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    Railing requirements

    Railing requirements

    New postby robkeith on Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:32 pm

    I understand that there is a 36" height requirement for railing on raised surfaces, however, my question is really about the nature of the railing. I have waterfront property in Maryland and the current railing on the high deck is thick white posts and vertical balusters. On a lower deck, there are sheathed metal cabling running horizontally so as not to intrude on the view. Can I duplicate the lower deck railing mechanism on the upper deck(s), both of which are well over 8 feet high?

    Thanks,
    Rob
    robkeith
     
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    Re: Railing requirements

    New postby Jerry Peck - Codeman on Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:07 pm

    Rob,

    robkeith wrote:On a lower deck, there are sheathed metal cabling running horizontally so as not to intrude on the view.


    Yes, and I don't recommend it.

    From here: https://codes.iccsafe.org/public/docume ... g-planning (the ICC link to the Maryland codes)
    - R312.1.3 Opening limitations.
    - - Required guards shall not have openings from the walking surface to the required guard height that allow passage of a sphere 4 inches (102 mm) in diameter.
    - - - Exceptions:
    - - - - 1.The triangular openings at the open side of stair, formed by the riser, tread and bottom rail of a guard, shall not allow passage of a sphere 6 inches (153 mm) in diameter.
    - - - - 2.Guards on the open side of stairs shall not have openings that allow passage of a sphere 43/8 inches (111 mm) in diameter.

    The only specify the minimum level of safety, which is the height of 36 inches as you stated, and the maximum opening size, above, of not allowing "passage of a sphere 4 inches (102 mm) in diameter."

    Years ago the codes prohibited constructing guards such that the infill which creates a ladder effect ("infill" is the vertical, horizontal, or decorative material between the floor and the top of the guard which keeps one from falling through) - those horizontal cables create that ladder effect.

    Additionally, I have yet to see a guard with horizontal cables such that the guard is strong enough to tighten the cables taut enough to resist the required 50 pounds per square foot horizontal load and not deflect enough enough to not allow the "passage of a sphere 4 inches (102 mm) in diameter."

    Just words of caution based on what I do, having seen the after effects of children (and adults) having fallen through (or climbed on/over) those horizontal cable type guards.

    Does such a railing meet code?
    - Seldom.

    Do those types of railings typically get approved by the local jurisdiction?
    - Almost all the time.
    - - (Even though they typically do not fully meet all requirements of the code, but it's not the responsibility of the building department, it is the responsibility of the contractor ... and their insurance company.)

    Do those types of railings keep someone from falling through?
    - Not usually.
    - - But that's what insurance is for, right?

    It's your house and your call. If you do it, I recommend contacting your insurance company and letting them know and say it is okay, that way they will not be able to deny a claim from such a guard.

    Also check with your local jurisdiction to verify what they will accept, they will likely approve the design submitted with the permit application, and will likely approve the inspection of the guard for final inspection. That should take care of the paperwork aspect of it.
    Jerry Peck - CodeMan
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    Re: Railing requirements

    New postby robkeith on Wed Mar 14, 2018 9:56 am

    Terrific answer, thanks! Exactly what I was seeking to understand.

    A follow up question is does this apply inside a house, too? The kitchen opens up to the living room below which is about 5-6' below.

    Oh, and another follow up question: can I use (tempered) glass/plexiglass instead of balusters?
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    Re: Railing requirements

    New postby Jerry Peck - Codeman on Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:20 am

    robkeith wrote:A follow up question is does this apply inside a house, too? The kitchen opens up to the living room below which is about 5-6' below.


    Yes, it applies to both indoors and outdoors.

    Oh, and another follow up question: can I use (tempered) glass/plexiglass instead of balusters?


    The glass would need to be safety glass, yes, and tempered glass is the most common type of safety glass.

    The glass would also need to be strong enough to resist the required loads, likely minimum 1/2" thick.

    I always explain that tempered and laminated glass is what is 'needed' - think of a car windshield.

    Here is why, would you rather:
    - fall into a glass guard which is not safety glass, fall through, and land on a pile of large shards of broken glass (key is "fall through, and land on")
    - fall into a glass guard which is tempered safety glass, fall through, and land on a pile of tiny pieces of glass (key is "fall through, and land on")
    - fall into a glass guard which is laminated tempered safety glass, and not fall through (key is "not fall through")

    For laminated tempered safety glass, think of impact rated windows for hurricanes (which are available with either tempered or not tempered glass) or the aforementioned car windshields which are both tempered and laminated .

    You want the glass to:
    - stay in place (to keep you from falling through)
    - not break into large shards (you want 'safer' smaller pieces of broken glass)
    Jerry Peck - CodeMan
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