Porches, balconies, decks and carports


More than 2 million decks are built and replaced each year in North America.
InterNACHI estimates that of the 45 million existing decks, only 40% are
completely safe. Because decks appear to be simple to build, many
people do not realize that decks are, in fact, structures that need to be
designed to adequately resist certain stresses. Like any other house or
building, a deck must be designed to support the weight of people, snow loads, and objects.

A deck must be able to
resist lateral and uplift loads that can act on the deck as a result of wind or seismic activity.
Deck stairs must be safe and handrails graspable. And, finally, deck rails should be safe for
children by having proper infill spacing.
A deck failure is any failure of a deck that could lead to injury, including rail failure, or total
deck collapse. There is no international system that tracks deck failures, and each is
treated as an isolated event, rather than a systemic problem. Very few municipalities
perform investigations into the cause of deck failures, and the media are generally
more concerned with injuries than with the causes of collapses. Rail failure occurs much
more frequently than total deck collapses; however, because rail failures are less dramatic
than total collapses and normally don’t result in death, injuries from rail failures are rarely
Here are some interesting facts about deck failure:
More decks collapse in the summer than during the rest of the year.
Almost every deck collapse occurred while the decks were occupied or under a heavy snow load.
There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built with or
without a building permit.
There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built by a
homeowner or a professional contractor.
There is a slight correlation between deck failure and the age of the deck.
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About 90% of deck collapses occurred as a result of the separation of the deck
ledger board from the house, allowing the deck to swing away from the house. It is
very rare for deck floor joists to break mid-span.
Many more injuries are the result of rail failure, rather than complete deck collapse.
Deck stairs are notorious for lacking graspable handrails.
Many do-it-yourself homeowners, and even contractors, don’t believe that rail infill
spacing codes apply to decks.


A porch is a wooden structure that forms a covered entrance to a doorway at ground level.
It is typically located at the front of the house, although many homes have both front and
back porches.

Porch facts:

  • Porches are often used as ante-rooms where muddy or wet outerwear can be shed
    before entering the house.
  • The word “porch” originates from the Latin word porta, which means “gate” or
  • While many houses in the southern United States, as well as Victorian-style houses,
    have large porches suitable for social gatherings, most modern porches are too small
    for comfortable social use, and merely add to the visual appeal of the building.
    Porches are typically integrated with the house’s architecture by using similar design


A balcony is a platform that protrudes from the wall of an upper floor of a building and is
enclosed by a railing. Balconies are often highly decorative, especially in wealthy and scenic
areas. They are not designed as social areas but, rather, add an outdoor ambiance to the