Do you have a balcony and small children running around the house? If so, before you start reading about the balcony railing safety code, make sure that they are not playing alone.
My children are already older and I don’t have to worry about them fitting in between the balcony railings. However, every time I inspect a property with guardrails that a small child can simply walk through or climb up, I get goose bumps.
Remember to inspect balcony railing periodically – it’s an important house maintenance schedule item!
Many associations / management companies responsible for older multi-unit condominium buildings and townhouses with balconies on upper floors have never upgraded them to comply with the current balcony railing safety code / standards.
Money is probably one of the issues; ignorance must be the other … until the accident happens. You can try to fight the association, but depending on their budget and local building code (some jurisdictions grandfather old railings despite their safety compliance problems), and this might not get you anywhere.
Upgrading the balcony railing on your own is usually out of the question – simply because one of the rules in such communities is that you cannot change the exterior appearance of the structure.
So here are some options to improve your balcony railing safety:
- Start with talking to the building association representative
- Check your local building department to see what they have to say
- If none of the above will help, go for the clear Plexiglas sheets (install it on your side of the railing) and hope that it will go unnoticed (the thicker you get, the better).
Depending on your balcony railing type and design, you can secure it by drilling small holes in a Plexiglas sheet that correspond to the railing components and using plastic wire ties.
Elevated walkways, balcony and stairs with open sides railing / guardrail requirements (the most important ones / might slightly vary between jurisdiction):
- The top of the guardrail for walkways and balconies shall not be less than 42 inches in height (measured from the floor surface).
Exception: For single-family and two-family dwellings, and within individual dwelling units in other Class A-2 occupancies which are primarily permanent in nature, guards whose top rail also serves as a handrail shall have a height of not less than 34 inches and not more than 38 inches
- Open guardrails shall have balusters or ornamental patterns such that a 4-inch-diameter sphere cannot pass through any opening up to a height of 34 inches.From a height of 34 inches to 42 inches above the floor, spaces (bars or patterns) cannot allow an 8-inch sphere to pass
- No horizontal or ornamental design/pattern that would provide a ladder effect / climbable
- The top of the guardrail for stairs shall not be less than 42″ high with handrails placed not less than 34″ nor more than 38″ above landings and the nosing of treads.
On top of the above items:
- Make sure that the railings/guardrails are secured and resist pressure. Strength along the top must resist 200 lb point load in any direction.
- Don’t place any furniture, boxes or other items next to the balcony railing – children love to climb, especially before they start walking.
- Never let children play unattended on any elevated areas like staircases, balconies, and high porches – this is the best action you can take.
Get a measuring tape and if there is a problem – do something about it!