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  1. #1
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    Default Openings in Guardrail

    Looking for an opinion on openings in this guardrail. The top and bottom of the vertical balusters meet the 4 inch requirement however, the center area is about 5 inches.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    IRC doesn't specify top, bottom, whatever. Just says you shouldn't be able to pass a 4 inch sphere between rails.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    what year was it built? may have been legal!


  4. #4
    Jim Zborowski's Avatar
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Since there is fear of a small child getting stuck between them, I would assume 4" at the widest point.


  5. #5
    Brian Doles's Avatar
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    Cool Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by John Arnold View Post
    IRC doesn't specify top, bottom, whatever. Just says you shouldn't be able to pass a 4 inch sphere between rails.
    So just make sure to pass the sphere at the top and bottom.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    8 year old 460k house. No building inspectors. Multiple problems. Sure is a shame.

    Greg Jenkins

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    From the 2006 IRC, and it's been this way in most codes for a long time. (underlining is mine)
    - R312.2 Guard opening limitations.
    Required guards on open sides of stairways, raised floor areas, balconies and porches shall have intermediate rails or ornamental closures which do not allow passage of a sphere 4 inches (102 mm) or more in diameter.

    - - Exceptions:
    - - - 1. The triangular openings formed by the riser, tread and bottom rail of a guard at the open side of a stairway are permitted to be of such a size that a sphere 6 inches (152 mm) cannot pass through.
    - - - 2. Openings for required guards on the sides of stair treads shall not allow a sphere 4
    3/8 inches (107 mm) to pass through.


    That means ANYWHERE from the bottom to the top of the guard railing.

    Most have seen "ornamental" railings which do not even have vertical balusters, just a ornamental in-fill design ... ANYWHERE in the in-fill panel (whether balusters or otherwise).

    Quote Originally Posted by brian schmitt View Post
    what year was it built? may have been legal!
    Brian,

    "may have been legal!"

    And that is going to stop a small child from getting caught and killed ... how!?!

    When that client's attorney sends a fat letter including you in the lawsuit resulting from a 'the foreseeable death' of their small child, you will then find out what "legal" means. As in 'You are "legally responsible" in part for the death of that child.'

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    jerry,
    get over yourself and your attorney. if it was legally installed and maintained in good condition then it continues to be legal.i would love to defend that in court. where do you stop your crusade for what should be acceptable? you been hitting the herbs again?


  9. #9
    Jim Zborowski's Avatar
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    I've got to side with Jerry on this one. Whether or not it was or was not " legal " at some earlier time, that will not bring back a lost child. Always eer on the side of safety.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Jerry P is absolutely correct as a more than 4" wide opening may allow a child's body through but not their head. Kid hangs there and strangles. There's a dam good reason for that code.
    Now, can anybody tell me why the spacing at the stair balusters allows a 4-3/8 inch opening? There are two basic stories and I've already chosen the one that makes the most sense to my alleged mind.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    jerry,
    i have the job of enforcing the code as written without the option of enforcing what others may feel are "good ideas" or what is safer.code changes like requiring everything to be retrofitted are good ideas but public outrage would be a bitch to say the least. enter the lawyers and expert witnesses and then a code change.
    the 4 3/8" is to allow for equal spacing of balusters on a standard stair run. 2 balusters per tread, or the extra 3/8 for kids with bigger heads to be able to enjoy putting their heads thru.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Thanks Brian and the lot of a jurisdictional inspector is not always a smooth or happy one when you take into consideration the politics often involved and/or unqualified BOs.
    Your 4-3/8" inch layout for the stair run is an old one, but I've heard a new one. Anyone care to volunteer an opinion?

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by brian schmitt View Post
    jerry,
    i have the job of enforcing the code as written
    "Enforcing code"?

    Okay, that means you must be a "code enforcement inspector"?

    Is so, shouldn't you be enforcing the currently applicable code?

    without the option of enforcing what others may feel are "good ideas" or what is safer.
    As a "home inspector", though, those "opinions" are precisely what you are hired to provide.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    Now, can anybody tell me why the spacing at the stair balusters allows a 4-3/8 inch opening? There are two basic stories and I've already chosen the one that makes the most sense to my alleged mind.
    The main story I hear is that it is to allow the use of two balusters per tread instead of requiring three balusters per tread. However, that logic does not make sense to me as there is no 'minimum' baluster size. Thus, one could use 1/4" steel dowel balusters, two per tread, and exceed the 4-3/8" allowed.

    That said, though, the rest of that reason to allow 4-3/8" on the sides of stairs is that an infant small enough to slip through the 4-3/8" would most likely NOT be crawling down the stairs (they would, instead, presumably tumble down the stairs end-over-end I guess), thus any child big enough to navigate climbing the stairs would be large enough to not fit through a 4-3/8" opening.

    Added with edit: by the time I was through typing after answering the phone, you posed you question about hearing a new reason ... what is that new reason?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    I am so glad I could start a spirited discussion.

    Greg Jenkins

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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    jp,
    busted me. i'm an ahj,hi,si,builder 25 years, many in jm's area. i would call the over 4" spacing on op's post since the house is only 8 years old.i believe the 4"rule was adopted in the1991 code from 6" and 12" before that.i enforce the current code or the code that was in effect the day the application is submitted. in calif all building depts had a deluge of plans submitted on dec 31st in order to beat the new icc codes that were adopted jan 1st. the laws regarding types of exterior wall finishes and tempered glass for all windows went into effect in some fire zones as designated by the state fire marshall. so jerry m. would you require all openings and wall finishes to comply with new laws on existing homes? it,s a good idea but at $20,000 or more per house you might get an earful! it could save lives too! ban stairs and save lives! the codes are a MINIMUM standard for safety and exceeding that is great but leave the ahj out of that one.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Where I come from my SOP requires:

    (From TX SOP)

    (4) report as in need of repair spacings between intermediate balusters, spindles, or rails for steps, stairways, balconies, and railings that permit passage of an object greater than four inches in diameter; and

    (5) report as in need of repair the absence of safety glass in hazardous locations.

    My SOP does not say anything about what the current or past code is or was.

    I did an inspection last year (22 year old home) where the seller told the buyer that they were'nt going to and were not required to bring anything up to current code and that the inspector (me) was out of line by listing certain issue as being in need of repair. To which I replied (to my client) that:

    Although nothing in my report was "required" to be repaired by the seller,
    many of these "current code" issues were related to safety concerns and that many were also required by the state SOP to be listed on the report.

    I went on to say that code changes come into effect many times because of safety concerns that may not have been realized or acknowledged at the time of the house was built and it is my duty to make the client aware of the any issues that I see that may affect the clients safety.

    In my opinion, if an inspector is not looking out for the safety of their client, they are not performing thier responsibilities as a home inspector.

    Eric


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Just got an Email with a newsletter from the ICC. One of the items in the newsletter addressed this very problem.

    Some other items of interest in there as well.


    http://www.iccsafe.org/news/ePeriodi...antChanges.pdf

    As to code enforcement and legalities....Give me common sense every time.

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Shuman View Post
    Where I come from my SOP requires:

    (From TX SOP)

    (4) report as in need of repair spacings between intermediate balusters, spindles, or rails for steps, stairways, balconies, and railings that permit passage of an object greater than four inches in diameter;
    Eric,

    That's why I underlined that part of the code.

    "do not allow passage of a sphere 4 inches"

    versus

    "object greater than four inches"

    See the difference?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Write it up! This one might even be more dangerous, since the kid could get his head in the larger part, then slide down unil it gets narrow and get injured.
    "Guardrail ballusters do not appear to meet modern day safety standards and allow a 4" sphere (representing the size of a small child's head) to pass through. For maximum risk reduction of injury to small children, recommend repair, child safety netting, etc.) by a licensed contractor."


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Eric,

    That's why I underlined that part of the code.

    "do not allow passage of a sphere 4 inches"

    versus

    "object greater than four inches"

    See the difference?

    Jerry,

    Yep, I see the difference. To clarify (if clarification is needed), my post was added mainly because someone suggested that if the issue in the original thread starter was legal when the house was built, then it would not be an issue. The point I was trying to make was that regardless of what was code when it was built, under my SOP (and probably others) it is considered a repair issue and should be called out. The TX SOP makes no mention as to the age of the house when specifying repair issues. But to be truthful, as your code post shows, the Texas SOP definitely needs clarification (but that is a whole 'nother thread!)

    Eric


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Shuman View Post
    But to be truthful, as your code post shows, the Texas SOP definitely needs clarification (but that is a whole 'nother thread!)

    Eric
    That's why I pointed that out.

    Does that *4"* versus *greater than 4"* make a gnats arse worth of difference in real life?

    Yes and no.

    No, in that the difference is so infinitesimally small that the difference will not stop a child from being injured or killed.

    Yes, in that the infinitesimally small difference is what the court case could rest on, and could be the difference between the HIs *not being a fault* versus *the HI being xx% responsible*.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  22. #22
    Brian Doles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Write it up as a safety defect and make recommendations. Explain to the client the hazard that it is.

    From that point on it's in their hands to make the decision on what to do.


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    The way I understand it, generally the largest part of a child's body is it's head. Therefore the problem would be the child climbing on the railings his body going between the rails, but his head NOT fitting, thus he could hang. So the 4" dimension is taken from the thickness of the child's body. If the child could get it's head through the space, it could also get it's body through, and if it couldn't get it's body through the opening, you don't have to worry about the head.

    Whatchu thin, Jerry?


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Jones View Post
    The way I understand it, generally the largest part of a child's body is it's head. Therefore the problem would be the child climbing on the railings his body going between the rails, but his head NOT fitting, thus he could hang.
    Mark,

    There is also the problem of the child going through head first, falling down to the floor below and smashing in that still developing skull.

    Neither outcome (going through feet first or head first) is pleasant.

    If the child could get it's head through the space, it could also get it's body through, ...
    Resulting in the above mentioned iiieeeee.......kur-plunk-splat.

    ... and if it couldn't get it's body through the opening, you don't have to worry about the head.
    Which is the safest way.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Moved my post to another more recent, more apt thread:
    http://www.inspectionnews.net/home_i...tml#post147393

    Last edited by Daryl May; 10-12-2010 at 01:44 PM. Reason: Posted wrong place

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Jenkins View Post
    Looking for an opinion on openings in this guardrail. The top and bottom of the vertical balusters meet the 4 inch requirement however, the center area is about 5 inches.
    I like to think of it as the child climbing on the outside of the stairs and sticking his head thru to look up the stairs at his brother and his feet slip off the edge of the stair thereby allowing his neck to go to the bottom between the balisters and him hanging there breaking his neck


  27. #27
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    I think it is best to advise the client not the seller what the code is and what you have found. advise that it is a possible hazard that could be dangerous if kids are present. not everyone will have kids there but cover yourself and them just incase. better safe than sorry about advising them of this matter. The seller is not responible for making changes nor is the buyer. but if the buyer does buy it it is his/her responibllty if something happens after he has been advised about it. As a hi it is your responibility to advice about it as a possible hazard. we can not make anyone make changes we are there to only offer our opinion to the best of our ability. Maybe nuthing will ever happen but the fact remains it could..... hindsight is said to be 20/20 but better to say now than later


  28. #28
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    It is called cover your butt Right it up as unsafe Legal or not still unsafe


  29. #29
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Mr Bill Hetner said it best and I think most all Home Inspectors will agree with him and I think most that replied also agree they just couldnt put it into words as easily as Bill did.

    Timothy...I dont call it covering my butt. I call it covering my ass..ets (assets)


  30. #30
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Hi, ALL &

    Sorry if I'm too blunt, but:

    * 4" is 4" = black & white, if anything over that - just 'call-it'...



    CHEERS !

    -Glenn Duxbury, CHI

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Openings in Guardrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn Duxbury View Post
    Sorry if I'm too blunt, but:

    * 4" is 4" = black & white, if anything over that - just 'call-it'...

    Actually, it is not: 4" is 4" = black & white, if anything over that

    It is: If 4" goes through ... not "anything over" the 4".

    The openings shall reject the passage of a 4" sphere.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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