Advances in Deck Stairs - Stair Building Industry Provide Superior Structural Integrity and Safety
With the rapid increase in new material options such as composite material there have been excellent improvements in long lasting 'color stabilization.
When many of the composite manufacture's first came on the scene they lacked sufficient UV (Ultra Violet) stabilizers in the custom color coatings they applied.
Terrific new color options became available to builders, however, significant premature 'fading' was seen and customer complaints were common.
Now, unlike the first generation of composite, new advanced UV color coating provides long lasting color consistency.
In addition to the early problems of inadequate UV stabilizers, the initial cost was hard for many installers to swallow too! Now that the market place has encouraged more competition-the price of composite has come down and has become a very affordable, long lasting option versus traditional redwood, cedar and pressure treated lumber.
The whole topic of pressure treated lumber has also been an extremely controversial issue during this last decade.
When the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) banned the use of arsenic and changed the main pressure treatment to 'copper they failed to realize the major implications that would arise.
Arsenic was eliminated due to the potential harm it exposed children to on playgrounds all across the nation.
The new pressure treated solution now approved by the EPA and presently being used contains a high level of copper.
This relatively new approved pressure treatment when it comes in contact with galvanized-zinc coated steel accelerates corrosion at a rapid level.
This set the stage for a dramatically different safety concern - with the earlier Arsenic pressure treatment the danger was possible poisonous 'ingestion' - now with the new, high copper content pressure treatment, widespread deck collapses and premature corrosion are the real safety concerns.
Scrambling to quickly respond to the potential safety and liability concerns, manufacturers of steel hangers, fasteners (screws/nails etc.
) immediately improved their products by adding hot-dipped galvanization to all anchors, hangers and fasteners and in many cases, adding epoxy powder coatings in addition to increasing the levels of hot-dipped galvanization.
This so far, as been 'perceived' as an adequate solution.
However, galvanic corrosion created between the high copper content of the wood and the galvanizing has shown to be so severe that the normal industry standard of G90 galvanizing will corrode in as little as 12 months and G185 can be seriously compromised with 24 months.
Surprisingly, the G185 with no engineering testing available, has been the industry default for code officials.
Without a barrier between the pressure treated wood and galvanized hardware, serious corrosion is inevitable.
More work still needs to be done in safely addressing this EPA approved pressure treatment.
Standard, traditional deck installation and construction as a whole has come under great scrutiny within the last decade too.
Many structural solutions have been advanced to improve deck attachments and stability.
Highly publicized deck collapses have focused a spot light on safety issues but have missed the target on the major cause of fatalities and injuries.
Deaths resulting from deck collapses although tragic are less than 40 per year across the US.
However, statistics provided by the National Safety Council show fatalities on stairs approaching 2,000 per year- which do not include the serious injuries that have additionally occurred.
(National Safety Council Injury Facts 2011 Edition).
The above injuries are a result of slips and falls on the most dangerous area of any deck or home: stairs (deck stairs, wood stairs, exterior stairs, interior stairs).
Substandard construction practices have led to unstable railing and the inability to provide adequate grip as a person traverses a stairway.
For years building codes have existed requiring rail posts to withstand 200lbs.
of lateral load.
Until just recently, there have been no solutions which allow standard wood stair construction to meet these criteria.
Traditional poor construction methods are a direct cause that has led to these above statistics.
There have been just a handful of manufacturer's that have made serious efforts at addressing various lateral load deck safety concerns for safer stair railings.
One of these manufacturer's makes an adjustable bracket that can also be used as a vertical rail post attachment for deck stairs.
Unfortunately, until such time as adequate code enforcement is required the above unnecessary fatalities and injuries will continue and many feel given the large number of reported injuries, it is grossly negligent for Building Inspectors not to require tested and validated products.
The ICC-ES does an adequate job of informing the code official community of code tested solutions but they are largely ignored and sadly expose the general public to hazards that are unnecessary.