Co-authored by Jacob Exline of The Collins Law Firm, P.C.
A faulty porch can turn a fun summer get-together into a dangerous and deadly event. Porches, both commercial and residential, are often made hastily or negligently and lack the upkeep necessary to maintain safety. Just last month, a second-story porch in Evanston collapsed, falling onto a first-floor porch, injuring several people. Police reported that the porch was not properly attached to the house and the weight of those on it led to its collapse.1
The most deadly porch collapse in the United States happened in Chicago in 2003. On a summer night in Lincoln Park, a second story porch collapsed under the weight of 75 party-goers, killing 13 and injuring 50 more. The porch owner and porch contractor were fined $108,000 by the city and paid millions more in litigation. City inspectors stated that the porch could have withstood the load had it been constructed correctly according to city building codes.2 According to the Consumer Safety Commission, 6,500 people have been rushed to emergency rooms from injuries sustained from collapsing balconies in the past 12 years.
Since the 2003 fall, Chicago has bolstered its building codes and enforcement procedures. Nonetheless, porches have continued to collapse, causing injuries throughout the city. Just last year, two porches collapsed in Chicago. In July, a backyard porch collapsed while a family was taking a picture. A dozen people were on the porch as it fell and eight were sent to the hospital, one in critical condition.3 In October, a four-year old girl was injured when the roof of a porch fell in. The building inspectors stated that the façade of the house looked to have been faltering for months.4 Earlier this year, in separate incidents, a deck and a porch collapsed, sending two people to the hospital.5 6
Porches often fall due to faulty maintenance, lack of upkeep, or overcrowding. While city inspectors make sure to include porches in their inspections, homeowners and business owners need to ensure that porches are up-to-date with current building codes and materials are free from rot or rust that could result in a compromised structure. Whether you own a home, an apartment, or a business, checking up on your porch or deck can save lives and keep your outdoor parties injury-free.
7 Chicago Sun-Times - "Twelve years after Lincoln Park porch collapse, Chicagoans warned to check shaky porches" (June 3, 2015)