Joe Loferski, a wood science and forest products professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, has been working to improve deck safety for the past 10 years. His research and workshops have not only increased awareness about the dangers of faulty decks, but have helped lower the number of deck incidents around the country.
Loferski began to investigate deck safety after he started to see a pattern of deck collapses across the United States.
Even though the design loads are the same for decks as they are for the floors, decks still falter or collapse while floors rarely do. In many cases, decks collapse while people are on, near, or under them, which can cause serious injury or even death.
Loferski began constructing decks and simulating collapses in Virginia Tech’s complete wood engineering laboratory. By testing thousands of pounds of load on critical components of the sample decks, he was able to pinpoint the problem. Decks collapse because of weaknesses, instability, and lack of support where the deck connects to the structure and where the guardrail attaches to the deck.