San Diego’s Deck Codes Are Strengthened Since Firestorms of October 2007

Ever since the fire that devastated San Diego a few years ago, building codes have been changed. One code in particular is the decking change that was implemented by fire officials who determined that wooden decks actually helped fan the flames out of control.

Just one tiny burning ember can land atop a wooden deck surface and cause the entire house to go up in flames.

” Composite decks don’t burn, they just melt, usually “, explained decking expert Dave Winter.

After the fire moved through Julian, Ramona, Poway and all the way into Rancho Santa Fe, one thing stood out to building experts studying the aftermath wooden decks. Most houses with big wooden decks sustained more damage on average than then did houses with no decks. Homes with decks that were built with composites fared equal to homes with no decks at all. Over 1500 homes burned to the ground in a week of wind driven fury.

Many of the composite decks were baked and melted, but left the house untouched except for some ash buildup. Some decks did receive some burn spots and had to be replaced.

Now it is illegal to build a wooden decking surface in many parts of San Diego excluding the coast.

Other recent changes to decking are a code change to Handrail height (42″) Min.

A skirt around the decks sides can keep both rodent and flames at bay.

One alternative to composites in fire prone areas is waterproof type decking surface.

Technically called a cementitious pedestrian membrane surface coating, it exceeds new tougher building codes. This steel reinforced mortar foundation allows a burning ember to come to rest atop the decking surface for over one hour before the deck will ignite.

An added bonus to waterproof type decks is that you can stow things below them without subjecting them to wet and weather as the surface is 100% watertight.

You can still build with wood at the coast, and in area’s that are not deemed to be in the fire prone designated area.

Other decking options include laying masonry like flagstone, tile or brick atop the waterproof type decks surface leaving the deck almost fireproof. Another benefit to these type decking surfaces is that they are 100 % maintenance free.

” After a firestorm stretches for over 60 miles and destroys thousands of peoples lives, building codes have to change. “. “Stringent building codes serve a purpose for the health and safety of the general public.”

Next time a major fire burns through, San Diego will fare much better now with the new codes in place, combined with weed abatement and mandatory brush clearance, the chances of a fire devastating the county are very remote. Do you have a wooden deck in the fire prone area? Replace the top decking 2″ x 6″ with a composite today and sleep better tonight.