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replace deck rails - meet current code if > 50%?


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Let's say you have a 1980 house and it originally came with horizontal rails to keep folks from falling through that had about 10" spacing between them. Now you replace all of the railing. Do you have to meet the current 4" spacing requirement?

Typically if 50% or more of one thing is replaced, you have to update it to current standards. I say "thing" b/c I am trying to figure out if this is a system (ie, the whole deck), or just a component (rails).

So, if you replace all of the railing and all of the decking planks that would be 50% or more of the system and then you would need to meet current standards. Right/wrong?

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Let's say you have a 1980 house and it originally came with horizontal rails to keep folks from falling through that had about 10" spacing between them. Now you replace all of the railing. Do you have to meet the current 4" spacing requirement?

Typically if 50% or more of one thing is replaced, you have to update it to current standards. I say "thing" b/c I am trying to figure out if this is a system (ie, the whole deck), or just a component (rails).

So, if you replace all of the railing and all of the decking planks that would be 50% or more of the system and then you would need to meet current standards. Right/wrong?

What are these words, "have to," "need to," and "right/wrong"? Have to or need to according to whom?

These are questions that you ought to address to the people who make "have to" rules.

As a home inspector, I don't get to tell people what has to happen or even what needs to happen. I can just point out an issue and tell people to fix it to make it safer.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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If not required I can tell folks that I suggest they make it safer. Required, I say a repair is needed. Difference is buyer pays or seller does.

Really? There's a rule like that? Where?

And how, exactly, do you go about determining what is and isnt' "required" in a used home?

Besides, the seller could always just say, "It was fine for my family all these years, why the heck should I fix it for your family? Either take it like it is or take a hike."

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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That is the way it works here. Nothing written of course.

Our commercial rehab code: "Where 50

percent or more of a handrail or guardrail on a flight or on a level is replaced, then this shall be

considered a complete replacement and shall comply with the referenced sections of the building

code. The repair or replacement of less than 50 percent of a handrail or guardrail shall be

permitted to match the existing handrail or guardrail."

I have not found where this applies to residential.

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That is the way it works here. Nothing written of course.

Our commercial rehab code: "Where 50

percent or more of a handrail or guardrail on a flight or on a level is replaced, then this shall be

considered a complete replacement and shall comply with the referenced sections of the building

code. The repair or replacement of less than 50 percent of a handrail or guardrail shall be

permitted to match the existing handrail or guardrail."

What I meant was, where does it say that sellers have to pay for certain things and buyers others? Around here, everything is negotiable and very little hinges on what was required when because it's nearly impossible to tell what was required when in an existing house. Frankly, it seems like a bassackwards way of determining who pays for what.

I have not found where this applies to residential.

Maybe it doesn't. Do you even have a residential rehab code down there?

I'm still perplexed about why you would report an unsafe condition in two different ways, depending on what a rehab code might or might not have said. Will a child stop to consider the provisions of the rehab code before he sticks his body between the rails, slips, falls, and strangles?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I report it either way - it is a safety concern to me. The reason I was trying to figure out if it was "required" is to help the buyer. The seller will likely say no to this repair. If the buyer has something that says it is required, then that will help tremendously.

Actually, the rehab code may apply to residential. It is just worded funny b/c the cover letter talks about houses but the code only references commercial codes (I did not read the whole thing but our numbering system is in the 1000's for commercial and that is throughout the rehab code. It also says "building code" vs residential building code.). Just a little unclear but I doubt anyone will figure that out when I tell them to reference the rehab info if they ask.

Thanks for your comments.

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What is stopping you from saying the following?

The balusters on the deck railings are too wide. Persons, children in specific, can become entrapped in, or fall through them. Have a qualified contractor reduce the baluster spacing to 4 inches or less.

Code or not, that is the basic message that needs to be delivered, every time.

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What is stopping you from saying the following?

The balusters on the deck railings are too wide. Persons, children in specific, can become entrapped in, or fall through them. Have a qualified contractor reduce the baluster spacing to 4 inches or less.

Code or not, that is the basic message that needs to be delivered, every time.

I believe Jamison intends to say something quite like that. However, as he has patiently explained several times, by including a code reference, he can compel the seller into paying for the repair. In my world, that would be unlikely.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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This my world:

STRUCTURAL INSPECTION: A determination, by a New York State licensed home inspector, registered architect or licensed engineer, or a third party who is ____________' or other qualified person, that the premises are free from any substantial structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roof covering, water or sewer defects. The term substantial to refer to any individual repair which will reasonably cost over $1500 to correct.

This a double edged sword. No defect is on the shoulders of the seller unless it cost more than $1,500 to fix. Note the use of the word "individual". Ten plumbing defects @ $1,00 each and still no substantial defect.

The flip side is that little defects don't drive everybody crazy.

Tom Corrigan

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I report it either way - it is a safety concern to me. The reason I was trying to figure out if it was "required" is to help the buyer. The seller will likely say no to this repair. If the buyer has something that says it is required, then that will help tremendously.

Why would you care? Isn't the job to report as accurately as possible and let the parties figure out what they want to do from that point on? Sellers here would also probably just refuse regardless of a code requirement or not - especially if it's been like that forever and they bought the house like that. I take the attitude that I don't care who pays for it and I just write in the imperative that it needs to be corrected and leave the question of who should pay for it up to the parties. Besides, the only one that can compel anyone to do anything is the code guy. If a buyer wants to try and compel a homeowner to fix something than they should try and get the code guy to assist them in that regard; I don't intend to become their foil - they've hired their agent to do the negotiating and I don't want to become ensnared in that.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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In my world you can replace thing in a older home with the same like item. Like windows that do not meet todays standards.

The older home where built with the guide lines at that time. Any changes from that guideline is a upgrade.

I tell my clients about the charges in the building standards and anything that involves safety is a Safety upgrade.

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