Overloading Your Deck

June 30, 2003 - Posted at: 5:46 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- A tragic accident that left 12 people dead and more than 50 injured Sunday in Chicago serves as a reminder of the consequences when safety is overlooked.

Investigators don't believe that shoddy construction caused the balcony to collapse but, simply, too many party goers crowding onto it on a balmy summer evening. With the holiday weekend approaching, making sure that your deck is safe is not as hard as it sounds.

Safety should be one of the first concerns for those hosting Independence Day parties this weekend. In Chicago, officials say more than fifty people were crammed onto a third-floor porch causing an overload.

"If it was just packed with a lot of people just body to body, that's a lot of weight," contractor Bobby Chastain said. "That's more weight than you're going to have in a room on your house."

Many apartment buildings in Region 8 are designed with second and third story balconies. Maintenance engineer Dean MacDonald says there are some tale tell signs that a structure may not support excessive weight.

"You can usually tell with a deck if you come out on top of it you can see that it's starting to rot," MacDonald said. "Our decks are not rotting, but you can see if it's loosened up if it's starting to give."

Chastain says weight restrictions and damage are things you don't want to discover at the last minute.

"The thing about a deck is the person needs to know what kind of weight is going to be on the deck when you go to build it," Chastain said. "It needs enough support to carry the weight that you anticipate on the deck."

Many families are looking forward to spending time on decks and patios this summer. Contractors say there are some things you can do to keep your family safe.

"You have to treat a deck because over the years even though they're treated boards will rot and get water damage and people can step through it," Chastain said.

Contractors say quick checks and yearly maintenance are simple things that can keep you and your loved ones safe during summer gatherings.