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Old 08-26-2008, 09:27 AM   #1
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


All,

What is the reason for the 4" max space requirements on elevated structures for like, railings both inside when there are steps or outside on a deck or other structure?

My understanding is that it's for safety with kids and so on not getting their heads and so on through.

Is that true or just miscommunication or misunderstanding?

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Old 08-26-2008, 10:57 AM   #2
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


I looked in my handy-dandy 2003 International Residential Code commentary book, and it justifies what you've heard. It says that the 4" measurement was based on small childrens' head diameter in an attempt to keep them from falling through. The commentary book is just that, a real-world explanation and justification for each and every code section, and the ICC publishes it. Very good resource.

I don't have one with me, but it is my understanding that the 2006 code was going to loosen the 4" requirement to 4-3/8" to allow for just two ballusters per 10" tread in most installations. Don't quote me on it, but that was my understanding.

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Old 08-26-2008, 11:32 AM   #3
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


That's sorta what I thought as mentioned as well. I understand that what you got was from a commentary. I'm really missing something with ICC though. Do NONE of these people have kids?

The reason: steps: Steps have to be what...36" wide, if I remember right whatever the case it's definitely much more than 4"... yet there is NO GATE requirement on steps which means that small children can fall down those and get just as or even more hurt and there is nothing keeping that from happening.

If one goes to anybody's house that has a multilevel and stairs and small children one will see a gate blocking the stairs. Why? Because it makes sense for safety. In fact, you will see it for animals as well for safety as well as other reasons. ICC is there for safety and things that make sense...yet they don't do that requirement? So, for the same reason there is the 4" requirement there should also be a gate requirement on elevated structures with steps.

From what you mention with the 4-3/8" - interesting...what - did kids get 3/8" bigger since 2003? Wait...kids grow up of course they get bigger. LOL. I guess I'm just really missing the logic if that happens (but I won't quote you on that.)

Do you happen to know where to get a published copy of the ICC and how to submit requests to the ICC? I don't know who the governing board is for that. I know it would be a worthless endeavor to go to the my county regional building department because they just adopt what the ICC approves. (from my understanding on that anyway.)
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Old 08-26-2008, 01:07 PM   #4
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


www.iccsafe.org

That's the ICC's website. You can also buy books through them, or at most large bookstores.

Please understand that the code must balace safety concerns with reasonable minimum standards. Whereas the guardrail is a permanent static part of the home, a baby gate is installed and later removed. It would be very challenging to make a retired couple put a baby gate in their stairs, for instance. It just doesn't make sense because it can be added and removed as needed.

The ballustrade spacing change was driven by industry complaints, period. Three ballusters looks goofy on a 10" stair, but two won't usually cut it. 4-3/8" is an example of the ICC code making panels listening to industry professionals while balancing safety concerns.

Like I always say, the code and code officials can only protect people from themselves to a certain extent.
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Old 08-26-2008, 01:10 PM   #5
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


By the way, the residential code is called the IRC, and the commercial code is the IBC. The IRC is based on the IRC, but the IBC doesn't have residential requirements in it. There are a number of other codes that are generally covered in the IRC, such as fuel gas, mechanical, plumbing, etc. You can get 99% of what you need out of the IRC, but the other codes are available separately.
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Old 08-26-2008, 01:55 PM   #6
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


Yeah, I went on the ICC site and they had so many different code listings - electrical, plumbing, etc like you mentioned. It was all committee information that I saw. Thanks for sending that link though. I did use for foundational aspects on other searches. :-) However, the site just didn't seem very intuitive to the average person (sorta like the public meetings of the city board and so on. :-) ) But then again, even some sites that have the information like computer industry sites are still somewhat difficult to navigate through.

I complete understand on the safety aspects. But I also understand that an elderly couple would have advantages of a gate as well. Yes, it can be removed and so on and I also understand that some may not want it as it's challenging. That's completely understood. That's the same as if wood deteriorates and it will. Maybe not in our lifetimes but it will. Houses were built in 1800's and so on and their still standing. The wood can be changed; some structures were built in stone. There are going to be issues but everyone has that in everything - if one makes it safe the better off one is.

