Q&A / 

AZEK Aluminum Deck Post Bolts

AZek Aluminum Deck Post

Here's a great shot of the fastening method for some Azek aluminum deck posts. The four bolts must be made from a material that will not corrode when water surrounds them and the treated lumber they pass through. Copyright 2018, Google / YouTube, Inc. Fair Use Doctrine screen capture

Published: January 12, 2018 © Tim Carter

Just two days ago, January 10, 2018, I was at the International Builders Show in Orlando, Florida. I visited the AZEK booth and was talking with an AZEK employee about bolts that should be used when installing the AZEK aluminum deck posts.

The first thing to remember is AZEK invited me to come to the booth.

Azek Booth Invitation

Here's a screenshot of the invitation to come to the Azek booth.

It's important to realize I write a syndicated newspaper column that's still published by sixty-plus papers. In addition, I have over forty years of hands-on experience working in the field in the homes of paying customers. Another key point is I have nearly 50,000 newsletter subscribers who regularly participate in short surveys.

The combination of these three things allows me to provide a unique insight as to the wants and desires of consumers and I can identify building products or systems that might not be as good as they can be.

What's more, I'm mindful of a growing and disturbing trend of young builders, carpenters and DIYrs that aren't aware of serious structural dangers when metal fasteners come into contact with outdoor treated lumber and water.

It's basic high school chemistry.

AZEK Aluminum Deck Post Bolts Can Corrode Fast

Just before leaving the AZEK booth, the AZEK team members wanted me to see an aluminum railing system they were displaying at the show. Within minutes I got into a tug-of-war discussion with a young AZEK employee after he showed me the cast flange at the bottom of the aluminum deck post.

The conversation went something like this:

"Do you supply the needed stainless-steel through bolts, washers and nuts with the posts?"

"No," said the AZEK employee.

What followed was a brief discourse about how the entire safety of the railing system is dependent upon the through bolts never rusting or corroding.

The through bolts are a primary structural component of the deck railing system. If they fail, the railing can be pushed over with ease.

Should this happen, a person/people could fall many feet to the ground and be seriously injured or die.

Rapid corrosion of metal fasteners happens when you mix modern treated lumber, water and normal steel bolts that have a thin zinc coating. You need special fasteners that are highly resistant to corrosion when it comes to deck railings and posts.

High-quality type 316 stainless steel is the material of choice to avoid corrosion.

Expert Witness Work Provides Perspective

I mentioned to the AZEK employee that I've been doing expert testimony work for about 15 years or more and that my most recent case involved the Brazilian Ambassador's roof on the island of Antigua.

I shared with this young man the chain of events that unfolds when a building product failure becomes the focus of a lawsuit.

Should someone be injured or die because an AZEK aluminum deck post fails because of a corroded bolt(s), one of the first companies that's going to be named in the subsequent lawsuit would be AZEK.

The first thing to remember is it doesn't matter that the aluminum post didn't fail. Fasteners are required to connect the AZEK railing to the deck.

AZEK and their engineers undoubtedly know about, or should have known, the importance of fasteners and more importantly what it takes to ensure their railing system stays safe for the life of the deck.

The plaintiff's attorney would discover in the deposition phase of the lawsuit that the AZEK engineers ran tests to ensure the railing was safe. No doubt questions would be asked as to what types of fasteners were used in the test procedures.

I know this because I've been asked countless probing questions while under oath sitting at a large wood table with a court stenographer and voice recorder capturing my every word.

AZEK, by selling a deck-railing product, is expected to be knowledgeable about what it takes to create a safe product.

That's a given. Technology has really raised the bar for manufacturers when it comes to product liability and doing a better job. AZEK has the ability to set up a Google Alert for every mention of AZEK or one of its products so it stays up to date with all that's going on.

Let's assume AZEK is named as a defendant in a lawsuit where a person died because their railing system tipped over after the bolts holding it rusted. In addition, assume this happens six months from now after this column has been published on the Internet.

As soon as the plaintiff's attorney discovers this column early in the discovery process while she/he researches all that's been published about AZEK aluminum deck railing systems, it's going to be time for AZEK to open up their checkbook. I say this assuming that AZEK continues down the pathway of not supplying the best available fasteners with their railing system.

I'm no legal expert nor am I offering legal advice to AZEK. All I'm doing is sharing my own personal experiences having been a part of lawsuits where I was an expert witness.

Imagine if this hypothetical lawsuit proceeded all the way to a trial. If you want to see how the jury might vote after they deliberate the facts in the matter, be sure to answer the question at the bottom of this column and then look at the results of others who've answered before you.

Simpson Strong-Tie Ally - Corrosion is a Real Danger

"Don't you feel it would be a good idea to include stainless-steel bolts, washers and nuts with your product so you do your best to ensure that your railing system doesn't fail?"

