Building a Deck that Meets Code

While building a deck for your home may seem like a fun, do-it-yourself project, the truth of the matter is that deck construction is a specialty trade. Even general contractors with plenty of building experience may not have the specific knowledge and experience required to construct a structurally safe and attractive deck that meets building code.

There are a number of International Residential Code requirements that are specific to building a safe deck that are not required for most other areas of a home. Decks have two very distinctive and significant contributors to make them such a unique feature requiring special consideration:

1 – The density of occupants on a deck are often far greater than in any other part of the home.

2 – The deck is the only a load-bearing pedestrian surface of a home that is under constant exposure to the elements.

These two factors combined make building codes critical to ensuring the safety of a deck’s future occupants – not just in how the deck is constructed, but also in what materials are used. Whether you are motivated by protecting your family or by reducing potential liability, the following information is critical in building a deck.

The Two Most Important Code Resources for Deck Builders

1 – ICC Approved International Residential Building Code Resource Book

2 – ICC Approved Product Evaluation Reports

International Residential Code (IRC) Reference Book for Deck Building

While the 2015 IRC is complete and the decking industry was expertly represented by the North America Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), many jurisdictions still rely on the 2009 IRC as their standard. Deck builders have the distinct advantage of the availability of a specific Deck Construction Code Book written by one of the industry’s key players, Glenn Mathewson. Glenn Mathewson is an active NADRA member and is one of the most knowledgeable professionals in the decking industry. He produced the Deck Construction Code Book in partnership with the North America Deck & Railing Association (NADRA) and the International Code Council (ICC).

This specialty reference book takes all decking related code out of the cumbersome 2009 IRC (an 868 page book with decking references in multiple sections) and reduces it down to a concise 270 page decking reference that is much easier for decking professionals to understand. It includes photos and commentary from Mr. Mathewson as well as exact printed reference of the 2009 IRC codes.

International Code Council (ICC) Product Evaluation Reports

Using the right products for your deck building projects is just as important as the construction methods used to ensure a safe and reliable deck. When you are planning your projects and selecting the products to be used, be sure to review a copy of the product’s ICC-ES Report.

When a product has an ICC-ES Report you can see first-hand what specific use(s) for which the product has been evaluated, as well as any products it is used in conjunction with, its installation requirements and what kind of 3rd party testing was conducted to prove its suitability for a particular use.

It is important to note the distinction between an ICC-ES Listed product vs. an ICC-ES Evaluated product which goes through a much more rigorous testing procedure.

In short, the major difference between an evaluation report (ESR) and a listing (ESL) is that a listing will cover an individual trait to show compliance with an individual standard, where an evaluation will show a review of the product and the multiple traits needed to meet or be an equivalent to what is required in the code.

Duradek, another industry leader and proud NADRA member, has been around long enough to know the importance of having the performance based ICC-ES Evaluation Report. Duradek’s evaluation (ICC-ES ESR-2151) proves the effectiveness of Duradek’s performance as both a roofing membrane and a pedestrian traffic coating to give our customers the peace-of-mind to know the product will perform as it is intended.

To help our customers and future customers understand and use ICC-ES Reports to their full advantage, Duradek Technical Manager, Len Viegener has produced a couple of easy-to-follow pieces to educate even the most non-technical minded individuals on the value of these reports and how to read them. With a unique product like vinyl deck membranes that does not have its own specific evaluation criteria but instead relies on two distinctly separate evaluated features (in this case, traffic coating and roofing membrane) it is even more important to understand what to look for and why.

The latest document, “Why is an Evaluation Report so Important” breaks down what material standards apply, which building code authority has jurisdiction over those standards and how that leads to the final evaluation report.

Understanding Evaluation Reports from Duradek (PDFs):

 Why CCMC CCMC on Membrane Roof Decks Evaluation Reports
Why is an Evaluation Report so Important | in Canada/CCMC (2 page .pdf)
Duradek’s CCMC Evaluation Report 13134-R (online listing)
 Why_ICC_Page_1 ICC on Membrane Roof Decks Evaluation Reports
Why is an Evaluation Report So Important | in U.S./ICC-ES (2 page .pdf)
Duradek’s ICC-ES Evaluation Report ESR-2151 (3 page .pdf)
 Anatomy ICC-ES Report The Anatomy of an ICC-ES Report (2 page .pdf/tri-fold style brochure)

Deck Building Code Resources from Glenn Mathewson, MCP:

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