Deck Safety Tips For Children And Pets

A deck provides a lofty alternative to the standard patio, but its elevated height can be stressful if you have young children in the home. Fortunately, your deck can be a perfectly safe place for your child, or even a pet, to play if you make sure the proper safety precautions are in place.

Guard the Perimeter

The railings are the main thing that keeps your child or pet from accidentally falling off the edge of the deck. The rails run up the stairs, while the guard surrounds the deck. The balusters on the rail and guard must be no more than 4 inches apart. This ensures a child's head won't fit between them. You may want to place them even closer together if you have a small dog.

The height of the deck guard is also important. Generally, 3 feet tall is the average height of the guard, but you can make it taller if you're worried your child may climb up and over.

Discourage Climbing

Even a properly spaced balusters and a tall deck guard aren't impenetrable. Children can often climb these if they really want to. You have a few options to prevent unwanted and unsafe climbing.

  • Install plexiglass sheets on the interior of the deck guard. These sheets create a smooth surface that a child or pet can't climb, but they don't interfere with the view.

  • Purchase and install safety mesh. Much like plexiglass, this mesh is attached to the inside of the guards. It's not quite as durable but it is less expensive and you can trim it to size.

Another option is to full enclose the deck and turn it into a sunroom. You can select sunroom enclosure panels from a company like Desert Sun Patios Ltd sunrooms that fully open and close, much like a sliding or folding door. Leaving the panels closed when there's no adults using the deck ensures that tumbles don't occur.

Mind the Gate

Nearly all decks include a short staircase to the yard. A child or small pet can easily tumble down the stairs, or use them and wander off. Installing a deck gate is your best defense against this problem. Choose a solid gate or one with balusters spaced the same distance as they are on the rails and guards. Install a child-proof lock so a little one can't open it on their own. Gates typically have a space beneath them. Make sure this space isn't large enough for your child or pet to crawl under the gate.

Overcome Any Obstacles

Deck guards, enclosures and gates won't work if your child can still find a way to climb over the railings. Look at the items on your deck and put away anything tall your child can easily move. Select heavier patio furniture that a child can't easily slide across the deck. Lightweight furniture and small items a child can move easily shouldn't be left on the deck unless the child is under close supervision.

Don't overlook other hazards. Outdoor electrical outlets are just as dangerous as those indoors. Use outlet safety covers to minimize the hazard. Also, avoid leaving other dangerous items, such as ignition sources for grills and garden chemicals, within easy reach.

Although children shouldn't be left unattended on a deck, it's best to be prepared just in case. It's also a good idea to make sure all safety items on the deck are up to spec, because it only takes a moment for an accident to occur.