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How safe is your deck?: Collapse at Billings country club prompts questions

Expert say only 40 percent of US decks safe
Deck inspection
Posted at 8:28 AM, Jul 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-25 10:28:47-04

BILLINGS — The deck collapse at Briarwood Country Club happened in mere seconds starting with a sound people there won't soon forget.

"It sounded almost like someone dropped a cooler with ice," said Esther Jensen, who witnessed the collapse.

Nearly 50 people were taken to the hospital with injuries when the deck collapsed Saturday evening during the club's biggest golf tournament of the year. No one was killed in the collapse.

In general, decks can pose a greater danger than people may realize, experts say.

“Decks and garage doors are probably two of the most dangerous portions of a home," says Larry Daniels, owner of Billings-based A.S.A.P. Property Inspections.

Daniels has been inspecting homes and commercial buildings around Yellowstone County for 20 years and says decks are specific points of concern.

"Whether it be how it's attached to the building, whether it's the handrails that aren't graspable or deck railings that are flimsy and could collapse if somebody bounces into it really hard—decks are one of those things that we really check hard," Daniels said.

Decks typically get inspected when they're built and optionally when the property they're attached to is sold.

The city of Billings says it does not have a property maintenance code so additional inspections are not required.

Tax details from the Yellowstone County Treasurer's Office show the Briarwood Country Club has a patio and porch and was built in 1984.

Briarwood PGA General Manager Scott Pekovich told MTN Sunday that there had been upgrades to the flooring of the deck within the last three years, but the undercarriage of the deck had not been replaced recently.

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors estimates that of the 45 million existing decks, only 40% are completely safe.

Daniels recommends all property owners take a closer look at what's below.

“I've seen a lot of decks that have been improperly attached, built, installed. They are concerning," Daniels said.