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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Let me start by saying I don't have this problem but the question crossed my mind.

Lets say I were building a deck and the railings were required to be a minimum of 42 inches high. I finished the deck and by miscalculation a section of the deck ended up with 41" railings. Let's say the building inspector said fix it.

Lets say I slapped some scrap 2x material on top and bolted it down, sandwich style, without putting any fasteners or in anyway marring the existing railing.

I have often heard it said that inspectors don't care about design or how it looks as long as it meets code. In this situation of course he has to know that as soon as I get the sign off, and he leaves the property, off comes the 2x fix.

Is there anything in the codes or inspection procedures that prevent people from doing this? The underlying assumption here is that there is very little difference between 41 and 42 inches and it might be costly to completely change the railing.
 

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Just curious, but how would you bolt the railing down without marring the existing one?

Inspectors aren't there to nor should they officially critique aesthetics, but they do know when you're trying to get around them. Their ass is on the line once they sign off on that paper, so they likely won't let things slide just because. If it looks fishy, it usually is. They will make you do it right.

To give a response to your exact scenario I'm not sure how one would react, but if I were the inspector I would look to make sure that top plate was securely fastened and meets the 42" requirement. I'd take a picture of it so that if you did remove it and someone fell I'd be covered as my sign off included the top rail.
 

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I think that maybe that inspector might become inclined to look for flaws in something else about the deck that will be an even bigger pain in the rear to repair.

I would think that you would rather fix the 41 inch problem properly than find out what else the inspector can find wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I was thinking of a 2x6 cap rail and attaching something on top of that. A bolted assembly would probably be too blatant. How about another 2x6 on top, same material, same color, to be blended to the other sections with a decorative end piece/post cap. I could patch screw holes later after removal.

In any case, so inspectors do have discretion in situations like these, even when the requirement is fulfilled, 42"?
 

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Is a building inspector really liable?

If they were liable, I would think they would be professional engineers and carry millions in insurance, and all the ones I have come across are far from any form of engineering.

I believe the liability comes into play if they (inspectors) are negligent, such as found taking bribes, but as far as mis-applying code I believe they have a get out jail free card.

Now this is all based on hypothetical situations, but by clamping an extra top rail on in theory it meets code as long it appeared to be permanent.
 

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You do know, don't you, that you would probably fail the inspection because the actual rail part might now be out of compliance. Yes, they have rules for railings too.

BTW, I have seen entire houses moved a few inches to meet code.
 

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Lets say I slapped some scrap 2x material on top and bolted it down, sandwich style, without putting any fasteners or in anyway marring the existing railing.
So you want to do something that can be removed after the inspector leaves. That's the only reason you would care what's underneath.
Just wrap the rails together with painters tape. This way, you won't even leave any tape residue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The question came to mind when I tried out my Dewalt self leveling laser for the first time. Its an impressive looking gadget and I would guess most guys would assume its accurate.

After a few checks I found out it had a one inch drop over a distance of 40 feet pointing straight on. If I hadn't checked it, that railing mistake could have been a reality.

To cut the posts I'm just going to use a water level, and make small adjustments if the measurement off the deck surface is short. The laser level goes back for recalibration. Once you know a tool like that is off, you can't use it for anything.
 

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Well that being the case, the prevention is that you know the limitations of your measurement equipment and verify... Hypothetically you're supposed to measure it twice and cut it once. Even if in practice you measure it with a micrometer, mark it with a crayon, then cut it with an axe.
 

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I have never heard of a building inspectors ass on the line unless he is not doing his job. His job is to make sure that his inspection is done per code and city guidlines. If you have the rail at 42" attached properly and you remove it after he signs off on it then it's your deal. Lets say he passes it at 41" and something happened, the city gets sued along with you but they will say it was modified after the inspection. I have not seen the city held liable or the inspector before, I have seen inspectors get fired for not doing inspections properly. All the liability is on the owner not the inspector he is only to check for compliance of the code and plans. If you get the architect to sign off on the 41" rail (if you have a plan) the city will pass it.
 

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I have never heard of a building inspectors ass on the line unless he is not doing his job. His job is to make sure that his inspection is done per code and city guidlines. If you have the rail at 42" attached properly and you remove it after he signs off on it then it's your deal. Lets say he passes it at 41" and something happened, the city gets sued along with you but they will say it was modified after the inspection. I have not seen the city held liable or the inspector before, I have seen inspectors get fired for not doing inspections properly. All the liability is on the owner not the inspector he is only to check for compliance of the code and plans. If you get the architect to sign off on the 41" rail (if you have a plan) the city will pass it.
I do agree with the inspectors butt on the line comment, but I have never seen a designers pencil out weigh the inspectors decision.

Mark
 

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I have seen it done all the time along with having it done. I have had to get letters from truss engineers, structual engineers, and architects quit a few times. When doing new construction you run into a lot of issues that look good on paper but not duable in actuality, just becasue the plan check approved the plan that was provided does not mean it will always work. In cases where a change happened or was made I was usually able to get it stamped by engineer or archetect and the inspector would take the wet stamp copy and call it good. This way all liability is off him and the city or county. Inspectors will also accept manufactures recomendations even if code says something different. The 41" handrail would be pushing it but being the code is 36" for deck rail??
 
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