Building inspectors, like deck builders and homeowners, are challenged to keep up with the deck industry. There are changes to the IRC every three years. State and local amendments are added to those changes. New building materials and deck-related products are appearing on the market in record fashion. Reading industry magazines, consulting with other inspectors on a regular basis, and monitoring state building and code official association Web sites and message boards are all good ways to stay abreast of new products and inspection challenges. And, in some cases, the builder is required to educate the inspector. “We see new deck materials and construction methods during on-site inspections and look at manufacturer specifications,” said Ronn Seaward, building inspector, City of Sammamish. “We read the industry publications and when we see a new product in the field, we require the builder to provide product information,” said Roberston. “For instance, if it’s a composite material we need to make sure it is going to span the distances, or if it’s a deck ledger bracket we need to be sure it will support the load it is supposed to. With the new composite materials, we need to make sure that whoever is putting it up is attaching and supporting it the way it’s supposed to be because you can’t support plastic the same way you would wood.”
The results of good construction, building inspection, and plan review are often unseen, according to Elliott. “The absence of TV news reports of building code-related accidents and no calls from attorneys concerning those accidents are peripheral goals of every inspector,” he said. Robertson summed up why deck inspections are so critical. “No one wants to build an unsafe deck and that’s what it’s all about.” And as deck collapses continue to make headlines, the focus on safety and the quality of deck construction is bound to be strengthened.