will show numerous deck contractors. When you are looking to add a deck to your home, protect yourself. How?

  • make sure the person or company you hire is licensed and bonded. Don’t just ask. Make them show you the paperwork;
  • Obtain a list of references, and ACTUALLY contact them;
  • Ask them for their qualifications;
  • Check with governmental authorities, such as the Licensure Boards, to make sure they are qualified;
  • Call the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against them; and
  • Use social media sites such as facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see if anyone has heard of them.

In addition, individuals need to look at their own decks and make sure they meet proper construction standards. One way to do that efficiently is to go to the various resources to determine if your deck has problems:

These are just a few of the resources. Make sure you check your deck to insure its safety and help prevent further injuries or death.

In the commercial setting, i.e.: apartments, condominiums and other similar structures, owners and managers need to protect their residents. Either let them know the dangers of having a certain amount of people on their deck, or get the appropriate contractors and inspectors to the property to correct any deficiencies. If there are no deficiencies, you have protected yourselves from liability. It works both ways.

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