I went on to explain that another exhibitor at the show, Simpson Strong-Tie, had all sorts of literature and experts at their booth that would explain how deck railing posts must have the highest-quality fasteners to be safe for decades.

Simpson Strong-Tie also publishes excellent documents with great illustrations showing how to make safe connections. This is not hard to do.

CLICK HERE to see an example of how to make a wood deck railing post very safe. Pay close attention to the fact that they do include the fasteners and you can pick one that has stainless steel!

We discussed the insignificant cost of high-grade USA-made type 316 stainless-steel through bolts. For a company like AZEK to purchase them in bulk, my guess is the cost per bolt, washer and nut combo would be less than 50 cents each. This means the cost of a post would have to be increased by just $2.00, perhaps $3.00 to cover the cost of any packaging for the hardware.

stainless steel bolt

Here's a typical stainless steel through bolt you might use with an Azek aluminum deck post. The bolt costs about 54 cents each. You can buy a pack of them at Amazon.com for $8.07 here in January of 2018.

Although I didn't record the conversation, I wish I had now, I'm quite certain the young man's exact response to my question above was, "Our competitors are not including the hardware and no one would pay the extra money for them."

"Would you like me to prove you wrong? I'm more than happy to do a survey of my tens of thousands of newsletter subscribers and my YouTube subscribers. Let's see what they have to say."

The AZEK employee had no interest in me doing this no-cost survey for them.

"You know what, I'm just going to do the survey on my own and I'll share the results with you. I'm willing to bet that a vast majority of consumers would GLADLY pay extra money for the correct fasteners knowing their railing system will not fail."

You don't have to have a MBA in marketing to see the huge opportunity here. Can you picture this TV or magazine ad:

"Our competitors don't include the required stainless steel fasteners with their deck posts. They just hope the contractor will use the right ones. Do you want to HOPE that your deck railing doesn't fail? Specify AZEK aluminum deck posts with included stainless steel bolts and know your loved ones will be SAFE."

But What Bolts Should Be Included?

You may think it's impossible to include the right bolts. It's not. The AZEK engineers can easily do the following:

  • develop a preferred installation method for both wood and concrete situations. Believe me after framing countless decks, it's not hard to come up with a standardized method that will work in almost all cases. CLICK HERE to see how the Simpson Strong -Tie engineers convey the best way to install their hardware.
  • for wood, show the size, number and placement of blocking pieces as you see in the video above. Also show the exact type of corrosion-resistant fasteners required to secure them to the deck floor joists. If the blocks fail, then so to will the railing no matter what bolts are used!
  • for concrete, show the correct stainless-steel stud anchors, epoxy if necessary, and the minimum distance the holes must be from the edge of concrete slabs.
  • create a short installation video showing how to install the blocks and bolts - put a sticker on the post advertising the video.

A Company That Does it Right

Just three weeks before going to the Builders Show I had the delightful experience of installing a product from a company that understands consumer wants and values their time and safety. I've installed thousands of products in my career and when I opened the box and saw all the included parts, a gigantic grin appeared on my face.

Pay close attention to the clear packaging just under the floodlight in this photo:

Ring Floodlight Cam

Here's what you get with the Ring Floodlight Cam. You even get EXTRA parts in case you're a klutz and drop something. The orange screwdriver works to tighten the white finish nuts that secure the floodlight to the galvanized steel baseplate in the photo. Copyright 2017 Tim Carter

What you see is the Ring Floodlight Camera. It's got all the parts you'd ever need, and even a few extra things in case you drop something!

Brilliant. You bet I'm willing to pay $2 more to save a trip to the hardware store! You bet I want the best screws to install the floodlight so it doesn't fall, short out and cause an electrical fire at my house killing me and my loved ones! Kudos to the folks at Ring!

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it's now time for you to weigh in. Answer the following question and let the chips fall where they may:


98 Responses to AZEK Aluminum Deck Post Bolts

  1. I haven't seen the instructions for installing the railing system, so I replied "Maybe" to your survey. There are enough variables in an installation as to suggest that one size fits all bolts might not be the answer. A related concern with the hardware is possible galvanic corrosion between the aluminum railing components and any associated fasteners. I've seen very bad results from mixed metals in installations subject to moisture and even worse if you add in de-icing salts or similar compounds.

    • Here's what we do know Al. Azek undoubtedly knows the preferred method of installing the railing posts with treated lumber decks. Their engineers no doubt did all sorts of testing so the railing could meet basic code requirements.

      What's more, the engineers know the best blocking method, the thickness of the blocking and the best fasteners to use with the blocking so they don't corrode as well.

      All of this can be put into a video Azek makes and references in the written instructions. A simple 3D illustration of the preferred blocking setup can also be shown.

