Are Code Requirements Required for Non-Required Railings?
The answer is “yes.” And “no.”
First, let me explain what I’m talking about.
For example, the I-codes require that if you have a drop of 30 inches a guard is required. That guard is required to be a minimum 42 inches high (36 inches in the International Residential Code) with no opening large enough that a 4-inch sphere can pass.
But what if you only have a 6-inch drop? Would it still require a guard?
Let’s say you have a drop from your deck which is less than 30 inches? Must you meet the height and opening requirements?
In the past, you did.
Building codes are generally insistent that items that are not required but are in place, must still meet the requirements of the codes. But, there was a change made within the past 10 years for guards. Only required guards must meet the requirements.
This allows for a railing that is put on a deck with a drop of less than 30 inches, being exempt from the height minimum and infill limitation.
This is not the case with handrail.
A handrail is required for stairs and ramps. If you place a handrail elsewhere — such as in a hospital corridor — it must meet the handrail requirements for graspability and strength.
As with any code issue, it is imperative to confirm requirements with your local authority having jurisdiction as they may have a different interpretation of these requirements.
Code inspectors have the desire to assure a safe structure. If they feel that your installation is “unsafe”, they still have the option of red tagging it as such. So if you’re deck is 29.5 inches above the ground, they still may require that a guard is installed.
For more information on codes see our knowledge base.
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