How High Does a Deck Railing Need to Be?

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    Are you planning a new deck renovation in San Antonio, TX? Safety should be your number one priority before and after installations. 

    You may wonder, “How high does a deck railing need to be to comply with local building codes?”

    Our contractors at All Pro Decks & Patios specialize in the installation of San Antonio outdoor living features. We created a comprehensive guide to the deck railing, so you can feel confident about the results of your installation. Review the following information, then contact our team to schedule a consultation.

    Why Does Rail Height Matter?

    Decks and patios are excellent outdoor living space ideas if you want to entertain guests or cozy up with loved ones during warm months. However, steep ledges and stairs can cause unfortunate injuries to those who aren’t paying close attention to their surroundings.

    Having plastic or wood deck railings can prevent these accidents and reduce your risk of liability. Most building codes require residential and commercial property owners to install these deck features for optimal safety.

    Installing the correct height will ensure that people of all ages can reach them during slips or falls.

    How High Can a Deck be Without Railing?

    In general, your deck must have railing if its lowest platform exceeds a height of 30 inches, like decks that jet out from the second floor of a property.

    Ground-level decking rarely requires railing unless the homeowner adds multiple high tiers. Still, it may be worth installing rails on a ground-level deck to assist those with mobility problems. These individuals can use the rail to safely lower themselves off even the lowest ledge without fuss.

    Height rules can also vary depending on your location. Review your local building guidelines to be sure.

    Typical Height Requirements for Residential Railing

    Most building codes require residential decks to have at least 36-inch-high railings. However, states like California and Washington require homeowners to install a 42-inch-high railing or taller.

    You can install railings that blend into your home’s aesthetic. Wood railing is a popular option for rustic properties. On the other hand, PVC and metal railing may look better for modern decks.

    Typical Height Requirements for Commercial Deck Railing

    How high does a deck railing need to be for commercial properties?

    Commercial decks (apartment complexes, businesses, etc.) must have at least 42-inch-high railings to comply with the International Building Code. 

    These rules protect both customers and employees from accidents that may disrupt business or lead to financially devastating lawsuits.

    Rail and Baluster Spacing Considerations

    Balusters support the guardrail and prevent children and pets from falling out underneath. Spacing balusters too far apart can negate their functional purpose. That is why most building codes require balusters to be no more than four inches apart. 

    The space between your decking and your bottom rail must also not exceed four inches, although exceptions may apply if your deck has stairs or tiered features. In this case, the space between the platform and the bottom rail must not exceed six inches.

    Weight Considerations

    Guidelines in the United States generally require guardrails and handrails to support at least 200 pounds. These rules are set in place to mitigate safety risks. For example, installing rails that follow these guidelines ensures your deck railing won’t be prone to collapsing if individuals lean or sit on it.

    How High Is Too High?

    Installing very tall guardrails or handrails may not be financially or functionally practical. 

    In other words, these structures demand more building materials and may prevent children from reaching the railing when needed. Most contractors recommend keeping your railing within five inches of the required height for the best results.

    Deck Stairs and Ledges

    Some homeowners wonder, “How high does a deck railing need to be if it has stairs?”

    The IRC recommends 34- to 38-inch-high railing to lower the risk of falls.

    A reliable contractor can help you find the right measurements for your lifestyle. They will also complete a final inspection of your deck after installation to ensure that your stair railing complies with local guidelines.

    The Space Below Deck Rails

    As previously mentioned, the space between your decking and lower rails can be hazardous without the right spacing. Proper spacing can also help you maintain your deck with less hassle.

    For example, you can sweep leaves, dirt, and debris from your deck using this gap. It also allows water runoff, protecting your bottom rail and balusters from corrosion or wood rot caused by excessive amounts of water.

    Some homeowners choose rail designs that run from the top of deck posts to the edge. Most building codes allow this solution, so long as the space between balusters still meets the four-inch requirement.

    What Happens if You Don’t Have Deck Railings?

    Some people worry that deck rail requirements may disrupt their dream design, but falling from tall decks can cause severe injuries or death. That is why investing in a quality railing system is crucial.

    In addition, if you don’t get railings installed, inspectors may report you to the local building department for fines. Meanwhile, commercial properties that lack the proper railings may also be subject to lawsuits or closures.

    It’s best to discuss your concerns with a contractor to avoid any regrettable design decisions and to clarify specific building requirements.

    Upgrade Your Decks with Help From All Pro Decks & Patios

    Planning your deck installation doesn’t need to be a challenge. At All Pro Decks & Patios, our five-star contractors are ready to assist. Schedule an at-home consultation with one of our project managers to discuss your budget and design preferences.

    We will recommend deck railings that suit your property’s architectural style and functionality. You can expect competitive pricing and multi-year warranties on all products and labor. Many of your San Antonio neighbors recommend us for our excellent communication and speedy service.

    Don’t let confusing building codes keep you from achieving the deck of your dreams. We can provide all the information you need to streamline your installation. 

    How high does a deck railing need to be in San Antonio, TX? Learn more by contacting our team at All Pro Decks & Patios at (210) 660-8250.

    Justin Wylie

    Justin Wylie, owner of All Pro Decks & Patios is a Deckorators® Certified Pro Elite located in the San Antonio Hill Country area. He specializes in building decks, patios, patio covers, pergolas, concrete slabs, fireplaces and more while providing quality and service for his customers.

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