Deck railings/balusters

Do bench seats and tables meet the specifications for railings & balusters?

Would you also call out the fireplace vent being in contact with the lattice?


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Where the bench is, is probably ok, where there is open space it is not. Call out the vent, too close.

I thought that was a bun warmer.

All kidding aside - the bench, in theory, does not meet the code standards for child safety. There is more than a four inch gap at the bottom of the bench and between the bench and the stairs

Excellent call William, I did not look at the bottom.

As Brian mentioned, don’t forget to call out vent. Too close to combustibles.

Since children can easily climb onto the benches, I consider that the 36" rail height requirement starts from the bench seat, as though it was the floor. I would be interested in how others interpret the rule.

Jim King

I agree with Jim…

The height of a deck railing is usually between 36 and 42 inches, but again this can be subject to various restrictions in your area.

In regards to a bench installation…All guardrails must meet the height and opening requirements **above the flat surface of the bench (which is the seat) **and any openings below the bench must also meet the maximum opening requirements of 4 inches.

36" is usually the required rail height for a deck that is built less than 2 feet off the ground. Anything over 2 feet high, the rail height should be a minimum of 42 inches.

Not under current Ohio Residential Code. But, then again, “Ohio” Code has only been in existence for a little over a year.

Depending under what building code was in existence at the time (if any) and how high above grade the exising deck surface is, there may have been exactly NO deck railing requirements or requirements for guards that must usually be at least 36" high. Under current Ohio Code, decks 30" or less above grade require NO guards; decks >30" above grade require guards at least 36" high.

This may or may not be a problem and can only be answered by seeing the manufacturer’s clearance specifications to combustibles for a vent termination.

I say “screw the code” when it comes to safety issues. Doesn’t matter when a specific code was adopted. If there are safety issues, write em’ up as simple recommendations.

I’d like to see one manufacturer’s specification where it states that an exterior vent can be within 1 inch of combustibles.

Good info David.

I’m all for ‘safety’ and I do not necessarily disgaree…

But you can ‘write up’ your personal opinions about ‘safety’ until you are blue in the face but all you’d get for it is a waste of ink and paper.

Building Codes that were in force at the time of construction or any Property Maintenance Codes in existence now are the only legally enforceable standards that one has to go by.

No Codes. No claim.

Otherwise whatever you write is a a toothless tiger with all roar and no bite.

A prospective buyer certainly has the option to ask for such things to be ‘upgraded’ as a condition of sale, but the seller would be under no legal obligation to ‘upgrade’ a perfectly legal installation nor could the buyer backout of a contract to purchase if they did not like something about what is an otherwise perfectly legal installation…whether you or I like it or not.

All due respect, but it doesn’t matter what our personal opinions are regarding what is safe or unsafe.

All that matters is what the Law, the Building Codes, determine what is ‘safe’ or not.

One thing to add on the vent clearance. The people that are living in the home have never used the fireplace.

So lets play devils advocate that I always do. The new owner uses the fireplace a lot. Next thing the deck lattice starts a fire. The back is all wooded and the whole neighborhood is a flame.

Homebuild, just for curiosity, have you done home inspections on anything besides new construction. Just because something was “legal” by the MINIMUM BUILDING STANDARDS (Which realistically building codes are the minimum building standards) when the home was built does not mean that the issue is not unsafe, nor in need of upgrade. Knob and Tube wiring comes to mind, it was legal when the home was built, so was asbestos, lead paint, and many other safety items. I know of several clients who have backed out of a home because of a SAFETY issue. It happens quite frequently.

Power vents from high efficiency furnaces and water heaters can often be placed 1" or less from combustibles because the temperature of the discharge is so low.

Likewise even some corn and pellet stoves be placed right up against combustibles for exactly the same reason: Low temperature output.

Again, you can certainly ‘write up’ whatever you think is a violation and have your client have it checked by an HVAC professional, but without knowing the type stove, the manufacturer, and the manufacturer’s installation instructions and clearance information for the type vent…it’s just a guess and nothing more.

All I needed to see is the vent to say in big letters HOT. I most likely wouldnt catch on fire unless it was touching. There is however the chance as the lattice ages it could end up touching the HOT vent.

I don’t do CODES…PERIOD.

The safety of my clients will always prevail over a code dating issues.

If I see a potential safety issue, you’re not going to see me make a foolish move and open my code book to determine whether or not the issue at hand was enforced when the structure was built.

I will state it one more time…I simply write it up all safety issues as a RECOMMENDATION only. If my client ignores my recommendation and someone gets seriously injured over this issue (in the future) and they go to look up my report to determine whether or not I annotated this defect, they will clearly see my recommendation in black and white.

I a builder, licensed plumber and licensed electrician… and a certified Code Inspector in several residential catagories.

I am also often called upon by customers to act as a ‘real estate inspector’ for properties that they potentially wish to purchase, or to follow up with my professional opinion as to recommendations made by a customer’s NACHI or other home inspector when requested.

I also serve as a professional witness from time to time in lawsuits directed against other builders…I serve on the side of the homeowner.

So I am no ‘stranger’ to safety issues nor the entire building, selling, code or real estate inspection process.

That said, only what is the LAW ultimately applies.

You cannot (as a seller) be forced to upgrade an otherwise legal installation nor can a buyer back out of a contract to buy simply because they do not like what is an otherwise legal installation.

You likewise cannot legally force anyone to install GFCIs when none where ever required nor force someone to mitigate for Radon, do Lead or Asbestos abatement, or even Mold remediation.

The reason is that such ‘safety’ issues are not legally enforceable…and there are no legally binding requirements establishing minimum standards for such things as Radon, Lead, or even asbestos or mold in most cases.

The matter of ‘safety’ then, is simply a matter of personal opinion when no set ‘safety’ standards exist.

You can certainly offer your recommendations as an inspector as I do mine when it comes to ‘safety,’ but without a legally binding ‘standard’, our recommendations are legally meaningless and the complete option of a buyer or seller or other customer of ours to accept or reject.

It’s just the way it is.

And thinking we have more ‘power’ than we have is just kidding ourselves…especially when you find yourself in a courtroom, defenseless, as a result of it.

Nothing else to add.

You are certainly entitled to your position.
But your position is not legally enforeceable if what you are citing is a code compliant installation, however, and perhaps only good for CYA…and that was my entire point.

By the way, I find your position curious based upon the discussion going on here, that ‘safety’ is not the purpose of real estate inspection: