Does anyone know when the code changed to require handrails on porches and decks? SOP here says not to report it if it wasn’t required at time of construction. How do we know that?

Ed Coutu
Rightway Home Inspections

I report it if it’s a potential safety hazard.

If one recommends it for enhanced safety, one desn’t have to bring “code” into it. They can do it or not…

I’m not familiar with the SOP you mention.

I believe SC is licensed like Texas and others and has to follow state reg. SoP http://www.firstchoicehomeinspection.com/standards.htm


I have been in building code enforcement for 20 yrs. and it has always been required by CABO and now IRC. I always right up a missing or improper handrail during a home inspection.


Ironically, I haven’t seen a code compliance railing on the exterior of a house in about two decades myself.

So we note it in our report as a safety issue and the people look at me as if to say, I don’t see anything wrong with it, and that is the way it stays for the next Inspector to right up again. ha. ha.

Isn’t this game fun. :slight_smile:

One thing we do need to do is note it to CYA and then leave it up to the client to do whatever he or she wishes. I guess. What else can we do?

Marcel :slight_smile:

Ed, I practice in NC and SC and report any safety issue, using today’s standards for new construction, and I put it in the Summary. You are mistaken when you say the SOP states you can’t report it “if it wasn’t required at time of construction.” Please specifically quote the SOP section that causes you to conclude that.

Look at reporting from these stand points;

Then you don’t even need to concern yourself with some specific code or regulation (unless thats what you were hired to do)


Old handrails

Handrails built before the 1991 Building Code do not have to be upgraded to comply with the Code unless they are structurally unsound, grossly inadequate or non-existent. There have, however, been a number of accidents where handrails or barriers built before this date have proved inadequate.
You don’t necessarily have to rebuild your handrail, but there are some ways you can make older handrails safer:

  • Fixing fine mesh to existing handrails to cover large gaps
  • Extend the top rail to increase height
  • Additional fixings to make the handrail stronger or more rigid
    So, based on this criteria, one should note in the report that the railings observed appear to be inadequate to provide the safety of the client in the future and should be repaired.



Note that the above SC company has the NACHI SOP on that page, its not the SC SOP.

Here is the real SC SOP: http://www.bakinghomeinspections.com/SC_Standards_of_Practice.html

Ed, are you reading the portion of the SC SOP where it lists what the inspector does not have to do, like code issues?

You have to realize that the SC SOP is written in a manner that assumes the reader is the home buyer. When it says we don’t have to do something you should not assume that it means that we are actually prohibited from doing it.

Many inspectors have that misunderstanding.
For example, you can move items in your way, you can walk the roof and do anything that you are qualifed to do and accept risk for doing.

See the sentence near the beginning of the SC SOP that states:

These guidelines are not intended to limit the Residential Home Inspector. If the Inspector wishes to provide additional inspection services not covered in the Standards, it is up to each inspector.

Here is the real SC SOP.

4", 6" and 9" baluster spacing evolution. The 9" went back into the 50’s per UBC. I’ve done some litigation work involving the issue. Not sure if it goes further back or not. I agree with the other posts however, the issue is safety not code compliance. I’m not sure what state agency would prevent you from reporting to your client that lack of a proper safety railing presents a real safety issue. You better have a very good insurance policy to protect yourself on that one…