      They then supply the correct stainless bolts, nuts and washers for that preferred install. If a customer, builder, DIYr strays from that method, then they themselves take on the liability.

  2. The average consumer would have no idea about corrosion and the challenges with dealing with treated lumber thus the manufacturer would have to include information explaining why the inclusion of the proper hardware is so important. I've even met fellow builders who do not give this important consideration short shrift. Like in every other aspect of life, knowledge is power but, in my experience, most people cannot be bothered to invest the time.

  3. Having everything included, that has been tested is worth more than the incremental cost difference. Companies that provide more than the lowest price often do much better in the market place, such as Apple, BMW, Bosch, Toto. There are many others but I could think of those off the top of my head.

    • Hah Jim! Well, it's my job to point out glaring safety issues like this. Deck railings happen to be one of my pet peeves.

      What was shocking about the encounter is the lack of knowledge - my perception - about the legal ramifications of deck railing. As if they were just going to pass it off on their written instructions telling all to use the *right* fasteners.

      In the discussion he agreed with me that the percentage of installers that READ instructions is probably LESS THAN 2 percent!

  4. When you hire unskilled, inexperienced help, you get what you pay for. I hope they don't hire their legal staff with the same criteria.

  5. I’d never buy their product - or ANY products - after reading your account here. I rely on your building advice and product recommendations over anything else.

  6. I am sick and tired of products being "cheap". Who wouldn't pay an extra few bucks for the safety of family and friends? I don't do --cheap! I want a product that will be good, be safe and something I would be proud to point to and state--"it's the best!".

  7. Just another do-it-cheap operation. I’m constantly repairing my shed deck where the previous owners used low grade deck screws.

  8. I would also add convenience as part of having the hardware included. As a DIY homeowner, it saves me the time for having to drive to the Hardware store to purchase them. And hoping they are in stock.
    The other point is if they are not in stock, someone might just try to cut corners and get hardware that might compromise the safety of the railing posts.

  9. Perhaps Azek might be concerned about any liability for the bolts made by another company? But, if there was disagreement about cause of failure Azec would only have one bolt company to deal with instead of a myriad of other bolt companies and having to prove whose bolts were used - how many people keep track of the manufacturer of the bolts they buy, or where they even purchased them?

  10. Thanks for the insight. Too bad the manufacturers don't query the installers before they market their products. I guess they would rather take their chances in the courtroom and pay exhorbitant insurance premiums for that possible liability lawsuit.

  11. I look forward to your newsletters. You are the man! I don't live in a big house anymore but I still love reading your ideas.
    A shame there aren't more older and experienced staff at the building shows.

  12. Tim,

    I would like to say I am shocked, but I am not. I have been to many conferences and trade shows. It is too bad technical staff are not provided by the companies attended. I highly respect those that do, as they generally can answer the types of questions that you ask (and many of us do). If they cannot, they will usually find out, as they are generally the problem-solvers.

    It never ceases to amaze me what sales and marketing people say or won't say! The folks you spoke to didn't seem to grasp the importance of what you were asking and how it could affect their customers.

    Keep up the great work!


  13. In my opinion, it would seem that any company would include all the fasteners needed to do the job from start to finish. To leave it up to the customer or installer, a cheaper fastener might be bought just to save a few dollars and no concern to safety or knowledge about inferior fasteners.

  14. Including hardware with Azek deck posts would have a problem in that the type of substrate/structure to which the post will be mounted is unknown. Mounting could be to concrete anchors, metal, thick wood structurals (lag screws), etc.

  15. Tim, we have a vacation/investment house on the Outer Banks in NC. It is not a "little extra" to use SS nuts and bolts, but they are the ONLY ones I use. We have four large decks and they all have SS screws to hold down the decking. I do have a fear that the so called SS are only SS plated and when hammered or nuts are tightened, they immediately begin to rust. Plus if the nails in the Hardy board are not SS, they also rust shortly after painting. From a financial position, do not buy stock in AZEK.

  16. I hope the Azek employee you talked with will rethink his position and talk to a higher decision maker in the company. It's so disheartening to hear that some people are more concerned with making money than they are with the safety of fellow human beings. A proper response would've been to thank you for your information with a promise to, if not offer the stainless steel bolt, at least make consumers aware of what they should purchase to ensure the safety of their deck/railing.

  17. Would think the company would include in the instructions that the stainless bolts must be used even if they don't provide them. Many who don't know about the corrosion problem would not want to pay extra for the bolts and would buy a cheaper product.

    • They may say that in their instructions. In my discussion with the Azek employee, I told him about real-world conditions.

      What most likely would happen would be a young carpenter would go out to his truck or to a big box store and be told to get the cheapest electroplated zinc-coated bolts he could find.

