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inspectorwill

Guardrails

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I see this frequently and have mixed opinions of it. A patio or walkway surface with a height that would require a guardrail except a shallow planter is installed below. Today's example is a patio with a 5' drop off to yard level but a 40" deep planter is installed 29" below the drop off. The patio has a 18" high wall at the edge which in my opinion is just to ensure you trip. My pics will give a more accurate representation. Building standard calls for a guardrail when the surface is 30" or more above grade. Overal grade or planter grade? This is 1 year old construction and ok'd by AHJ.

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The answer to your question is covered in the 2009 IRC, R312.1.

"Guards shall be located along open sided walking surfaces, ... that are located more than 30 inches measured vertically to the floor or grade below at any point within 36 inches horizontally to the edge of the open side"

Those planters do not look 36 inches wide. This also affects decks/patios on a hillside where the grade slopes away.

To me, this is a safety hazard and I report it as such, regardless of codes or AHJ approval.

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I tell me clients that they need to use common sense, regardless of code minimum requirements. I proceed to explain that if it was my house and my kids were playing on my terrace, and the terrace was 29 inches above the macadam driveway, I would want the edge protected. If one of my kids fell 29 inches off the edge and onto his head, his head does not care about the code.

In your situation it is an easier argument because you can use the code to back-up your opinion.

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I would report to the standards of the IRC. A savvy lawyer (is there such a thing) would love to take the case of a guest (child or adult) who fell on your property. Happens all the time. Limit your liability, CYA.

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I recommend they install coils of razor wire around the perimeter of the property to keep the lawyers out. [:)]

There are creative ways to keep people away from the edge of that thing, but I think I would just point the hazard out in the report, doesn't meet the code rule, and let the client decide.

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If you have a planter in front of a guardrail, does the guardrail have to be 42" above the planter? Or is the planter not an occupiable space and therefore the guardrail only needs to be 42" above the walking surface?

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GUARD. A building component or a system of building components located at or near the open sides of elevated walking surfaces that minimizes the possibility of a fall from the walking surface to a lower level.

It depends on how your AHJ defines "walking surface". Built to your drawing, I would require that a guard extend 36 inches above the deck surface, not the planter.

I have argued with AHJ's who require that a guard extend 36 inches above a built in bench. I understand that the bench could used as a walking surface but, it's not a walking surface.

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This was discussed in a June article in JLC that was written by Glen Mathewson.

If the walking surface of the deck is 30 inches or more above grade measured horizontally from the edge of the deck, then the guard must be a minimum of 36-inches above the surface of the seat of the bench. In the article he specifically pointed out the fact that if the walking surface were only 29" inches above grade one would not be required to install a guard behind/above the bench at all; and he mentioned how that seems to disregard common sense.

In the case of the planter, I think to be in strict compliance the top edge of the planter would have to count similar to the surface of a bench seat; so the top of that guardrail would need to be a total of 52-inches above the walking surface of the deck.

Click here to go to the article. (If you're not a JLC Online subscriber you might not be able to view this one.)

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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The 56" guard height and the 30" deck height that triggers it are in violation of maximum fence height ordinances in every town in my vicinity. When codes become onerous people stop applying for permits.

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Just curious.....

Does anyone here think a 56" guardrail is important?

Are we allowed, at some point, to inject sanity into completely misapplied good intentions?

These are reasons I do what Raymond just described.

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