Deck Inspection

Question - Last week i inspected a deck with one of my home inspections. The platform was 10 x 12 and constructed properly with the original structure. At some point in time, someone added railing to the platform on two sides of the deck. This railing was constructed with 1 1/2 spindles and a 2 x 6 top rail and no 4 x 4 supporting post. You could actually walk up to the railing and push on it. It was very weak. I mentioned in the report as this being a safety concern. The sellers agent got ahold of the contractor and mentioned that it meets code. Was i wrong for writting it up as a safety concern? It is my opinion that the client has the right to be aware of this.

I would report that every time.

Poorly supported but no rail is required for this deck.

Thank you. I always do but the sellers agent is trying to tell me the contractor says it meets code. MMMMMMM

I agree with Mike that its not needed but if its there it needs be done right.

I recently asked ben g. about this issue not long ago. i see decks built like this all the time and i mention its a safety concern, however i would love to do a test on the actual load limit this becomes comprimised at that way i have more information to provide to my client as to why its not as safe. Itll depend greatly on the way the fastener were installed on the spindles and whether they are screwed or nailed. Either way it shouldnt be a deal breaker because it can be fixed relatively cheap.

It seems as if someone put the railing up at a later time without proper support. The client is wanting the seller to fix it but refuses to because the contractor says that it meets code. I realize the railing is not needed with this deck but the client also wants it to be safe for what is already there and constructed. I just dont see how the railing can meet code when you can walk right up to it and push it. Its very weak. You couldnt even lean against it. If the client was entertaining on it and a friend or family member went and leaned up against it they would fall through and get hurt. So i believe i reported it properly for my clients.

Irrespective of local building standards you can offer clients your professional opinion. Codes are usually bare minimum. You made the right call…

ur right david. there is a railing there, and it’s function is to keep people from falling over the side. if it is failing to serve it’s purpose and function properly then it is a safety concern for your client.

Unfortunately in Canada it does meet minimum code requirements. 90% of deck railing are built exactly that way. 42" high, 3 1/2" between balusters, 2 screws at the bottom and one at the top. I ran into the same issue you are having now. I wrote a letter to the selling agent explaining that although it does meet minimum code requirements from a safety aspect, it is clearly not safe.
Where are you from David? You should complete your profile so if you have questions they can be answered specifically to your area.

Go to town village hall and ask about the permits and the final inspection. Show them the picture. It’s a false sense of security. Even if it’s less than 30" above grade, it can do a bit of harm when two people end up leaning on it.
Guard posts should be installed max 6 ft apart if railing is installed according to IRC.


We all write report on these types of items everyday. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with me on items that I report as a safety issue. Let them be the expert and assume the risk if they are wrong.

It’s wrong. See:

Get creative… inform the Realtor that if she/he will go on the deck with a Hot Dog in one hand and a drink in the other (to prevent them reaching out for help)… and lean against the railing with their full weight (200 ft/lbs force)… if the railing holds without giving in any matter… your client will accept the deck in it’s present condition!

See how quickly the deck gets repaired! :wink:

I would have also written up the lack of a handrail with balusters at the stairs as seen in the first pic. A child can fall off the first step as easily as they can fall off the deck.

OK it doesn’t need a rail based on height, but if the rail is there and not sturdy, its worse than no rail at all. Reason being, if there isn’t a rail and you lose your balance and slip, you fall, but not too far. If you lose your balance and grab a faulty rail and it lets go, you are more likely to get injured.

Heck, your recommendation could easily be repair so rail is secure and sturdy, or even remove as its not required ( I don’t usually recommend removal of a safety rail though).

Of course it should be repaired or removed.

This is an inexpensive fix either way and should not be a reason for a deal to fail.

IMHO the buyer is being unreasonable to make it a deal killer and so is the seller.

How was it written in the report?

I was thinking something simular but with the contractor leaning on the rail. Does he trust his own work?

Needs support yes , railing required around here no , not high enough. How ever the railing is on there so it needs to be done right. simple enough.

David- First and foremost we are our clients safety advocates and its our professional practice to point out safety hazards. If in your opinion the railing would not support someone leaning on it from falling, then it should be in your report.