  18. I am A DIYer myself and have completely remodeled my house over the course of a lot of years. I installed a deck on my house which I used all pressure treated lumber and stainless steel bolts and deck screws and yes this cost me more money but in the long run I know anyone on my deck is safe and any manufacturer that does not take this into account should not be in business.

  19. I'm fairly certain that the lackadaisical attitude of some people is because THEY don't plan to LIVE in the house themselves OR not for "as long as it would take" for a "catastrophic FAIL" to occur. (Just my opinion.) It's always someone else's "problem", after all....
    As for ME, I would GLADLY pay an extra $3.00 to ascertain that my property was "safe" for family, friends and others who may be "sue-happy" and could truly "ruin MY day"!!

  20. This is just one example of suppliers to the building industry using "smart" people---including senior management --with no real world experience in the industry. Building a brand for the long term requires more than intellect and a "good" product.
    Had an earlier experience when the pressure treated wood chemicals changed from chromated copper arsenate to the current less toxic variety. Fortunately the PT wood I bought had a warning tag stapled on it noting the need for certain type of fasteners. Not exactly the same thing but dealt with the same issue--fastner failure

  21. the average consumer isn't installing his or her own railing system, they'll hire a contractor and a contractor will be very happy to not have to go out and choose their own hardware. their liability is limited when that hardware is included.
    I'm not a fan of this railing system nor the uneducated amd foolish young salespeople they allowed to represent them. Why didnt they get on the phone with their engineers and senior level staff to get you a better answer or to at least pass on that advice to improve their product? i can only imagine how much $$ in sales they've lost due to their poor representation.

  22. Tim, I enjoy reading your column but I respectfully disagree with you on this for a couple of reasons:
    1. Based on the various deck designs, their is no universal stainless fastener that should be included. It is the contractors job to choose the proper installation method for their application. In the worst case scenario, an installer tries to make the included fasteners work in an application where they shouldn’t be applied (I.e. machine- threaded bolts into concrete) and the railing fails.
    2. Cost - as you know, manufacturers don’t make money by selling parts at cost. Whatever additional parts are included must be marked up appropriately to ensure Azek retains their profit margin. As this is likely a relatively low volume product, the average contractor could get the proper fasteners at a better price through their suppliers

    With that said, I’m glad you wrote about this as it increases the awareness of the importance of railing fastening systems. Regardless of whether Azek includes fasteners in their packages, your audience will be aware of the importance of stainless fasteners for any railing system they use.

    • Joe,

      Go back to the top and read my response to the FIRST commenter.

      I think your #2 point is way off. Azek would buy the SS fasteners by the pallet. There's no way a builder paying retail at a hardware store is going to beat the pallet price.

  23. There is a very good website on deck failures that everyone that has a deck, is building a deck, or will ever stand on a deck should visit and learn about how unsafe decks can be. So, for a manufacture to include the proper hardware with their product is a no-brainer. In fact, most people are probably unaware of the corrosive properties of currently treated wood products with ACQ on both fasteners and supportive hardware like joist hangers. Pretty scary!

  24. My thoughts: on having the right bolts for the Azek product which they will not supply, is purely to direct any lawsuit to the general contractor. I, as a general contractor, would NOT recommend Azek products.

    • Egidio, your comment is illogical. If the deck railing post is installed correctly using the correct stainless-steel bolts then why would there be a lawsuit?

      Azek, should they START to include the correct bolts, would SAVE YOU FROM A LAWSUIT!

      For goodness sakes, you may go to one of the big box stores and buy inferior stainless-steel fasteners produced offshore!!!!

      You do realize that not all stainless steel is the same, right?

  25. Sadly, even if Azek used the best materials possible, if the product was installed incorrectly by the builder/consumer and failed, Azek would still be sued.

  26. "According to the North American Deck and Railing Association, deck failures and resulting injuries are on the rise, with more than 40,000 decks in the United States considered unsafe and in need of repair. Between 2000 and 2008, at least 30 deaths in the United States directly resulted from deck collapses. When a deck collapses, NADRA reports, more than 75 percent of people are typically injured or killed."

    This should be enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone. Me - I just don't like heights 🙂

  27. They also need to include SS hardware for connecting the rails to the posts. Either way, I wouldn’t use this system, seeing that in our area the building code forbids there being a lower railing. The spindles or ballasters must go down to the deck's surface to prevent kids from using it to climb up on.

      • Beats me. It's unrealistic for me to try to keep up with all the code requirements in the thousands of cities and towns across the USA.

        Realize each municipality can modify the model building codes. Just go research it yourself.

  28. Using a HIGH grade stainless steel fastener for deck main supports and railing components is paramount to not only my safety over the years of use but more importantly the safety of my family and friends. Tim thank you for bringing us the message of a flawed company and it’s team. You possibly saved lives just by your writings. Azek is off my list!

