Deck Railing Code Requirements for Safety, Height

Home Inspiration

The code requirements for deck railing might be lengthy and challenging to comprehend. If you’re a homeowner, you might be curious about which code provisions apply to you and if you need to pay special attention. However, the deck railing ordinance is in place for a purpose. It’s there to keep people secure. Even though sorting through it could be a little tiresome, doing your homework and planning will ultimately be time well spent. After all, your deck railing system represents a significant investment. You want to ensure that the system continues to safeguard the individuals you have cared about for many years. (Read more).

Before deciding on your deck’s final layout, size, and other details, always check with your local government because regulations and limits vary depending on where you are. The following advice provides broad pointers, but you should always double-check what is needed in your location.

Height of Deck Guardrails

For residential structures, this height is the bare minimum; taller guards are permissible. Commercial deck guardrails, such as those at clubs, cafes, and multifamily residences like apartments or condominiums, must be at least 42 inches high.

Low-Rise Deck Guardrails

Many homeowners choose to build guardrails, even for relatively short, low-rise decks.

You may choose the guardrail’s height and baluster spacing if you add one to a low deck. These guardrails must nevertheless be just as sturdy as those on upper decks. Since people are expected to lean against railings, the code stipulates that they must be sturdy enough to withstand collapse.

In many cases, adding handrails to a low-rise deck is a very excellent idea. Guardrails on low-rise decks might be helpful for disabled individuals as well.

When Is a Guardrail on a Deck Not Necessary?

Guardrails are not always necessary if a deck is no more than 30 inches above grade. The absence of guardrails on a deck, often known as a low-rise deck, may be due to the deck’s height being less than 30 inches.

Standards for Deck Stairs

Evaluated vertically from the tip of the step to the top of the rail, stair railings on decks should be between 34 and 38 inches high.

The depth of the treads, measured from front to rear, must be at least 10 inches.

At least 300 pounds must be supported by stair treads in an area no larger than four inches square.

The rise, or the height vertically separating one tread from the next, cannot be greater than 7 1/4 inches.

Deck balusters: Balusters must be four inches or less apart. A standard guideline is that a ball with a diameter of 4 inches should just about fit between the balusters. In order to avoid babies’ heads from becoming caught, the 4-inch spacing was chosen since it corresponds to the typical diameter of a baby’s head.

The distance between the bottom of the railing and the deck surface when balusters butt up against a lower railing must likewise be no more than four inches. 

Deck benches: If you’re worried about ruining your deck view, you might wonder if benches are a suitable alternative to deck guardrails. Unfortunately, using benches is not a suitable substitute. Guardrails must still be built behind the seats on decks tall enough to need them, rising at least 36 inches above the deck’s surface.

Minimum Strength for Balusters and Guardrails

The International Building Code requires guardrails to be strong enough to withstand a 200-pound load at the mid-span between posts without undue deflection.

Balusters and in-fill rails must withstand a minimum testing force of 50 pounds of focused load.

A construction inspector would often press or lean against the guardrails and balusters to determine their strength. This can be carried out in commercial applications by an impartial third-party testing organization using apparatus that applies up to 500 pounds as a safety margin.

Terminology for the Deck Code

The International Code Council creates the IBC as a model code for governments, cities, and other local organizations to adopt and change for their usage. Consequently, your community could modify the IBC to meet its residents’ requirements. Before you start construction, get in touch with your neighborhood permission office and review the relevant codes.

If you are familiar with the terms used, it will be simpler to grasp the IBC code requirements.

  • Guardrails: A landing or other flat location with a drop on the other side has a guardrail running horizontally along it. This structure is sometimes referred to as a “guard.”
  • Railing: A railing is protection that runs on the inclination up and down the stairway and protects steps.
  • Balusters: Small vertical posts that run between a guardrail or railing and are intended to fill the area beneath an inclined stair railing or a horizontal guardrail to protect people from slipping from a deck, especially youngsters.
  • Grade: The grade is the part of the ground next to the deck.
  • Rise: Rise is the vertical separation between each stair tread.
  • Tread: The flat portion of a staircase you place your foot on is called the tread.


There are numerous things to think about while designing a deck railing, but the most crucial one is deck railing height. Many people are unaware of severe restrictions on how high a deck railing may be and that breaking those restrictions can lead to harm or financial penalties.

Although these rules appear pretty simple, they can be challenging to understand when applied to deck stair railings, various railing designs, and decks with many levels above ground.

Everything you need to know about deck railing code standards has been covered in this article. We hope this was useful to you.