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deck height/railing code question

(post #89213, reply #1 of 16)

if this is a redundant thread, I apologize. I am wondering what code is for a deck to not have a railing. Meaning how high off the ground can I go before I have to have a railing. Thought it was 20" or so, but can't remember. (BOCA or UBC)

Thanks. LJ

(post #89213, reply #2 of 16)

Little Joe

Here in Oregon the code requires that decks or porches to have a railing if the deck/porch is more than 30" off the ground. Also, a hand rail is required for steps at that height.


(post #89213, reply #3 of 16)


down here near Madison, the town I do most of my work in allows 24" from the lowest point to the deck surface before they force you to add a railing.

I'm not sure about the code up there, but when I do stuff up north, it's usually more lax unless there's some waterfront or swamp or something that the dnr has to get involved with. The state reverts to the UDC, here's the website for state minimums, I find it very useful but still need to check locally:

You're not working outside are you? Not me this year!

(post #89213, reply #4 of 16)

Whatever it is in your area, you can sometimes get around it by raising the grade on the planting beds around the deck. Worked for me on a deck where the customer wanted a bench with no back along the perimeter.

(post #89213, reply #5 of 16)


Yeah, I've used tricks like that too. Most of the building inspectors around here will let you by if you're pretty close on stuff like this. I just wonder about future lawsuits-almost need to get some clearance in writing, or at least document what people said, when, and take photos.

What I don't like, is when you're forced to add a railing, fine. But a 4" maximum gap, and 36" minimum height? That's not a railing, it's a prison.

(post #89213, reply #6 of 16)

The Mass. state code, based on BOCA, says decks over 30 in. need a railing.

(post #89213, reply #7 of 16)

Little Joe...

You are asking the wrong people. You need to contact YOUR OWN local building dep. National codes is one thing, but every locality has ammendments and local codes to overrule some of the nat. codes.

I got burned last year on Handrail height because the local code had an amendment that differed from the nat. standard. but the last time they updated, someone forgot to include that ammendment, so it automatically reverted to the nat. standard. Suddenly the last handrail that I had installed was too low, even though it was the same height as every previous one I had installed. Some sort of a memo would have been nice.

(post #89213, reply #8 of 16)

Always check with the local authority. around here we use BOCA but each little podunk municipality has it's own twist. My opinion (which probably doesn't matter to you) is that I would rather check it out for the township I'm building in and let the clients know upfront then adjust my design, than to have to tear it out and redo it. I think that makes you look pretty stupid to a client. after all we're supposed to be the experts. remember... arguing with an inspector is like arguing with your parents. you never really win even if you do.

(post #89213, reply #9 of 16)

Mad Dog -- Thanks much. That is a great site. Bookmarked it for future reference.

As for working outside, I get to pick and choose my days in or out. It has been mostly out this year, but luckily the weather has cooperated nicely. Plus the site i'm on overlooks the lake and I have been able to witness the ice come and go. As long as the ferry doesn't get stuck, i am ok.

On the down side = too much ice for boat fishing, and not enough for ice fishing....oh well soon enough i guess.

Later. LJ

(post #89213, reply #10 of 16)

Steve and Mike, I hear what you're screamin'. Problem is the place i am working is one of those podunk little municipalities and doesn't know it arse from a hole in the ground. It's a little island community of around 150 year-round residents. Asking them about code is like asking a mountain how to fly.

As for inspectors to fight with, unfortunately there is little to no proof of their existence. I have heard some of the old-timers speak the legends but have never witnessed one myself. Seriously, they are not seen very often. Once in a while on a large commercial job the state will send someone around, and I have even heard of OSHA making the rare appearance. And there is much slipshod work around to show for it.

I guess what I am looking for is to see if there is any consistency between codes. It can't be far off that this area will start catching up with the rest of the country and enforce some codes and regulations. I'm just trying to keep ahead of the game

Thanks for the feedback.

Later. LJ

(post #89213, reply #11 of 16)

Ditto to Mike. 30" here in Mass.

(post #89213, reply #12 of 16)

Someday you'll have to tell me about fishing your area. I'm starting to get the hang of Musky fishing near Boulder Junction but would like to try L. Superior and trout streams up that way.

The winter's been so wimpy mainly because I had all this indoor stuff lined up...How's that for an egocentric look?


(post #89213, reply #13 of 16)

I'm pretty sure I know what island you speak LJ. They don't have too many issues there, eh?

(post #89213, reply #14 of 16)

30 inches! So says the Standard Building Code.

(post #89213, reply #15 of 16)

Not too many issues Mad Dog. Typical small town politics...treat the right people good and you won't catch flack. Piss off the wrong people and you might as well move on.

Later. LJ

(post #89213, reply #16 of 16)

Around here you can delete the handrail if it is 30" or less from finished deck floor to grade, AND have a minimum of 5 feet level grade from the deck. We've used the "raising grade" alot...In fact just this last week. Had to "replace" an "existing" rock wall. (might as well bring in up to withing 30" of the deck. Fudged a little with the 4' or less non-engineered rock wall. Was in the middle of this 'replacement' when inspector showed up to elec/heating/framing inspect. He thought we were building a bulkhead. Had to point out the existing bulkhead 4 feet below and out from us. Almost had shoreline managment out. thank god that's all done.