Unsafe Climbable Condo Railings

This 5 story condo building was constructed in 1984. Could not believe the balcony railings, how did the building pass local inspection? My clients purchasing a condo unit in this building have a young child. I explained how easy it would be for a child to climb these railings. Recommended contacting the association and city inspectors. Most importantly, these must be corrected before occupancy.

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Hiring security specialists to stand guard could also work…:stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously, one could make a recommendation for enhanced safety and leave it to them.

I don’t think I would use MUST as this was probable acceptable when built, but as a safety upgrade, the client is informed and you are covered.

The 1982 code required that no object 6 inches in daimeter shall be able to pass through guardrail. It looks like it meets that require so while repairs are not required recommend improvements as a safety upgrade.


The code before the 1982 code was and object 9 inches in diameter shall not pass thur the railing. A building built in ‘84’ may predate the 1982 code cycle.


Did the 1982 code require vertical rails? These horizontal rails are spaced at 5 3/4", but does it really matter when you are dealing with easily climbable horizontal railings at a 5th floor balcony? Sometimes common sense should prevail. The architects certainly should have been denied approval for the railing design, even in 1982.

Good catch
I would have the client contact the association as they may need to take care of it.

It wasn’t until the 2000 IRC that climbable railing (ladder effect) were prohibited but I believe that the later IRC codes even removed that requirement.


Regardless of codes, it is unsafe. I call them out if for no other reason that to a) inform the client of the problem and b) cover my sorry butt from getting sued if a kid dies.

There are many conditions that the code allows or does not specifically prohibit that are, none the less, safety hazards.

Hope ths helps;

I fully agree, you need to use common sense. The clients had their two year old with them, and I brought them out to the balconies to demonstrate how easy it would be for their child to climb on the railings. You have to wonder, what were the building achitects thinking?

Code is bare minimum. I would call it out as well. Although they do look convenient for someone to climb and water some hanging flower baskets. New selling feature… :roll:

In my location, the 4 inch code has been in effect for before that building was built. IRC isn’t the end all and be all.

I could not call this out without some industry guideline or at least a safety warning from a government agency(none of which, to my knowledge, exist for this condition) . To use the words must be repaired does no one any good and causes confusion for the buyers when they think it is required to be fixed when it does not. I would mention it as a concern to my buyers and recommend plexiglass or some type of see thru sheild on the occupant side for more protection. I would also be more worried about the climb thur than the climb over.


I would recommend something like this.


Definately a safety issue and needs to be mentioned in the report and to the client. However it may have met code at the time and we cannot say that it MUST be changed. That comes at the clients discretion.

To your point, Jerry, If I see an unsafe condition, I am REQUIRED by our state HI law to call it out, and label it “significantly deficient”. In this way, I protect my clients, and myself (from a future lawsuit). That is the paradox, here. HIs have liability (unless they call it out) but we have no authority (we cannot REQUIRE anything). On the other hand, the codies to have authority, but they have no liability. They cannot be sued because they failed to call something out that was, obviously (albeit, after the fact) a safety hazard.

Go figure!

I really don’t care if the local codes or even the national codes do not specifically prohibit it. There are many safety issues that are not addressed in the codes.

And if the builder of the seller or the seller’s lawyer or the agent asks, “But is it against the code!?” I explain, “It is against reality. Does the “code” have any liability if someone gets hurt? No (in Illinois, code inspectors have NO liability). I am here to serve the best interests of my client, and especially their children. If you want to say it is “OK” and use the “codes” as your justification, are you, personally, willing to assume the liability? If so, I have a legal paper here that I can have you sign. Is that OK with you?”

That shuts them up. :mrgreen: For some reason, known only to Gahudi, they never seem willing to sign. I wonder why?

But, it also brings everyone to a sense of reality.

I also recommend, highly:

  • Installation of digital CO detectors in every bedroom that kids sleep in. The normal CO detectors are kinda like car “idiot lights”. They go off at about 35 ppm, but CO levels as little as 10 ppm can affect kids, especiallt if they take naps and spend a lot of time in their rooms.

  • I always defect log lighters in fireplaces. No safety shut-offs or thermocouples or other safety features. If the valve is on, gas comes out. Sure, they are “ok, by the code”, but I am there to determine if they can hurt someone (even adults). Little Johnny will ALWAYS find the key and turn on the valve. It has happened many times and the cleints call me to ask what to do.

  • Local codes “grandfather”. I do not. A house built in 1964 has no GFCIs. It is fine, according to local codes, but it is not safe, by current standards. I call it out and explain how they work and council my clients to install them.

  • I also call out all of the old (or new) bare buld light fixtures. The bulb has to be protected. Not just from someone putting too many comforters in the closet and the blankest toughing the bulb, but with the new CFL bulbs, that release mercury if they are broken. Sure, the amount of mercury is small and, really, poses little threat, the general perception (and the legal precidence) is that mercury is very harmful. So, I call them out. Covering my butt? Sure, But when I cover my butt, I am also covering my clients butt. It’s all good.

  • Vinyl or foil clothes dryer vent hoses. I call them out all the time, especially on new construction. The local applaince stores use them all the time. I have even gone to a few of the local appliance big box stores (ABT, Grants, Best Buy) and talked to the manager and showed him the CPSC literature on these. Usually, I get laughed at and told that I am not a code inspector and that I have no authority to tell them not to use them. I then ask the manager to sign an assumption of liability form. They never do. Then I ask them for their full name, company address and their home address. They ask why. I inform them that the next time a builder or agent or lawyer says that the dryer vent hose is OK (and are not) I will give them your and your companies contact information, tellingh them that you said it was OK and when they have a lint fire, it will be easier to contact them and not me, because I am calling it out.

BTW: 50% of all house fires are related to improper dryer vent hoses. Usually, the damage is minimal, but the damage is there, just the same.

And, I am DEFINETLY not getting sued for it.

  • Roof decks. This is a personal favorite of mine. Everybody, in Chicago, especially, and especially around Wrigley Field, wants a roof deck. There is no specific Chicago code against it, so the builders think this gives them a green light. The build wooden frame decks and lay the 2 x 4 “joists” directly on the modified bitumen flat roofs (usually covering the roof vents, which are NOT required by local codes). Then the decks move (humidity, temperature, live loads) and tear through the roof, usually in about 3 years. Then, the good (i.e., professional, state licensed) roofers in this area refuse to fix them (because, once you tough it, you own it) and the clients call me for a roofer reference. I just explain, “Hey, I called that out during the inspection. You still have a roof deck?”.

They want what they want and, usually, it takes the bad consequences (leaky roof, mold, rotted roof joists) to prove my point. I do my best to explain and educate, but I always call it out. Just because the client does not want to listen is no reason for me to bet sued for their willfullness.

This went on a little long, but I hope that you gave understood my point. Protect your client, even if they don’t want your protection.

And, protect yourselves.

Hope this helps;

Two different things…

My point, exactly. :mrgreen:

Yes, but your allotment of words was exceeded. :mrgreen:

Will absolutely, I **RECOMMEND **many things that are not required in code or are significant upgrades for safety. However I have never said or will say that **IT MUST BE CHANGED **because I have now power or authority to back it up. It ultimately comes down to the client to act on our recommendations, but definately always cover your butt.