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Deck Railing Height Requirements

All decks greater than 30" above grade must have a guardrail. If you choose to install a guardrail on a deck lower than 30", you must still meet code requirements. Decks attached to single-family detached homes are regulated under the rules of the International Residential Code (IRC). The IRC requires guardrails to be at least 36" in height measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail. Commercial decks attached to multifamily buildings, such as apartment buildings or businesses, are regulated under the Internation Building Code (IBC). The IBC requires 42" high guardrails. In either case, you are allowed to build taller guardrails as long as they conform to all other requirements stated in the code. Most building departments in Canada require 42" high guardrails.


Deck Rail Height
Deck Rail Height

Measure from the deck floor to the top of the rail between posts. This must be at least 36" high to meet IRC requirements. Make sure your sweep space and all infill openings will not allow a 4" sphere to pass through.

Sweep Space Bottom Deck Rails

Sweep Space Rail 

This popular rail style leaves a 4” space below the bottom rail to allow for snow and debris to be swept off the deck surface. Rail posts are attached to the deck frame and support the infill sections. Rail posts need to be properly fastened and should not be spaced more than about 6 feet apart to prevent a saggy or bouncy rail. 

Many builders run a 2x6 top cap continuously over the top of the posts and top rail to provide a clean finished edge and the practical purpose of providing a surface to set glasses, etc. The pickets can be considerably shorter because they don’t need to be individually attached to the deck rim and they are raised off the floor. Most deck builders prefer this rail type for is simplicity and functionality above all others for wood rail construction.


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Create a free account and get instant & exclusive access to all that Decks.com has to offer:

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Railing Codes

Deck Railing Height Requirements

All decks greater than 30" above grade must have a guardrail. If you choose to install a guardrail on a deck lower than 30", you must still meet code requirements. Decks attached to single-family detached homes are regulated under the rules of the International Residential Code (IRC). The IRC requires guardrails to be at least 36" in height measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail. Commercial decks attached to multifamily buildings, such as apartment buildings or businesses, are regulated under the Internation Building Code (IBC). The IBC requires 42" high guardrails. In either case, you are allowed to build taller guardrails as long as they conform to all other requirements stated in the code. Most building departments in Canada require 42" high guardrails.


Deck Rail Height
Deck Rail Height

Measure from the deck floor to the top of the rail between posts. This must be at least 36" high to meet IRC requirements. Make sure your sweep space and all infill openings will not allow a 4" sphere to pass through.

Sweep Space Bottom Deck Rails

 

This popular rail style leaves a 4” space below the bottom rail to allow for snow and debris to be swept off the deck surface. Rail posts are attached to the deck frame and support the infill sections. Rail posts need to be properly fastened and should not be spaced more than about 6 feet apart to prevent a saggy or bouncy rail. 

Many builders run a 2x6 top cap continuously over the top of the posts and top rail to provide a clean finished edge and the practical purpose of providing a surface to set glasses, etc. The pickets can be considerably shorter because they don’t need to be individually attached to the deck rim and they are raised off the floor. Most deck builders prefer this rail type for is simplicity and functionality above all others for wood rail construction.


Popular Railings Articles
Deck Railing Types

Glass Rails

Installing glass rails will usually require you to build the rail frame first and take precise measurements to custom order the tempered safety glass...

Deck Railing Parts

Rail Parts

We discuss the different components that compose a wood deck rail system. Learn about rail posts, top and bottom rails, balusters and a top cap.

Railing Codes

Deck Railing Codes

Learn about the building codes that regulate guardrails. How high do rails need to be? What are the rail infill requirements?

Next Step: Features Articles
Benches, Planters & Skirting

Deck Skirting and Fascia

Skirting can be an attractive feature that can be added to any low-level deck.

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