Railing height behind outdoor BBQ counter top

by James

What is the typical code requirement for a counter top near a railing?

If the countertop is built into the railing (like at the perimeter of a deck) and is 36" high, is any additional railing required?

If code requires a 42" rail height, does an additional 6" back splash satisfy typical code requirements?

Editor's Comments

This is a good question. And there is not direct answer I can provide on this other than to draw upon similar parts of the code which relate to benches located next to guard rails. It will not be a firm or final answer but I think it will shed some light on the discussions that have occurred in other relevant situations.

Former Code Provisions About Guardrails

The residential code was changed some time ago and it stipulated that if you had a built in bench as part of or right beside a guardrail, the height of the guardrail had to be measured from the seat of the bench. So if a typical bench is 16" you would have had to raise the edge of the railing a minimum of 36" or 42" above the seat.

This lead to all kinds of really unattractive designs in order to comply with this stipulation. It interfered with designers creative ideas and it actually made many projects look less attractive. Given this requirement was for residential guardrails (not commercial locations) where presumably access is limited to a family and also that a family is capable of monitoring the use of their deck and their property, pressure built among the public and code authorities to revisit this requirement.

2015 Code Changes

The last time I read the proposed revisions to the residential code I recall that this provision was struck from the books and the code was to revert back to the prior version. Common sense prevailed. However, I urge you to follow up on the current IRC but this was the latest when I read the proposed changes.

This should mean that if your requirement is 42" then raising the height of the back splash of the counter top by 6" should do the trick.

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