  29. Good luck in convincing the bean counters regarding minimal investment now versus potential mega layout for future lawsuit settlement. I don’t believe for one moment that anyone tested the marketplace for their opinion regarding picking up a complete package with everything needed for installation at any price point. (Less tools and labor of course).

  30. Long time ago I too realized that metal when in contact with moisture can corrode at a rapid rate. Also one has to be extremely careful when combining different metals in the same project. Thank you for pointing out that stainless steel is the only metal to use for this project (galvanized won't last) and that it has to be quality stainless steel. We all have had experiences where stainless steel utensils have rusted. Avoid anything that is too big of a bargain, it may not be true stainless steel. I have been a reader of your articles for twenty years now. Your articles have always been the best. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us.

  31. Through the years I have been very disappointed many times where an outdoor installation (pickup accessories, etc) was made with a good product but the installer did not use stainless steel bolts/fasteners and you had rust spots or the bolt failed. USE THE RIGHT PRODUCT FOR THE JOB, that is all you need to do, do not cut corners for a few cents/dollars.

  32. This seems to be a "no brainer". Most things you buy that need installation come with the appropriate parts. Not getting the "right" bolts makes absolutely no sense, especially considering what we are talking about here and the liability issue.

  33. I always use SS fastening hardware when the connection is exposed to the elements, or if water or moisture may be / could be present. In the long term its cheaper than the grief associated without using SS materials .... "penny wise, pound foolish."

  34. I installed the Railing Works (FSI Home Products) deck railing and they included stainless steel fasteners (lugs,bolts,washers,nuts as required).

  35. Management guru, Dr. Deming once said, "Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place."

    Sounds a lot like another quote I once heard: Do it right, not over.

    For a 2nd story deck railing post kit, there's never been truer words!

  36. But what length of SS fasteners would they include in the package? Some rim joists are thicker than others. Some applications would require lag screws. Can't include every option.

    • Paul,

      I know you might not have wanted to read all the comments, but I answered your concern under the FIRST comment above.

      Go back up and read it. You only need to supply one set of bolts because your instructions indicated there's only ONE trusted way to install the post.

  37. The incremental cost would be de minimis, and it's not just about convenience. It's also about consumer "peace of mind." Installing the deck railing properly with the provided hardware would give me peace of mind that whenever my family, friends and I used the deck, we wouldn't be risking life and limb. 'Nuff said.

  38. Full Disclosure, I am not a builder. Now, my question would be, is there a known standard length for the bolts? If so, absolutely include them, Marketing 101. If, however, there are many options for length, then no. Emblazon the package with the required information, offer the end user a gift of some sort for "registering" the product, then make sure they are told explicitly about the issue.

  39. Yes, I pay extra and have the bolts included. They need to have a choice though, because the customer might need custom lengths. Also, I question how strong surface mounting a rail system like that is. It needs some good blocking underneath for sure.

  40. I was thinking of buying from Azek. As I prefer not to die anytime soon, I will not be buying from Azek. I answered no to the survey, because after reading your story it is clear Azek is trying to kill people, so I will never buy from them even if they include hardware that would last 10 zillion years.

    Tim, a spy told me the Orlando city council is considering banning you from returning to their city. Apparently they prefer the destructive force of hurricanes rather than the wrath of Tim Carter.

    • B,

      Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater! Azek may come around and within 60 days start to offer the stainless fasteners.

      Azek is NOT trying to kill people. Many companies don't offer the correct hardware. Perhaps this column will start a giant trend and companies will supply the best fasteners.

      Now with your last statement, my sarcasm meter is sensing that you're not serious....

      Yeah, you can bet I'm Persona Non Grata at the Azek booth in the future.

  41. Tim,
    I have worked all my life with big multinationals. The sales and marketing folks understand nothing of those "technical questions", (even though there is no technical stuff here, it is just pure logic)
    In addition, the company lawyers don't want the company personnel to commit on anything that they do not control (the installation). So, they will never offer the SS bolts and nuts.
    Too bad for them. Hey, Tim, that gives you an opportunity to do some business in advising in case of litigation
    Keep up the good work!

  42. Thanks, Tim for always being on the lookout for us! You've helped me with so many things. I am about to put up aluminum railings on the deck around my pool. It's expensive stuff, but worth it not to decimate with the chemicals. I will definitely make sure and have the right bolts installed with it because of your column. You're the best!

  43. Hi Tim,

    Some companies, just don't get it.

    I work in the maintenance department @ a downtown hotel, and have a large shop & yard @ home.

    Always have a metal fabrication shop make up replacement parts, brackets, braces out of stainless steel.

    I use stainless steel screws bolts, washers, nuts, screws, lags always.

