Loose guardrails For many people, having an outdoor living space is an important factor when considering the purchase of a property. Homes with decks and patios enable homeowners to enjoy the outdoors in a way that can keep them out of the dirt and mud, and often are used as outdoor cooking areas for barbeques and outdoor social events. Although these outdoor spaces are a great addition to a residential home, there are some important safety considerations that should be addressed, especially with decks that are built above ground at an elevation that can cause injury or even death if a person was to fall off of them.

Every year, many injuries, and some deaths are caused by loose, damaged or inadequate deck guardrails. Home inspectors are required to inspect and report any deck guardrail deficiencies so that potential home buyers or existing homeowners are informed about the condition and safety of any guardrails. Any guardrail issues should be taken seriously and repairs should be made by a licensed professional to ensure that safe conditions exist.

Securing loose guardrails on a deckAny walking surface with a drop off of more than 30 inches should have a protective railing installed to help prevent falls. Many decks meet this criteria, and therefore require a protective railing, or guardrail. In many cases, deck guardrails do not meet current building standards, and may not be considered to be safe. Current building standards dictate certain requirements for deck guardrails, including height, spacing and fastening requirements. Here are just a few of the requirements that are commonly not met:

  • Deck guardrails should be a minimum height of 36 inches
  • Deck guardrail support posts should not be spaced more than 6 feet apart
  • Spacing between deck balusters should not exceed 4 inches
  • Deck guardrail support posts should be fastened with structural bolts.

Since many DIY installers take on deck projects and may not be well informed about good building practices or current building standards, it is very common to find problems with deck guardrails. One of the most common issues found during a home inspection is loose deck guardrails. Many times, a deck guardrail is only fastened with nails or screws. Overtime, the guardrail support posts will become loose. In some cases, the supports can loosen to the point that will cause the guardrail to collapse when lateral pressure is applied. This usually happens when someone leans on a loose guardrail. This is why deck guardrail support posts should be secured with structural lag bolts, or carriage bolts. In some cases, bolts can be added to an existing guardrail to make the railing more secure and safe. Check out the video below to find out more about how to secure loose deck guardrails.