4 Signs You Should Invest In a Guard Railing

The residential and commercial building codes (IRC and IBC, respectively) have specific definitions and requirements for guards (guardrails).

guard-railingInteresting point of trivia: the I-codes (IBC and IRC) do not refer to guard railing as that term is commonly used for the railings you find on the side of a highway. Guard is what they define since a guard is not necessarily a railing — it could be a solid wall, a combination of a wall and railing, or other structure. OSHA, however, does use guardrail in their requirements.

So here are

4 Signs You Should Invest in a Guard (Railing)

1. There’s a significant drop from one level to the level below

The building codes require a guard once there is 30″ drop. Some local jurisdictions have made this smaller. I know of one community which requires a guard once there is a 9″ drop. Bear in mind though that the codes are considered a “minimum standard for safety”. If you are concerned about the drop, then include a guard in your design. There’s nothing wrong with being more cautious if the situation calls for it. OSHA, by the way, does not require a guardrail unless there is a 48″ drop but railings covered by OSHA are not open to the public and would in areas that have restricted access.

2. There’s a potential hazard on the other side

A guard is in place to prevent an accidental fall — if a child is running around on a deck and trips, the guard should be high enough to keep the child from going over, strong enough to hole up to an impact, and the openings small enough that the child does not go through.


But what if there’s a pond or thorn bush at the edge of the deck, you may want to provide a level of protection in that case even though the drop is not large enough to require a guard.

However, a guard is not a barrier. A barrier is in place to restrict climbing. Barriers are most commonly seen around pools but are not universally required in all jurisdictions. A pool is considered an “attractive nuisance” as a child may choose to go for a swim while not supervised. Barriers have a higher height requirement with smaller allowable openings.

3. You have children

Got kids? Invest in a guard. And please, don’t consider your deck or balcony a playpen. A properly installed guard will protect your children from going through or over it. However, furniture is the primary means of children climbing over a guard. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a guard frees you of responsibility. Do not leave your children on a deck or balcony unsupervised.

4. You want Peace of Mind

A properly designed and installed guard will provide safety to you, your guests and your family.

Wagner can help with your requirements for guards and railings. If you have any questions about what you should be looking for in terms of design or requirements, contact us.

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