Throughout Illinois, homeowners are required to get a permit before building a deck, balcony or porch. Municipalities maintain safety standards for what is required in building these structures. For example, in the City of Chicago, a deck, porch or balcony floor must be designed to support a minimum of 100 pounds per square foot. There are requirements for how they can be attached to buildings, how the footings are set and what materials are acceptable for construction. The guidelines are intended to protect homeowners and visitors from the danger of a collapse. Unfortunately, many decks and porches are not built to code and are not maintained properly. The result of substandard construction and maintenance can be a fatal accident.
Illinois winters take a toll on our homes. Heavy snows and massive temperature swings will eventually make even a perfectly designed deck unsafe. It is important to regularly inspect your porch, deck or balcony to identify signs of degradation. Older decks may also have been built when safety standards were less robust. A deck built to code in 2000 could easily represent a safety hazard today, particularly if it has not been carefully maintained.