Can a routine deck inspection prevent another Chicago porch collapse?

Can a routine deck inspection prevent another Chicago porch collapse?

It happens ever year in Chicago.

Without warning a group of family and friends is hurled toward the ground as a porch collapses, often injurying several people. Eight people were hospitalized in a July porch collapse in Humboldt Park, and Chicago was home to the deadliest balcony collapse in U.S. history in 2003 when 13 people died in Lincoln Park.

A combination of too much weight, deteriorating support structure or out-of-code construction is often to blame for porch and deck collapses. However, there are steps homeowners can take to ensure their safety.

Get a professional inspection

Highly rated DAL Builders in Chicago has been constructing porches in the city since 1994. Owner David Larkin says the key to a safe porch is routine inspections from a professional porch and deck builder.

"I would suggest a new porch be inspected a minimum of every five years," he says. "A porch 15 years and older should be inspected every two years."

For residents living in rental apartment units, the city of Chicago will conduct porch inspections of potentially dangerous structures reported to the Department of Buildings.

RELATED: Chicago deck builder says many are not up to code

What to look for

"Residents should check porches for issues before entertaining guests, and hosts should make sure that guests do not gather on porches and stair structures," according to Buildings Commissioner Michael Merchant. The city also warns residents to limit the number of people on a porch at any one time.

Warning signs of porches that need repair or replacement include:

  • Rotting, loose, missing or sagging wood
  • Missing, rusting or loose bolts, especially those that anchor into the building
  • Excessive wobbling

Structures with such issues may be in violation Chicago’s strict porch code.

Make it safe

On average, property owners can expect to pay at least $15,000 for new porches built in Chicago on the back of the average two- or three-flat building.

A good deck is worth it, as they’re built to last. Larkin says depending on exposure to the elements, new two- and three-story porches constructed using pressure treated lumber can be enjoyed for up to 30 years.

"What can decrease this life expectancy is the location of the porch," he says. "Porches that have no protection from the elements will see a much shorter lifespan."


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