FAQs: Deck Maintenance & Alterations

Is a permit required to replace the decking and/or guard on my existing deck?

Yes. A permit and a plan submission are required.  However, a plan submission may not required if you install the new decking and guard per the Fairfax County Typical Deck Details.

If I am replacing the decking and/or guard on my existing deck, do I need to bring the rest of the deck into compliance with the current code?

No.  However, before replacing the decking and/or guard you should thoroughly inspect your deck to ensure it is worthy of the new components.  You should specifically be looking for the following: 

  • Wood rot or excessive splitting.
  • Beams and joists that are deflecting (sagging) and vertical posts that may be out of plumb.
  • Absence of flashing over the ledger board attachment at the house.
  • Excessive rust on joist hangers or fasteners.

After performing this inspection you may find it necessary to reinforce the deck or replace it completely. For more information, go to Deck Safety in Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Typical Deck Details.

Please note: your inspector is trained to recognize life safety conditions that might be unique to your deck. In such cases, you may be asked to install additional components to your existing deck to ensure structural stability and occupant safety.

Should I install flashing over my existing ledger board when I replace my decking?

Yes. Most deck failures occur at the ledger board connection to the house. You should inspect the ledger board connection for rotting wood and loose or missing fasteners.  If possible, inspect the same area from inside the home in the basement or crawl space.    If there is no evidence of wood rot or water intrusion, then Fairfax County recommends you install flashing over the ledger per the Fairfax County Typical Deck Details.  Please be aware, sometimes wood rot is hidden and goes unnoticed until after a deck collapses.

If you find evidence of wood rot or water intrusion, it is strongly recommended that you contact a registered design professional licensed in the commonwealth of Virginia to inspect the deck and provide you with design alternatives to ensure the safety of your deck.

Should I increase the number of fasteners in my ledger board if I am upgrading my deck?

Yes. If your existing ledger board connection does not meet today’s code, you should add more fasteners to bring it in compliance. Most deck failures occur at the ledger board connection. For the minimum required fastener spacing, go to the Fairfax County Typical Deck Details.

Do I need to light my deck stairs if I am replacing the decking on my stair treads?

No.  You only need to comply with the lighting requirement if you are building new stairs.  Stair and stair lighting requirements can be found in the Fairfax County Typical Deck Details.

What is the life span of a typical wood deck?

A properly maintained wood deck can last up to 30 years, but no wood exposed to the elements will last forever.

What are the submission requirements if I am enlarging my existing deck?

If you are constructing an enlargement that is completely independent of your existing deck, you must follow the submission requirements of a new deck.  In many cases this may not require a plan submission during the permit application process if you follow the Fairfax County Typical Deck Details. If you intend on supporting the new deck on members of the existing deck, then a plan submission will be required.  Your drawings must show a complete framing plan for the intended construction.

For more information on the permit application process for a deck, go to our Decks publication.

More Questions?

Please contact Building Plan Review via e-mail or telephone at 703-222-0114, TTY 711. You may also consult Deck Safety in Fairfax County, the Decks publication or the Fairfax County Typical Deck Details.

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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