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A deck often becomes the most popular destination in the home. It is a place to enjoy the sunshine, eat dinner in the fresh air, and entertain family and friends. Many people may concentrate on the look and style of the deck as they plan, but safety becomes a priority when children and pets will also use the space. Follow these guidelines to make your deck safe.

Install Safe Railings

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over three million children a year need emergency medical attention from falls in the United States. About 140 children die each year from these types of injuries. Dogs, especially puppies, can also slip through railings. The pet could die from hanging if they are on a leash when they fall.

Railings help to keep people on the deck, but what is safe for adults can still put toddlers at risk. Zoning laws often require that the spaces between railings be no more than four inches apart to prevent toddlers from slipping through. Basically, if a child can fit their head through the opening, their bodies can follow.

Include a Gate

A solid gate at the top of the steps will help to keep little ones from a fall down the steps. The child-safety feature can keep small dogs and puppies safe as well. Any traditional baby gate will work. When building a deck, do not make the opening to the steps so wide that gate installation becomes impossible.

Arrange Seating Carefully

Avoid the temptation to build permanent seating against the railing, and keep other furnishings away from the railing. Children and pets can climb onto chairs or tables and fall over the side. Dogs may have the athletic ability to jump from furniture to the ground unharmed, but running away from the deck could mean the danger of getting lost or running into traffic.

Plan Some Shade

Install the deck under some shade trees, build a partial roof, or install a retractable awning. Pets may overheat if left in direct sunshine. The floorboards, when exposed to constant sunlight, could become too hot for crawling babies and dog paws.

Another way to keep the deck cooler is to leave some small gaps between floorboards. The gaps allow the air to circulate better so cooler air from beneath the deck can flow through. The gaps also have the added benefit of allowing rainwater to run off the floor instead of collecting into puddles.

Stop Wood Injuries

Dogs that chew wood often get splinters in their mouth, throat, and digestive tract. Any paint or stain used on the wood increases health risks. Children are much less likely to chew on a deck, but never rule it out entirely with a teething baby. The biggest concern for children is that they may become injured by wood already splintered by a chewing dog.

Dogs are much less likely to chew steel railings and the material will not cause splinters in the hands of babies and toddlers that grab the rails to look through. Pet deterrent sprays prevent dogs from chewing on the wood as well. Many of the sprays have a bitter flavor that dogs find unappealing. Make certain any spray used is safe around children.

Choose Plants Wisely

Plants usually decorate decks. Make certain that all plants stay out of the reach of children and dogs, and avoid dangerous types like English ivy, peace lilies, and other toxic plants. The ASPCA has a list of plants toxic to animals available online, and a pediatrician can advise on plants that may sicken children.

Deck safety should always be a top concern for all homeowners. At Harco Exteriors, LLC, we will work with you to create a design that gives you the room and safety you need and the look you want. Contact us for a free estimate.

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