Guard Rails

I often get a lot of flack from builders, etc. when documenting the strength of guard rails. Most areas require that the rails support 200 pounds in either direction. This is for both decks and interior guard rails. Since dynamic testing is not possible, how do others handle this?

Dave… This is a very unusual post.

You are telling us that;

  1. During a Residential inspection You “Document the strength” of Guardrails?

  2. They are “Required” to support 200-ponds “In either direction”. Where did you get these “Facts & Figures”?

  3. Dynamic testing is not possible.

First of all… What Standards of Practice are you using in your inspection? None that I know of mention “Documenting the strength” of Guardrails.

Second… Since you do not have a laboratory “on the job site” how have you physically “Documented the strength” of a Guard rail in your past inspections? {I guess that you “Guess-timated”}

Third… I can see why “You get a lot of flack from the builders”.

I agree with Frank… Verify the method of attachment and spans. Other than that, you are going out on a limb with guesstimating any strength of the rails.

I find that there are still many subs that use lag bolts instead of through bolts when attaching rails and supports.

Don’t see how this post is any more unusual than most I see on this MB


[size=3][FONT=Arial]For obvious safety reasons, guardrails are required when the deck floor is more than 30 inches above another floor or the grade below. The guardrail shall not be less than 36 inches in height. Open sides of stairs with a total rise of more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below shall have guards not less than 34 inches in height measured vertically from the nosing of the treads. [/size][/FONT]
[size=3]The perimeter support posts can be incorporated into the railing of the deck. The posts extend from the footings to the top rail cap. Balusters or ornamental closures that do not allow a 4-inch diameter sphere to pass through are used to fill in between the posts. These balusters in combination with the cap rail and bottom rail transfer the loads to the posts. In order to do this successfully, the main railing posts should be spaced approximately 6 feet apart. The advantage of this design is that the full length of the post resists the rail load.

Guardrails and handrails shall be designed to support a single 200 pound concentrated load applied in any direction at any point long the top. This is to be able to withstand and support the loads of people leaning on or running into it.

**“I check fastening and grasp the rail and give it a good push/pull if any fasteners are absent or loose or significant movement is present I note it for repair.” **


Dave, I “test” any guard/hand rail that I think is questionable by swinging my hip against it a certain amount. That amount comes from doing it over and over. It is questionable if it feels loose with my hand/arm moving it.

If, after my test, I think it is inadequate I report it as loose needing repair.

If you can see the attachment method that is helpful. It is a judgement call, that is all.

Then I spin around and swing my other hip and if it anit loose by then I just spin my hip into again.:mrgreen:

I think just grabbing it with a tug would be allot less painful than your thrusting hip displacement.

Good post!

Yes, if you are that uncoordinated you should use another method. :stuck_out_tongue:

Gosh I never thought about the hip swing. I’ve been doing it the old fashioned way ever since way back when.

In 1983, I was getting ready to stop doing HI’s part-time and go full-time. There were only 2 HI schools I could find (1 in Texas and 1 in Silver Springs, MD).

One of the tricks that one of my instructors showed us for testing rails was grab the realtor by the arm and swing them against the rail to see if it holds.

Been using that for years - never thought about using your own hip. Learn something new every week.

Do you ask the realtors if they weigh 200 lbs first? If not, you’re just guesstimating like the rest of us. :p:p

John Kogel

a 2G swing will work for the skinny ones :wink:

There are simple ways to apply a 200 lb. load if that’s what you’d like to do - but as suggested, it goes well beyond any standard inspection procedures.

You can purchase spring-scales that work very well for this purpose. I’ve used them on job-sites for just this type of testing.

I would suggest you use the “pull” type, rather than the “push” type :wink:

Thanks for all the reponses. It seems that some of you make no mention of the ability of the guard rails to support 200 pounds of force, or least the fact that you suspect they will not. How do you address the safety of the gurad rails? I am not looking for ways to test the strength, but how do you document suspicions that they will not?

Frank and all. I may have misled you. I did not mean that I actually put a figure down to document the strength. I state the rails appear loose and then document what they are supposed to support (200 pounds).

Seems like a reasonable question to me Frank. I think my statemant about “documenting the strength” may have thrown you off. I simply meant the rail’s ability to support the required pressure or force.

OMG Dave:

You are a home inspector, not the saviour of the world!!!

Get real…just say its loose, if it is, suggest necessary repairs and be done with it.


It would be cheaper to just thrust your hip into the Realtor and if it holds just say excuse me and move on.:wink:

Dan, would you take caution in using a male or female for step rail testing? My 5-year-old grandson would be a great testing device, since he has lots of energy and is virtually indestructable. “If it don’t bouce back, you go hungry”

Elwood Blues, rubber biscuit.

Thank you for the clarification.
I have spent a lot of time in courtrooms testifying as an “Expert Witness.”
One of the problems that I see with “testing, and or documentation” is the fact that;

  1. If you “document” a specific item and neglect/omit any related item or component then you are negligent.

  2. More importantly if you “test” any items such as a guard rail then you are required to “test” any and all related items such as ALL of the guard rails on the deck, exterior stairs, and more importantly the interior stairs / guardrails.
    God help you if you “documented the strength” of some but…NEGLECTED to “document the strength” of ALL of the Guardrails!!

  3. Then comes the “test”!

Anytime that you “test” anything at all you open a can of worms because the judge and or jury will want to know …

  1. Are YOU, and I repeat Are YOU qualified / certified to do this specific type of test?

  2. What training / certification did you receive that qualifies you to do this specific type of test?

  3. What “Standards” and more importantly what procedures did you use to conduct this test?

  4. How many times have you conducted this “specific” test and more importantly have you documented the test results?

  5. Are there, or were there any variances and … where are the documented results?

  6. What “equipment” did you use to conduct this specific test?

  7. Is this “equipment” recognized as a national industry standard?

  8. Has this “equipment” been certified / calibrated?

  9. Did you present the certificate of calibration at the job site?

  10. Is there more than one" procedure/method" to conduct this specific type of test?

  11. If there is more than one “procedure/method” {and you better know the answer to this question} why did you only use one method instead of all of them? {There are different testing methods / procedures.}

  12. If there is more than one specific type of “testing tool” why did you not use all of them? {There are several different types of tools. }

  • I hope that you can see that the list goes on and on and that you can really put yourself in a bad situation and open yourself up to a lawsuit.
    My recommendation to you is to join a reputable home inspectors Association, and become certified.

Once you have joined a reputable home inspectors Association become familiar with their Standards of Practice and conduct your inspections according.

I hope that this has been of some help to you.

I wish you all the luck in the world!