    Never had a problem with using stainless steel around commercial kitchen's, swimming pools, exterior installations,


  44. Tim when you said "We discussed the insignificant cost of high-grade USA-made stainless-steel through bolts" you were spot-on. Especially the USA part. I see the "made in China" hardware being sold at many of my local hardware stores. So when people say a "extra trip to the store" in my case its more like 3 to 4 trips. I refuse to use that _hit and will wait for mail order if I must. Keep up your GREAT work!

  45. Azek partners with a company named Walpole Outdoors to produce spectacular gates, fences, pergolas, etc. These kits come with the appropriate fasteners and hardware. Unfortunately, stuffing aluminum into Azek makes for a mighty expensive project. My 22x6-foot stairwell cover priced out north of $10K for materials only. Trex offers a similar product, for about the same price, well beyond my budget. During a recent road trip to Ohio I stopped at the Weatherables factory and was quite impressed by the quality of their product, the many choices of sizes and shapes, and especially the personable customer service, including design advice. Weatherables sells fasteners for their products. However, I'm more likely to use Simpson solutions. Simpson pairs their hardware with the exact screws/nails needed, and tells you when nails are more appropriate than screws. I'm inclined to use pressure-treated lumber in the posts and beams instead of aluminum to save money, following the Tim Carter method of selecting lumber to minimize the possibility of twisted wood. Initial estimate is about 70% lower than the cost of an Azek solution.

  46. Well, obviously "Todd" from Dunn Lumber Co. didn't learn anything about chemical interactions in his 35 yrs of "so called experience". If he had (or had he been attentive in basic chemistry class), he would know that the .003 - .005" thin galvanized coating on the anchor bolts will start to crack in 18 - 30 months, allowing water direct contact with the steel bolt core....and then the process is exaggerated even faster with the interaction of galvanic corrosion between the copper preservative and the steel. In 3 - 5 yrs., the anchoring capacity of many of the bolts will be greatly reduced, or nil.

    And yes, Azek would be first on the list of a liability lawsuit because they either didn't specify, nor include 304/316 SS grade bolts to prevent this issue.

    (43+ yrs. Professional Mechanical Engineer)

  47. Would prefer to buy a product that contained the proper stainless steel hardware. So many times when completing homeowner projects and automotive have I had to spend extra time figuring out sizes and searching different stores because one store only had this bolt but not the nuts, etc.

    I believe it was 1999 when a close friend, in his late forties, was visiting his brother and he leaned backward on the railing which gave way and he fell about 12 feet and was killed breaking his neck. Since then I am very aware when checking out a new deck.

  48. I also dislike making a second trip to a store to purchase additional items to complete a task. The days of the neighborhood wooden floored hardware stores are gone. So, yes, I'd pay more for all the parts.

    • Thomas, there is a small hardware store in Sea Cliff, NY that still has the wooden foor. I have been helping a friend's daughter with her new home and found they had everything I needed.

  49. First choice is always to have EVERYTHING required in the package. Second choice (if they’re not smart enough to include the right stuff in the package) is full Tech specs on what I have to go buy. If they just say “4 stainless steel bolts” then average joe is going to get the “thin” stuff and I have to believe it’s only 2-3 years before that bolt isn’t up to spec anymore, so they need to say full spec like “quantity 4 Stainless Steel 306.......” but it’s far simpler if they just include it. It’s cheaper for me and makes me feel better about the provider. I’ll get off my soapbox now.....

  50. As a retired "Shop Teacher" and a DIYer I always prefered to make purchases that had all the hardware needed to complete an installation. The minimal cost of screws with the product far outways the need and the time to run to the store.

  51. My experience with Azek was also interesting. I have a 36 Ft sunroom that was installed with fingerjointed redwood trim boards supplied by the manufacturer. After about 20 years trim was deteriorated and needed replacing. As a rest I purchased some azek trim and molded it to match old trim. I could not find out coefficient of expansion or contraction in different weather conditions. The piece I made was installed in the early fall and suffered through the usual nasty northeast winter. After that period the board had shrunk leaving a 3/8-1/2 inch gap on each end of an 8 ft board. scratch that brilliant idea. Am now testing a composite chipboard certified for exterior use.

  52. Yes Tim, I would pay a reasonable amount extra for a quality deck rail system if all parts were included. It is worth the extra money if what you get is a turnkey solution that has been tested and certified to last for many years. Now if we could solve the problem of pressure treated lumber that rots after only seven to ten years. That would be great.

  53. You would think that Azek would ensure that their products are safe by supplying the proper bolts, studs, nuts and washers so that they would not face lawsuits like what Simpson went through when the change in treated lumber and deck failures took place all over till it was discovered the new treatment ate the fasteners.
    And with lawyers today, they are just waiting for something like this to happen and can put a company out of business or worse.
    And hiring contractors, very few can be trusted, most have no clue, they may have all the tools minus 1, their brains.

    Hi Tim, Love the newsletters! Stay warm buddy, this cold has hit us hard and all systems are now thawed!!

