Ensure Your New Deck is Up to Code

Deck codes change, and professionals in the construction and remodelling industries spend their working lives trying to keep up. This creates a challenge for homeowners and commercial property managers who hire contractors. Not only do codes change, but they vary among provinces and cities. When hiring a contractor for a specific task, such as building or remodelling a deck for your home or for a multi-family residential building, make sure the contractor is up to speed on relevant codes in your area so the structure is both safe and secure.

Codes Vary by Province

Ontario's deck building codes are not the same as British Columbia's deck building codes. The same goes for each province and territory in the Great White North.  

The National Building Code of Canada sets basic parameters on decks, but provinces each have their own modifications based on climate. 

For example, in northern areas that experience harsher winters, frost level matters more in terms of depth. You would also need to make sure the bottom of footings is deeper in soil than frost level because if the moisture from the frost gets on the underside of footings, it will expand and cause too much pressure, and eventually movement.

If you are an employer or contractor, find out more information about building codes, regulations and related standards for each Canadian province. 

Codes Vary by Building Type

Building code varies according to the size, type, and occupancy of a building. Larger and more complex buildings such as hospitals, office towers, and high-rise condos have enhanced construction standards for matters such as fire safety, structural stability, and accessibility.

It's important to know there are key differences between commercial and residential decks. According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), some of those changes include:

  • The 42-inch deck railing height is higher than with residential properties.
  • Commercial deck stairs are of a standard size, while residential deck stairs can be steeper.
  • There is a larger live load-weight requirement with commercial decks — 100 pounds per square foot.

Use Codes to Assess Deck Viability

While codes do vary by province and building type, they are comprehensive in nature and typically cover the following elements: ledger connection; posts and footing; post-to-beam connections; joists and joist connections; stairs; deck boards; and handrails. 

The codes can offer insight into what property managers can look for in determining whether a deck needs to be repaired or replaced. For example, NADRA offers the following deck-evaluation checklist: 

  • Evaluate the condition of rails, guards, and stairs.
  • Review screws and board connections to ensure they're not rusted or broken.
  • Look for water stains, corrosion, rotting, and debris in cracks. 
  • Is the flashing — the metal barrier material that prevents moisture from entering the building — keeping water out? 
  • Does the deck sway? 
  • Is the deck sinking or heaving? 
  • Do the stairs feel sound and solid? 

Codes Changing More Frequently

Make sure you're staying on top the latest changes to deck codes by checking in with your municipality at least once a year. Hire contractors who specialize in deck building rather than a general builder with minimal experience with decks to ensure you're meeting all the codes. Professional deck builders often will look ahead to changing codes that could become more stringent. 

Going one step beyond the current code requirements might cost a bit more upfront, but it can provide peace of mind for a property manager considering the safety of building occupants and the fact codes could change in the near future. 

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