Friday, 7 May 2021

5 Ways to Make Your Deck Safer and More Family Friendly

*This guest post is in collaboration with Trex Protect.

With the right weather, a garden deck offers a place for the whole family to enjoy time together. The children can play at their water table while a parent minds the barbecue and all can enjoy dining alfresco or playing a game together in the fresh air. 

Just as building your deck required some thoughtfulness, such as designing a useable space and protecting it with flashing tape, making your deck more family friendly just takes a little extra intention. This is important because decks can present special hazards for small children. 

Some of the most frequent accidents include children:

 Getting their head or limbs caught in between the railings.

 Falling through railing openings that are too wide.

 Climbing horizontal railings and falling over.

 Tripping or slipping on stairs.

Check out these five ways you can make your deck more fun and safe for little ones.

Do a safety check.

Before spending any time on deck with children, look at it at their level and assess any dangers. Are there splinters in the deck boards? Are there horizontal railings to climb? Are the stairs secured? 

Here’s a quick checklist of ways you can make it safer:

1) Make sure balustrades, (railings), are at least 1 metre high. “Any openings in the balustrade should not allow a 12.5cm sphere (round ball) to pass through,” according to The National Construction Code of Australia. “Where the balcony or deck is more than 4 metres above a surface below, the barrier must not have horizontal or near horizontal (climbing) parts between 15cm and 76cm above the floor surface.”

2) If your railings are too wide, add plexiglass or mesh netting that is installed with hardware, not staples. If that’s not possible, consider replacing the railing.

3) Add grips or treads to any slippery decking or stairs

4) Move all furniture and climbable objects away from the railings.

5) Be mindful of any lightweight furniture that a child might pull to the railing.

6) Make sure railings are in good condition and replace any wood that is discoloured or rotting.

7) Secure exterior doors with child-safety locks.

8) Install stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs.

Always supervise your children while on the deck. Kids are fast and no amount of childproofing can make a deck 100% safe for a pre-schooler who is alone.

Add kid-friendly elements to your design.

As you think through how your family will use your deck, you’ll be able to add in some elements to make it more fun for all. A deck box, (built-in or freestanding), or cabinet, will provide the perfect space to store bubbles, outdoor toys and watercolours that are perfect for outdoor play and craft time. 

Consider adding a child-sized outdoor table and chairs and a water table for your toddlers and pre-schoolers.

One of the most enjoyable ways to relax on deck is with a meal. But be sure to watch children around grills and other heating appliances. Put barbeques in a spot where kids cannot touch, but also at least 1.5 metres from any wall. Be sure to watch children around barbecues even once they are no longer grilling because they can stay hot for quite a while.

Be creative with the space under your deck.

If you have a two-story deck, meaning you have space underneath for a room, consider turning this into useable space for the family. By adding an under-deck drainage system, you can make this space waterproof and treat it like a playroom. You can fully enclose it, screen it in from insects, or leave it open so it’s easy to get to the playset. The best part? This additional living space has built-in protection from hot Australian sunshine and is protected from rainstorms.

Create some shade.

Speaking of sunshine, be sure to plan for shade on top of the deck. Not only will this save your little ones from a nasty sunburn, it will also make your time outdoors a bit breezier. On top of that, shade prevents your deck boards and materials from getting as hot. Very hot decking can burn little feet! Add shade temporarily with festive umbrellas or add more permanent relief with a pergola, extended roof or awning.

Consider your plants

Plants can be a lovely addition to your deck or the landscape around it. However, some plants can be poisonous to children. Check out this list and avoid beautiful blooms and foliage that can make a child or pet sick.

Container gardening with fruits and vegetables can be safe, fun and educational for children. Look for varieties that grow well in pots. Your children will be delighted to eat a tomato or spinach leaves harvested from your deck. Be sure to put any containers on risers or stands to prevent water from standing on your deck boards and causing damage.

Whether you want to garden, eat outdoors or just play in the fresh air, decks offer so many family-friendly options. So get your deck ready. Get set. Go play!

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