  54. Wow what a hot topic in this cold winter! Seriously,
    it should be a no-brainer in this day and age of time is money. Time is far more valuable and saving it from NOT having to make extra trips for extra parts is golden!

    I've noticed that many (I did not say all) younger
    people have a lack of knowledge & wisdom due to the fact they have not been around the rose bush as long as more seasoned citizens and professionals like you Tim Carter.

    Some of these people are in management and are making some of the same mistakes. Not thoroughly vetting their products. A lack attention to detail with a resulting failure can and will bring a lawsuit from a hungry lawyer who was educated in the importance of details.

    You were right to bring up valid points and concerns regarding their product in question. Perhaps this discussion will shed some proverbial light with the powers that be at Azek and they'll revisit their strategy or lack thereof.

  55. So much easier. The extra cost will be much lower than my cost of determining the needed items, locating a source and traveling to purchase these items. The ok on supplied fasteners with a the extra cost is a no brainer for me.

  56. I'd pay a little more for the right fasteners to be included in a heartbeat! Make it easy for me and make it safe for my family.

  57. My father was a carpenter and he always say “buy quality because it lasts”. We have been working on our old house(102 years old) for the thirty years we have owned it, luckily we had my dad around for the first ten. My husband & I buy quality and we take the time to plan out every project just like my dad taught us. So yes, we would gladly pay more money to have the project done right.

  58. I agree that having the bolts included is a plus for ease of installation.
    Unfortunately the word of the day during product design may have been "deniability". If they provide the bolts and they fail for any reason (manufacturing or installation error) wouldn't the provider be liable?
    Their literature, as a minimum, should include your recommendation for stainless steel fasteners as the recommended material.

    Thanks for your newsletter Tim. As a conscientious professional I find it refreshing to encounter someone with similar ethics, looking to do the right thing all the time. And the "occasional" videos you include are helpful. ( :

  59. I answered YES, but *only* because the article explained why stainless should be used. I had no idea that was the case.

    Products like this should have large print warnings: Stainless steel nuts and bolts are required.

    I know it is my responsibility to use the right products for the job and to learn to do projects properly. But I can't know everything. (That's why I read Tim's tips.)

  60. There's a similar case with pneumatic nail guns and surface grinders. All the ones that I've bought came with eye protection. The manufacturer's lawyers will tell the "slow learners" out there, "Well, we tried to warn you, but we can't help those who will not take our advice".

  61. Hi Tim,

    I am not at all surprised by the sales rep at the trade show booth not being able to answer even basic technical questions about the product he is selling. Nor am I surprised by the manufacturer's willingness to "Ruin a good ship for the sake of a halfpenny's worth of tar."........... to use a very old nautical expression, by including inferior installation hardware.

    I see this all the time, and consumers are often left with a choice between several inferior products where they have to choose the least bad option.

    Companies run by people with only an eye on costs, profits, and sales figures, and not on the actual technical issues associated with their product or service too often send junior sales staff to trade shows, and have no ear for any kind of feedback, whether it be positive or negative, or advice from experienced people within their company, or from outside. ....... They may be able to put together a great investor focused powerpoint presentation, but have little interest in what happens on the factory floor, or the legal, liability, and ethical issues their dodgy products bring up. Too many MBAs, and not enough experienced trades people with dirt under their fingernails.

    I have visited and personally manned booths in many trade shows in quite a few countries. I see this disconnect all the time!!!!

    Generally I see the best quality products, and the most knowledgeable trade show staff at booths from Japanese and German companies, and the worst from Chinese companies, with Australia and the US somewhere in between.

    Not just the building products market, but many other industries also suffer from this lack of pride and integrity among their sales and marketing staff.

    The best booths are the ones that are largely manned by experienced factory floor tradies and engineers rather than slick young sales staff with limited first hand experience in technical issues.

    What is needed is more people such as yourself that will both point out deficiencies in dodgy products, and educate the consumers that are so often the victims of badly designed, poorly manufactured, and poorly promoted products.

    Keep up the good work!!!!! The world is more and more being flooded with either dodgy products, or dodgy marketing strategies. ..... Often both.

    And it is hard to find an unbiased expert commentator. I am so glad that I can access your information so easily from your newsletters and your website........... Even from over here in Australia!!!

  62. Yes-definitely want the best fasteners. Would not trust a company that sacrifices my safety to cut costs. Thanks for the education.

  63. Tim,
    This is what worries me about the younger generation.They have no idea how things work in the real world. My husband has been a consulting engineer for 30+ years (mechanical and electrical). He recently read a blueprint that showed a gas line passing through a concrete beam-impossible in the real world- but easy to do with software!
    I just saw an episode of a popular home improvement show where they "fixed" a "wobbly" toilet by putting one and one quarter inch shims on one side--then told the homeowner to "caulk" the crack. The real problem was that the floor had settled. What is this world coming to?
    I don't even feel confident in driving over a bridge anymore!

