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Opinion: Handrails and guardrails on residential decks

Inquiry:

96-07

Subject:

Handrails and guardrails on residential decks

Code:

1994 UBC Sections 509 and 1006.9

Submitted By:

MN B. O. Uniformity Committee

Approved By:

Thomas R. Joachim, State Building Official

Issue Date:

July 22,1996

Question #1:

Are guardrails required on decks not more than 30 inches above grade?

Answer #1:

No. UBC 509 - GUARDRAILS states "..., balconies or porches, which are more than 30 inches above grade ... shall be protected by a guardrail." ...(Grade is defined as the lowest point within 5 feet of the structure or to the property line if less than 5 feet). When guardrails are required by code for a Group R, Division 3 Occupancy, exception #1 allows the minimum height to be 36 inches.

Question #2:

When are handrails required at stairs on R-3 decks?

Answer #2:

UBC 1006.9 HANDRAILS, exception #3 states "Stairways having less than four risers... need not have handrails." This means that a handrail is required for more than three risers regardless of guardrail requirements.

Committee comments:

Adopted by committee November 8, 1995 and approved (with deletion) at the 40th Annual Institute of Building Officials on January 12, 1996.

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