Deck parties are fun and they are the rage among college-age people. They are often advertised via Facebook by DJs. The DJ sets up on or near the deck and a dance party involving dozens of students ensues. Last year, Virginia Commonwealth University students had such a party on a two-story deck in the fan district of Richmond. About 60 people were on the deck when the deck collapsed. I represented a student who suffered a brain injury in the collapse. The building inspector determined that the deck was improperly secured to the back of the brick house. In some areas, bolts had come out of the mortar, and in other areas where the deck was simply nailed to a beam that had been bolted to the house, the nails pulled out. The deck was also rotted and was overweighted due to the fact that a previous owner had covered up rotted flooring with a new layer of floor over the rotted layer.
This same tragedy just repeated itself at Washington and Lee University in Lexinton, Virginia. A deck collapse last week injured 30 students who were among 75 to 80 students at a night party on a 440 square-foot deck that pulled away from the side of the house and collapsed. The Rockbridge County building inspector determined that the bolts that should have secured the deck to the house failed to penetrate the 6 inch beam beneath the house’s wood siding.
The natural inclination of some is to blame the students for having so many people on these decks. However, the national building codes require decks to be able to bear as much weight as the second floor of a house. People renting homes to groups of students should absolutely foresee that the decks are going to be used in this fashion and have their decks inspected by structural engineers.