Well, it looks like we are going to get our first dose of winter in Iowa finally on January 12. Time for the ice and snow and shovels and salt again. Today's topic is about why you shouldn't put ice melt on your deck to get rid of the ice.
While I know it is necessary in cases you should be aware of why this practice may remove a slipping hazard it will cause a structural failure of your wood deck over time and you won't even see it happening.
This picture shows a wood deck and its framing system. Here we see the joist (member on right) abutting the header and you see some dark rust spots on both. This is where the old galvanized metal joist hanger use to be. Now keep in mind I did NOT remove the hanger before taking the picture. This one and the seven others like it have been completely eaten away by the ice melt. In fact, there wasn't anything left below the framing members that resembled metal. Galvanized or not, the joist hanger would still corrode when exposed to ice melt.
This deck FAILED this week with people on it. Now thank goodness no one was seriously hurt and the deck only had 8 inches to drop to the ground below, but imagine if it had been 8 feet.
Now also imagine what ice melt does to any metal pipes under the deck. Yes, there was a GAS MAIN running to the building under the deck. This was a leak and possible explosion waiting to happen. The pipe was severely corroded too. The gas pipe was also re-routed to a new place where the ice melt will not be an issue.
Knowing that my customer must maintain a safe and slip free surface they will need to continue to use this product on this ramp/porch area. However, to buy them so time before their next scheduled deck failure I painted the new joist hangers with galvanized paint on top of the factory galvanization and also installed this small piece of flashing to help divert ice melt/water run off. The ice melt will eventually eat through this flashing and start on the hanger again, but I bought them some time. Probably years.
Bottom line, if you don't have to use ice melt products on your wood decks DON'T. If you do, keep in mind that a failure will happen because galvanized joist hangers just can't stand up to the corrosion caused by ice melt. The nails, screws and lags used on this deck were in the same condition. The best long term solution to this problem is to install a concrete ramp and porch. I'm sure this will be part of a capital improvement budget in the next few years.
Call me for an inspection if you have used ice melt products on your wood deck.
Hitting Home Blog
Jon Bronemann - author of "The Hitting Home" blog. Check it out and you will see what I see everyday and why hiring a quality contractor is so very, very important. Seeing is believing and it really does "Hit Home".