Know Your Codes!

Know Your Codes!

Apr 09, 2024

Installing a new deck or renovating your existing deck can be an exciting home project that often brings beautiful results, but it requires plenty of research, learned knowledge and due diligence. Part of building a secure and enduring deck is understanding your local building guidelines, including the deck railing height code.

While most locations require that deck railings be 36″ or taller, other items such as infill spacing, weight limits, and local laws and codes are important topics to consider as well.

Height Requirements

Decks higher than 30″ off the ground must have guardrails to satisfy a majority of local building codes. Most U.S. guidelines require railings at least 36″ tall between the decking and top rail, though this varies by location. For instance, California and Washington require 42″ or taller railings for decks.

Baluster Spacing

Proper spacing for your railings is also vital of a safe and sturdy deck build. Railings come in various infill styles, so spacing and guidelines often vary between materials and locations.

As a general rule of thumb, railing baluster and infill gaps should not exceed 4″ wide. The space between the decking and bottom rail also should not exceed 4″. The exception to this rule is with deck stairs, where the triangle-shaped gap between the tread, riser, and bottom rail should not exceed 6″. Again, these are general rules of thumb—local and regional codes and rules can vary!

The deck railing post spacing code requires manufactured railing posts to stay within 8′ of each other to ensure railing meets strength requirements. IRC and IBC guidelines dictate strength requirements, including:

  • Uniform load on guardrail: 200 lbs.
  • Uniform load on infills: 50 lbs.
  • Uniform load on handrail: 200 lbs.
  • Concentrated load on guardrails: 200 lbs.
  • Concentrated load on infills: 50 lbs.
  • Linear load on guardrails: 50 lbs./linear sq. ft.

Deck Railing Options

So now you know your general code guidelines….but now what? There are still so many options to choose from, especially when it comes to your railing options. Railing comes in a variety of styles and materials, so there’s more to think about than the install alone. The good news is that manufactured composite and PVC, steel, and even natural wood railing options are all generally permitted under most deck railing codes… choices often come down to personal choice. Deck Expressions is here to assist! View our Deck Railing Guide Deck Expressions: Ultimate Deck Railing Guide & Expert Tips for a variety of options and styles to help you make your dream deck a reality while also following code guidelines.