A.Frank Woeste, P.E., professor of wood construction and engineering at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, responds: You certainly are not wasting your time to be cautious in building a deck. Like roofs, decks don't experience their full design load (such as a heavy snowfall or a large party) every day or every year. But you must build them to handle that extreme design load when it does occur, because a failure can be catastrophic (see " Deck Disasters Spotlight Faulty Connections," Notebook, 9/02).

I don't know of any engineering numbers on the type of fasteners you're talking about, but they may not be designed to resist the forces a deck can experience. And we haven't had 40 years of experience with the product to learn from, as we have with traditional 8d or 10d threaded nails that would typically be used with 5/4 decking boards. It's...

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