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.
Happy New Year everyone!!! May 2012 bring you many blessings and much enjoyment in your home.
A good deck post footing is key to supporting your deck. One of the old methods was to dig a hole (legally to below frost depth of 42") set the post and fill with concrete. The new method is to dig a hole to below 42", bell out the bottom just a little and fill with concrete to above grade and anchor the post to the new concrete pier with a post anchor. Mixing the two methods is not the best idea.
In the photo below we see an attempt to make a pier. The minimum diameter of a pier should be 8". I prefer 12" diameter. Obviously this one is shy of that mark. To make matters worse the builder put the post into the concrete. Well, as you can see the concrete broke. Here's why....
1. There is not enough concrete around the post. A few more inches would have helped a bit, but mother nature would have torn it apart anyway.
2. Notice the small gap between the post and the concrete. This allows water to seep in and when it freezes this pops the concrete loose. I was unable to see how far down the post went, but it has been my experience that some builders (or weekend warriors) don't dig all the way to frost depth. This was not the way to set this post.
The preferred method is shown below. Notice that water will drain away, the pier is fully supported to frost depth, the anchor keeps the post attached to the footing and the deck stays in place and YOU stay on the deck with all of your party guests.
By ensuring that the deck is bearing on a footing below frost depth keeps the deck from heaving in the winter due to frost and over time working its way loose from the house. Yes, this does happen. I had to fix one last winter. The home builder only put the posts 32" in the ground with NO concrete piers. While this isn't the photo from that job this is what will happen.
Digging a pier footing to the proper depth can be difficult at times, but it is REQUIRED and very, very necessary. This is not a place to cut corners. The entire rest of the project bears on this part of the project. Do it right. Do it once. Enjoy it forever.
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".