This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in October 2012.
After several years of not giving an iota of thought to the bolts on our deck and pergola, imagine my surprise to find this week that every single exposed carriage bolt was loose. I’m talking, you can start to retighten it with your hand kind of loose. Take it from me, sometimes it’s the little things you overlook. Take a moment this weekend to tighten any visible bolts you can get your wrench on.
I like to think that I’m in tune with the the nuances of my home. I live, work, and play here, mostly doing home improvement projects and consequently familiarizing myself with every nook and cranny, but even I missed this one. If you’re wondering what it was that tipped me off to this issue, keep on reading. It might be more obvious than you think.
We designed, built, and installed two pergolas on the back of our deck two years ago (you can read about those efforts here and here). They’ve held up really well over the years, but I began to notice that during windier days, they would start to sway a bit and in general, they were starting to look, uh, tilty. Not dramatically, not to a degree where I was concerned about them falling down, but to a point where I knew I had to do something about it before winter hit and they were tasked at holding the extra weight of snow.
I suspected adding hurricane ties to the framework would lessen shifting. And I considered that installing them directly to the girders and/or joists of the deck would secure them really well, but that would require a bit of reconstruction and make them more permanent than they are right now (my goal was to keep them attached at the base simply so that future homeowners could ditch them if they didn’t prefer the style). Most radically, I had already begun to come up with a third plan if the hurricane ties and reconfiguration efforts didn’t work, it was a last-case-scenario strategy that would involve attaching the pergolas to the house through the siding.
All three of those options might be suitable for you too if tightening the bolts doesn’t do the trick, but my action in tightening everything back up immediately changed how solid the standing structure felt. Ours now feel as strong and are as level as the day we installed them, and I’m so relieved that I found this out before I started drilling through my vinyl siding.
Even some of the exposed bolts on our deck had loosened, I suppose just from natural shifting as we walk across it daily. If you have other bolts exposed, you’ll want to get your wrench on that too. Good luck this weekend!