Deck Safety Tips: Inspect Your Railings

Checking railings is an important step to the deck inspection process.
Checking railings is an important step to the deck inspection process.

Imagine this: you’re having a get together on your deck, drinks are flowing, and dinner is on the grill. Everyone is having a great time until your dog, Spot, squeezes through the railing and gets stuck. You can’t get him out, so now you have to cut your railing apart to get him out. All of this happened because you didn’t know you were required to have handrails with no more than 4” between each rail.

This code was put in place for a reason, when railings are more than 4” apart on center, it poses a safety hazard. I want you to go measure the distance between your railing right now. Is it more than 4” apart? Are the railings less than 36” high? If so, your deck is closed for the time being. If a code enforcer were to come by your home, you’d be hit with a hefty fine. I don’t think any of that’s worth it.

If your deck is more than 20” off the ground, most local building codes require you to have a stable railing present. Now I say “most” because it varies from city to city. Do your research before you consume yourself in a deck project. Call a local licensed contractor if you are unsure of this type of installation.

Walk out on your deck and give the railing a good shake. If it gives at all, it needs to be replaced, or repaired. Sometimes securing the fasteners, and replacing corroded ones is all that is needed, but if that doesn’t work, contact a licensed contractor.

Like I said before, rails should not be more than 4” apart on center. This is because there is a possibility of a child, or pet, slipping through. The higher the decking is off the ground, it becomes even more crucial. Rotted railings and balusters are another weak spot that could cause someone, or a pet, to fall through without any warning. Replace these immediately.

As always check with your local building codes to ensure your decking and railing are built to the proper requirements. 

When you have safe and secure railings, it gives you one less thing to worry about during the summer, and allows you to enjoy it to its full potential.


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