This photo, and the topic, will get you thinking. I guarantee it. To get things going, setting the stage so to speak, please take a look at the high deck, balcony if you prefer -- top right side of the photo. It is way up there, where the air is thin.
If you were standing on that deck, I bet you would want to think that it was safe. Is that a reasonable assumption on my part, that you would want to think that a parachute is not in order? Usually, unless people have an obvious clue to the contrary, they assume that decks are safe.
This upper deck is of a cantilevered design. That means that joists, which are also a structural part of the home, extend out past the exterior wall and they support the deck. Sounds pretty solid and safe, right! Think again -- rain water gets on the joists and, over time, that causes rot or decay.
The photo above is one joist that is "supporting" that high deck. There were other joists holding it up, including the one behind this joist. Problem is that several of them are rotted too.
If this was a rarity, I would say so. I am afraid that it is not. It is a real worry and a huge safety concern. In my climate, around Bellingham and Whatcom County, I see this over and over again. When a deck is cantilevered it is not always easy to repair, especially if the joists end up rotted near the exterior wall. A fix might include having to go into the wall, or coming up with a totally different design.
Check your decks, or have a home inspector do it for you. The life you save might be your own.
In my party etiquette book, being the life of the party does not include spilling the guests into the yard 20 feet below.
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspections