Deck Railing Height With Bench?

by Laura
(Ontario, Canada)

I am building a deck railing on a deck that is a little over 6 ft tall from the ground. It is just a short section that is jutted out from the main deck and there is enough room for to put in a bench.

I was wondering if this was even possible. If it is, what is the deck railing height up from the bench. Is it just the standard height up from the deck or should I add height?

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Oct 06, 2013
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Update on the IRC for bench railing height
by: Editor-Rich Bergman

Although you are from Ontario you might be interested to know that the recent rewrites of the IRC for the US will rescind this section which stated the height of 36" started from the bench seat.

It was over regulation for sure and really messed up how homeowners could build their own railings in their own backyards.

Common sense did eventually prevail as well as some very good work from Mr. Glenn Mathewson with NADRA, the North American Deck & Railing Association.

So just a heads up for builders and homeowners across the country. This is good news. Luckily Canadian deck owners never had to worry about this problem.

Jun 20, 2011
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Deck Railing
by: Laura

Thank you for your quick response!

Jun 20, 2011
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Deck rail height on bench depends where you are
by: Editor-Rich Bergman

Up until very recently you never had to add extra height to a deck railing that was part of a built in bench. Until the re-write of the 2009 IRC. But since you are in Ontario the IRC does not apply to you. The Ontario Building Code or the NBC apply and to date these codes have not changed in this respect.

In the US, the new rule is that if a deck surface is 30" above grade, and grade is determined as the greatest height differential within a 36" distance out from the deck, you must have a 36" rail AND if a bench is part of the railing, the back of the railing must be 36" above the surface of the bench.

In Ontario or the rest of Canada this does not apply - yet. Maybe never. Who knows. But it isn't a bad idea to build a higher railing as part of the back of the bench just for safety sake.

I should add that this is a controversial move and many builders in the US question the value of this and consider it overkill. The reasoning is that if a 36" rail is enough to keep adults safe then it should be within their responsibility to look after their kids.

It also has some interesting construction implications because the rail would now have to be at least 52" high (16"+36"). The moments of force on a 52" railing are much greater than a 36" high railing. And in the US the code calls for a 200 lbs point load minimum design load but wood assemblies have to meet at 2.5x safety factor (500 lbs).

In addition the tougher standard is the distributive load at 50 lbs for every foot (125 plf safety factor) and that is multiplied by the length of the railing in question. The loads get huge, very huge in no time.

So you raise a very interesting and timely question. But for you in Ontario, you should be fine. I do urge you to double check with your local building department. Do not take my comments as the Gospel. I am in tune with what is going on but as a homeowner the responsibility rests with you to double check the very latest.


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