My father is disabled (still able to walk but with a cane and not like before) and I tell you what he's extremely pleased that gates were put on. So, it's all subject to usefulness of the person or persons for which it is for. Now or in the future, I really struggle with that one. Gates could serve a purpose now and in the future as well - just like hand-rails.

You're absolutely right, code and code officials can only protect so much. The mandates associated with that can be questionable. Industry professionals are there for the community or people at large. Industry professionals regardless of industry have the subject matter expertise and give the guidance based on empirical knowledge. Listen to the individuals of the community or people; the routine users both short term and long term.

Just like codes in so many other areas (industries); the codes are not the be all end-all. Codes are a guidance. There are exceptions and some of those exceptions are show-stoppers while other exceptions are to be reasonable.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:41 PM   #7
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


davis_mc - in a previous post you said:

The reason: steps: Steps have to be what...36" wide, if I remember right whatever the case it's definitely much more than 4"... yet there is NO GATE requirement on steps which means that small children can fall down those and get just as or even more hurt and there is nothing keeping that from happening.

If one goes to anybody's house that has a multilevel and stairs and small children one will see a gate blocking the stairs. Why? Because it makes sense for safety. In fact, you will see it for animals as well for safety as well as other reasons. ICC is there for safety and things that make sense...yet they don't do that requirement? So, for the same reason there is the 4" requirement there should also be a gate requirement on elevated structures with steps.


The model codes cannot nor should they create provisions that supervise small children or the elderly. We have the responsibility to be present enough to keep them from harming themselves. Applying gates is one way of doing this, but that is up to a responsible individual. Same goes for putting safety latches on cabinet doors/drawers, or safety covers for receptacles.

I've heard it said that the model codes are one step above illegal. They set the minimum requirements. They can't possibly protect against every conceivable situation.

If you get your hands on a copy of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code (2009 edition), read Chapter 7. It relates to the means of egress. If you don't drift off to sleep, you may find some interesting references that might shed some light on your "baby gate" issue. It is easy to see the logic behind guards, railings and intermediate rails (balusters), but I can't agree with your logic concerning baby gates. If you want and need them in your situation, go for it. But, why would anybody need or want to install them if small children or elderly folks do not normally occupy their home?

Last edited by ewp25801; 05-26-2010 at 10:57 PM.
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:27 PM   #8
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


It's good the gubment is watching out for us.Please measure your newborns head.If its less than 4" (from temple to temple width)your going to have problems.then measure it when they can crawl.then ask why they are up your butt.why aren't there locks on oven doors?the kid could turn it on and crawl inside.sneaker laces are removed from adults getting locked up.what if my kid hangs himself?what if they wipe their butts and don't wash their hands.Is anyone else fed up with too much gubment?
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Old 05-27-2010, 07:25 AM   #9
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


Gubment intervention such as we are discussing is usually only seen when common sense is not. And it's usually the very people who seem to lack any responsible grey matter that are first in line to sue someone when their stupidity costs a child's life... or really, for almost any reason.
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Old 05-27-2010, 08:54 AM   #10
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


One of our local Code Enforcement Inspectors carries with him a 4" diameter semi-hard red rubber ball. When you see him coming into a home under construction, with the ball in hand, you can certainly bet that he is going to check the spacing of the baluster's. David
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Old 05-27-2010, 09:14 AM   #11
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


I measured my deck balusters - entire railings re-installed from the old deck
They measure between 3" & 3.25" apart
One day I'll put up new railings
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Old 05-27-2010, 03:56 PM   #12
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Railing baluster 4" requirements?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Willie T View Post
Gubment intervention such as we are discussing is usually only seen when common sense is not. And it's usually the very people who seem to lack any responsible grey matter that are first in line to sue someone when their stupidity costs a child's life... or really, for almost any reason.

You nailed the other big problem.Too many lawyers and lawsuits.You know the circle/slash warning on 5gallon compound buckets,the warnings on ladders not to stand on the work shelf or the top.Someone sued when they let their toddler fall in and drown in the compound.Wasn't the parents fault I understand regulation on cribs.My regulation on decks,...if you let your child strangle in deck ballusters,...one year in jail and sterilization.Instead the deck was blamed.I can't do the sunburst design on my deck because of idiots and the gubment taking their side.

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