It’s so easy to do. We had just finished putting new decking on our deck and had some extra pieces left over. Where to put it?
Under the deck!
The area under the deck is easy to use as a catch-all for stuff. Stuff that you can’t fit into your garage, in your shed, inside your home. Maybe you just took off your snow tires and needed a place to stow them — under the deck! Because it provides a cover from the elements, you can end up using the area underneath like a storage area. Extra patio furniture — put it underneath the deck. Often, people will store their firewood underneath their deck, because who wants to schlep 30 feet away to gather firewood?
The problem is decks and what you’ve stored underneath present a major vulnerability to your home during a wildfire. Your deck is an attachment to your house, that when ignited, will lead fire directly to your siding and setting your home on fire. The area below your deck provides the ignition point.. Storing combustible items provides the fuel to set the deck on fire.
As we enter this year’s wildfire season, now’s the time to take a close look at those items under your deck. Or your porch. Or next to your shed. Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking to lose your house, simply because you left a couple of two by fours under your deck? Is there some other place you could safely store those items inside? Do you really need those items at all? If not, consider June as a clean-up month. A time to get ready for wildfire season. Though we’re no longer in drought, don’t let yourself get fooled. A wet spring can turn into a dry summer in a matter of weeks. If you live in Nederland, you’re in luck, because Saturday, June 5 is Town Clean-up Day. For a small fee, you can rid yourself of all that junk that’s been hanging around once and for all. But don’t let the date or cost deter you. Options exist year-round for residents to recycle metal at Ecocycle or your local transfer station. Maybe you can even donate something to a nonprofit like Resource or another charity. No matter the cost, it’s worth the peace of mind to know you’ve done what you can to protect your home.
When you’re checking under your deck, you might consider other things that are combustible or might lead to ignition of a fire. During a recent re-certification assessment at my home, Brett pointed out our wooden crawl space door. “You know, you’d be better off replacing that with a metal one and make sure it seals tightly with no gaps.” Do you have wooden lattice enclosing your deck? Now’s the time to think about removing it to prevent ground fire from climbing up to your deck.
And what about vegetation? If you allow grass, weeds or other plants to grow under the deck, inevitably, they will dry out as the summer heat moves in. Maybe you’ve put some old planters with dead plants down there as well. Embers flying under the deck and settling among dried vegetation will start a fire. This is particularly true if you’ve allowed deck boards or fascia to rot. While you’re underneath the deck is a great time to check the condition and replace rotten materials as needed. Also check you deck posts — if the wooden deck posts meet the ground, consider wrapping them with six inches of flashing. If you really want to make the area under your deck ignition-proof, lay weed barrier with 3/4-inch gravel over it. If your deck is lower to the ground, consider enclosing your deck with 1/8-inch metal screening or skirting. This will prevent embers from accumulating under your deck. A bonus? It also might stop you from storing your junk down there in the future.
Don’t forget to look up! Your feathered friends may have made homes underneath your deck and birds’ nests provide tinder fuel for starting a fire. Try to remove them before birds come back and nest in them or after the young birds have fledged.
So Wildfire Partners, take up the challenge. Use the next few days and weeks to take a closer look underneath your deck. Making the effort to clean it up now might just save your home one day.