  64. I would pay extra - but only if the packaging made clear WHY it was so important and so helpful to me. Otherwise I wouldn't realize how much I needed it since I am not a builder - just an amateur do it yourselfer who often goofs (and learns from it).

  65. Hi Tim,

    Thanks again for your honest and forthright newsletter .

    Echoing Fred Fisher above, this type of occurrence, in this case Azec, is more of a big-picture issue. There just plain is no substitute for ingrained experience.

    That is what we see in situations such as the Azec
    issue. You can be "smart" and able to present well,
    but without in-depth experience in the field you just will not be effective. That's a problem as the old
    guard retires and there is no pool of experienced new people to take their place.

    As for lawsuits, I think Azec's attorneys are being
    devious. By not supplying the hardware they plan
    to point to the installer as the responsible party. If
    they supplied all hardware, then in a lawsuit, as
    long as the installer followed the instructions to a
    "T", that installer could claim a "holdover" which
    seeks to shift the responsibility to the manufacturer.
    I am no lawyer but have been around the bush
    a few times.


  66. I'm very disappointed in Azek. We have used their products in the past (not decking) and have always felt they were of high quality. Obviously, they've dropped the ball on this one!

  67. I would already have the stainless bolts because I bought out two hardware stores' stainless supply when they went out of business and I did this because just about everything I have built for outdoor use has stainless hardware. The bottom line for your Azek mfr. is that a quality product costing two dollars more than a competitor's product will not influence my purchase. If they are truly worried about this cost, their ads should point out the quality of their product and the essential stainless parts enclosed that some other manufacturers do not provide.

  68. Treated lumber in contact with aluminum even if the aluminum is painted is a failure waiting to happen. When you cover treated wood with aluminum trim coil the coil will get holes in it. Most of the manufactures have this information on the packaging. Doesn't stop it from happening. Same thing happens in contact with concrete. 50 years in home improvement and still working every day.

  69. I took a couple of minutes to understand what you said. Once one understands that there is one preferred way to install the product, then of course you include the correct size hardware. It is a no brainer. If you deviate from the preferred methoc, then all bets are off. It's really that simple.

    And thanks for all your tips and alerts such as this.

  70. I answered yes on the survey the way you had it worded but I see the point of many here. You can easily get carried away with this ideology.

    If treated wood requires special fasteners why aren't the fasteners packaged with the treated wood?

    Why don't hurricane tie-downs come with trusses automatically?

    Why don't pre-hung doors come with shims?

    Heck even nuts and bolts are sold separately for the most part!
    I think it would be nice of them to include bolts but there are definitely a lot of variables that would change which bolt was used. Especially length.
    I think they could cover the liability of this argument with good warnings on the packaging and instructions!

  71. Walter,

    You're confusing life-safety issues with those that aren't. Deck railing connections are a serious issue.

    What's more, as I discussed above, it's NOT expensive to include the hardware. And if a person deviates from the engineered solution on how to make the connections, then you bet Azek is off the hook.

    I can't remember a news story about a person dying because the wrong shims were used to hang a door.

    I can't remember a news story about a person who was permanently disabled using the wrong fasteners with the treated lumber to create raised garden beds.

    I could go on and on.

    What about the Simpson Strong-Tie company? How do you explain the fact they include the correct fasteners with their deck railing hardware?

    At the very least Azek could put on large labels on the posts that say:

    TO BE REMOVED BY OWNER For the highest safety standard and long-term stability type 316 stainless steel hardware must be used to secure this post to the deck surface.

  72. I would gladly pay more and would greatly appreciate it as it is one less stop for me. On a somewhat different note, have you experienced Azek trim boards shrinking or separating at the joints? Is this a product issue or an installation SNAFU?

    • AZEK trim boards are made from plastic. It has a very high expansion / contraction coefficient. It's VERY IMPORTANT for the installer to follow all of AZEK's written installation instructions.

      Did you go online and read them? Do it now and find out what went wrong.

  73. I checked "Maybe" since, if I were shopping for such a product, I would compare the benefits and drawbacks of comparable products, such as if installation items were included or not. I would have no idea of the additional charge for proper installation items, I would compare the "kit" price. Also, I may be a throwback, but I would probably alacart the parts I needed rather than buy an all inclusive kit, if possible. It would then be up to me to decide what type of fasteners to use for my installation/application.

  74. I read the column last Saturday and forgot to finish replying. At work we have put up quite a few wall mount TV brackets and it is great having all the extra screws available, since there are so many different TVs that have different mounting screw sizes. Some companies get it. I have no problem paying for something that is included if it saves me driving to town for supplies or worse an hour to our nearest city.

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