Building Envelope

Deck Defense

"There’s nothing like summer to make you realize how much work your deck probably needs."

"There’s nothing like summer to make you realize how much work your deck probably needs."

As I sat out on my patio last night enjoying all that a summer night has to offer, I had a friendly chat with my new neighbor who was also out enjoying the evening on her second-floor deck. As we shared our mutual love of sitting outside after a long hot day, she said: “Yeah, there’s nothing like summer to make you realize how much work your deck probably needs, but I really don’t know the first thing about that.”

That got me thinking… I don’t know the first thing about that either! Luckily, as the resident “Not-A-Building Doctor” at J2, I get to work alongside my brilliant team of experts who ARE Building Doctors and are always willing to answer my questions. (Secret Tip: You can actually ask them all of your questions anytime as well when you schedule a free consult call here)

Because sharing is caring, I’m sharing these Ten Building Doctor Deck Facts courtesy of – you guessed it – The Building Doctors at J2.

1) Don’t be a dope... slope! Ponding water is bad. If you are noticing that your deck never seems to dry out and has areas that would make a baby duck happy to spend some time, chances are, your deck is likely not sloped to drain correctly. Your deck needs to be sloped to drain in the right direction, or you’ll be looking at the wrong kind of “water feature.”

2) Your deck is not your furry roommate's bathroom. Yuck, right? While there are a multitude of reasons you should not be using your deck as your pet’s “relief area,” a few are worth noting. Not only will letting your precious pawed pal use your deck as its powder room serve to gross out the people who live below you, it will also create a monetary and safety risk. Cat pee can damage metal components holding your decks and guardrails together and manufacturers will not warranty against allowing your pet — no matter how cute he is — to go potty on deck coatings. So be sure that ol’ Garfield and his pal Odie have proper accommodations other than your deck.

3) Venting is not just about telling your spouse about that annoying co-worker. If you have a soffit on your deck (meaning, a solid covering in that you can’t see through the slats of the deck to the area below*), then it should be vented to allow air to circulate through the framing to allow built up moisture to dry out. Translation: when water can get in but it can’t get out, it makes things nasty… just ask the Hydro Flask I forgot in the backseat of my car for six months.

*I had to Google it, but don’t tell my team that.

4) Let it flow. (My apologies if, like me, you have the song “Let It Go” stuck in your head now). Contrary to a soffit deck is the flow through deck, wherein there is visible spacing in the slats that allows water to “flow through” them. If your deck was made to “go with the flow,” let it… don’t place plywood or other material under it to close it off.

5) Picture perfect planters. I love a good patio garden, and having lived in multifamily settings for many years, I’m no stranger to having a vast arrangement of decorative planters full of flowers and vegetables that I desperately try not to murder each year. That said, large planters should be elevated on bases so that they can be moved easily to allow the deck membrane (the waterproof coating on your deck – again, thanks, Google) to breathe and be cleaned.

6) Before you buy that grill, chill. Charcoal grills on a deck with a waterproof deck coating is a no-no. Additionally, while there are many great benefits to multifamily living, having a grill of any kind near the building poses risks. Be sure to check your HOA’s policies and codes before investing in a grill that you won’t be allowed to keep. If your association’s policies allow it, you should still be very mindful of what is above and below you before you fire up that grill. To protect your deck membrane it’s recommended to place a mat below your grill to catch grease splatters.

7) Are your guardrails guarding you? Take a look at your guardrails. How are they attached to your deck? If your wood guardrail posts are notched (cut into and attached to the deck like a Lincoln Log) there’s a high probability that the loading requirements have been compromised: meaning they can’t take the full load of someone leaning on it or falling into it. This is a big problem if you have any friends like me who are very klutzy and fall in glorious fashion often. If your guardrails are mounted to the top of your deck, they are more prone to leak and allow water to enter your deck assembly. Regardless of assembly, if you find that your guardrails are shaky or feel unstable, it’s definitely a cause for concern and you should give us a call to make sure your deck is safe and healthy for all.


Guardrails mounted to the deck (top penetration) bear more weight and can become unstable.

Guardrails mounted to the edge of the deck (facia mount) tend to be more stable.

8) HVAC (Have Vigorous Attention to Coating.) Your fluid applied waterproof coatings require maintenance. Some require surface abrasion and freshly applied topcoats as little as every five years. Especially this time of year, we get a lot of inquiries about installing air conditioning units in communities. We love these calls, because you should never allow a contractor to install equipment like mini split HVAC units bearing directly on that waterproof deck coating. Moving mini splits to coat underneath will cost thousands of dollars each maintenance cycle. Wall mounted systems with proper through wall flashings are essential. Let J2 provide HVAC installation guidelines for your community so you can ensure those waterproof coatings and the rest of your building envelope is protected, accessible, and maintainable.

9) Some or all? It's a tough call. I hear this question a lot from our awesome clients: if a few decks in the community are “bad” or damaged, should you assume that they all need work? The answer? Not necessarily. There are many factors that go into determining this. It can depend on whether some are backed up against trees or in the shade where they are never able to completely dry out, exposed to the water side if near the coast, etc. It’s never as simple as “if ne, then all,” but even if just a few are bad, it’s recommended that all should be inspected, and we are here to help in that case. If you aren’t sure and don’t know where to start, you can also schedule a preliminary Virtual Building Doctor appointment with us, where we’ll help you decide what the best steps should be for your unique scenario.

10) The best way to enjoy a healthy deck is with friends. We’ve gotten a lot of great expert advice here, so I thought I’d throw in my own tip. If your deck is damage free and ready to welcome guests, take a moment to look around and turn your neighbors into friends by inviting them over. You can even offer them some “Deck-Made” Sun Tea using this recipe. One of the best parts about working hard to keep your home and deck in tip-top shape is being able to enjoy it with others. When it comes to enjoying your deck, you bring the good times and The Building Doctors and J2 will bring Help, Hope, and Happiness.

Curious to learn more and conduct your own deck inspection? Check out our free visual guide here.

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