Porch Railing Code Requirements

large wooden deck with metal railing

We all love to spend time on the front porch enjoying food with family, or just relaxing by ourselves on a nice calm evening. Your porch is a great place for you and your loved ones to gather, but have you checked to make sure that it is safe and up to code?

Whether you’re building a new porch or maintaining one you’ve had for many years. It is important to know the safety requirements associated with your porch handrails. We've gathered these requirements to help you plan ahead and ensure your porch is up to code. 

While we are focusing on porches, these requirements also apply to decks and can be used interchangeably depending how you define them.

The Primary Porch Railing Code Requirement

At the very basic level, if your porch is higher than 30” above grade, you must have a handrail. However, it does get a little more nuanced than that, but I am going to simplify it as much as I can for you, yes that pun was intended.

The International Residential Code (IRC) requires railing to be at least 36” in height. There are still some state or local jurisdictions that can require different heights, such as in California railings need to be 42”, so be mindful to check your local codes as well. These are typicall available online and can be found by contacting your local building inspector.

While this all applies to homeowners, if you’re operating a business out of a house, the International Building Code (IBC) requires a 42” guardrail instead of the 36” on your porch or deck (regardless of what state you live in).

There are a lot of codes, and lots of acronyms, so be mindful of which codes and organizations apply to your project to make sure you’re up to the necessary standards.

Additional Parameters

When building or assessing your railings, an important code that the IRC states to be aware of is that the guardrails must be able to withstand 200 lbs. of force along the top of the rail. You wouldn’t want someone leaning or pushing just a little too hard and have the railing give way. Talk about a party foul.

The IBC also requires that porch/deck railing posts be spaced no more than 8 feet apart. If they are spaced out further, it makes it more difficult for the railing to support the 200 lbs. of force mentioned above.

Railing Solutions 

This all sounds like a lot, there’s much to consider in terms of design and ease of building.  You want to find railing that is up to code and will last you a long time. There are lots of different types of railing to consider. Wood, metal, or the one I would recommend, modular pipe and fittings.

This component-based railing will give you the most customization in terms of design, the easiest level of simplicity for assembling, and will meet all standards that have been mentioned.

In Review

Safety and following code are crucial to these projects. Finding the most useful products for the project that is safe, up to code, and user friendly. Check out our website for simple rail designs or contact one of our designers who can assist with planning and quoting your next project.

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