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How To Know If Your Home's Deck Is Safe

WINONA, Minn. (WCCO) -- It's supposed to be a place where people gather and relax. But eight people ended up in a hospital after a back yard deck collapsed in Winona, and one with serious injuries.

It was around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday when a group of people were standing on the deck. Winona State Junior Melissa Hurley was in the apartment below.

"I was in shock watching it because you don't expect a deck with people, I mean, everyone's having fun, it's homecoming, everyone's out here having a good time seeing each other," Hurley said. "And then you look outside and people are falling to the ground on a deck."

It's not clear how many people were on the deck when it happened.

That story prompted WCCO to find out more about deck safety. Pat Noonan of Deck and Basement Company builds decks in the Cities. He says a new, professionally-built deck should be weather-safe.

"We have a pretty high snow load that's calculated into the overall design of the deck," Noonan said.

He says if you have a deck that was built by a homeowner, or is 15-plus years old, danger could be lurking below.

"Almost all the deck collapses I have heard about has been due to construction, not due to people or snow being on top of the deck," he said.

And that seems to be what happened to a Champlain man's deck back in July, when four people went to the hospital. The deck attached to the 20-plus-year-old home was held together with small nails, unbeknownst to the current homeowner.

A key piece of construction to prevent collapses, according to Noonan, is between the deck and side of the home.

"It's called ledger flashing. What that's doing is it's keeping water from penetrating between the house and the deck," Noonan said.

It keeps the deck from rotting or weakening after a snow melt, and the brackets help keep a tight connection when there's a party-sized load of people on top.

A deck builder or city inspector can tell you if a deck is safe or not.

More information on safe decks and proper deck-building techniques can be found on North American Deck & Railing Association's website.

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