As warm weather approaches, ensuring your deck is safe for family and friends to enjoy is critical. Every year around 33,000 people are injured due to safety issues on a deck, porch, railing, or staircase with 6,000 people suffering traumatic injuries.

May is Deck Safety month, so it’s the perfect time to review steps you can take to keep your deck safe for summer fun!

Check for Damage

Replace Any Rotten or Damaged Wood and Loose Fasteners

Rotten wood can cause fasteners to become loose due to the wood being too soft to hold fasteners in place. This causes safety issues. If you run into out of place nails or screws, replace the damaged deck boards and inspect for other loose fasteners. Make sure to only reuse fasteners that are in pristine condition and replace any that are compromised. 

When choosing fasteners for your backyard projects, Grip-Rite® is the reliable and trustworthy choice. With fasteners like Deckforce® exterior screws for wood and composite deck boards, you’re sure to find the right one for your project. For grooved deck boards, Grip-Rite® Ninja™ Hidden Deck Clip makes installations faster and creates a seamless finish.

Address Any Weather-Related Damage and Mold

Winter snowstorms and spring rain can cause high moisture levels on your deck, which can lead to rotting. To check for damage, you can try poking the area of concern with a screwdriver, and if it goes into the wood more than ⅛ of an inch, you most likely have rotten wood.

Excessive flaking and chipping of paint can also indicate rotting. Make sure you replace any damaged wood and get an assessment by a professional to make certain your deck is safe to use again. 

Deep Clean Your Deck

Remove Debris

There are more than 60 million decks in the United States with 30 million of these being past useful life, needing to be repaired or totally replaced. Keeping your deck clean by sweeping off debris and using a hose to wash it down will make it easier to notice any hazards and will help keep your deck in its best shape. 

It is important to create a maintenance plan that regularly checks on the following:

  • Railing & banisters
  • Deck boards
  • Stairs
  • Underbelly connections
  • Deck lighting

Pressure Wash Carefully

After you’ve removed all items and debris from the deck and closed all windows and doors, you’re ready to pressure wash your deck. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on your pressure washer to figure out the best PSI to use so you won’t damage your deck. You can combine pressure washing with some detergents and different spray heads for a deeper clean.

Refinish if Necessary

Sand and Stain

While sanding a deck is not always necessary before staining or sealing it, it is recommended if your deck is old or has been refinished multiple times. The process gives you the ability to even out the surface of your deck and remove any old stains or finishes.

If you decide to sand and stain, do it 48 hours after your deck is washed and dried.

Begin by applying the deck stain to handrails using a paintbrush. For oil-based products, make sure to use a natural-bristle paintbrush. For water-based stains, use a synthetic-bristle brush. Stain the surface decking boards with a flat paint-pad applicator. Let it soak according to the instructions and remove any excess using a rag.

Pro Tip: Avoid applying the stain in direct sunlight and stay off of the deck for a full day to ensure it dries completely.

Seal Against the Elements

Sealing your deck protects the surface from extreme temperatures and the elements. After cleaning and clearing the deck, you’ll want to ensure you stir the sealer and then using a brush, paint roller, or sprayer apply a thin coat over a two-to-three board section.

You may have to back-roll to ensure you achieve the best-looking coat possible. Then, use a finer paintbrush to apply the sealer to more difficult areas such as railings, steps, and cracks. Lastly, allow the deck to dry completely before use.

Lighting Can Create the Perfect Mood

Having improper lighting or no lighting on your deck can pose safety concerns like slipping and tripping. Installing lighting on your deck not only keeps guests safe, but also adds to the aesthetic of the space. To ensure your lighting is installed and maintained properly, we recommend hiring a certified electrician. 

Elevate Your Views with New Railing Solutions

Timeless Railing Solutions with RailFX®

Whether you’re installing a new deck and railing or looking to spruce your existing deck railing up, RailFX® has solutions for you. For a new installation, we recommend exploring our custom railing system or RailFX® Oasis™ Railing System. Both options feature aluminum posts and various infill options, backed by a Limited Lifetime Warranty. For decks with wood posts, check out our Express Mount Brackets™ or newly redesigned FlexFX Fittings. Whichever option you choose, RailFX will ensure your deck is a showstopper.

Our Custom Railing System delivers an all-in-one solution to any project and has everything you could need including:

  • SEAMLESS TOP RAILS are available in lengths up to 20 feet, easy to trim on site
  • PRE-DRILLED POSTS for cable and concealed cable fittings
  • GLASS AND PICKET INFILL OPTIONS AVAILABLE as a cable infill alternative

Quick Tips for Summer

Grill Safety

  • Keep grill 2 feet from all furniture, railings, overhangs, and shade structures
  • Trim any branches or brush near your grill
  • Always have a fire extinguisher on hand

Shade for Maximum Outdoor Enjoyment

  • Add an umbrella or sun shade when trees aren’t available
  • Large potted plants can add ambiance and shade

Furniture Upgrades

  • Have plenty of seating on hand for larger gatherings
  • Weatherproof accent pillows make deck furniture more comfortable

At RailFX, we love spending time outdoors in the summer! To help you make the most of your summer nights, we’ve created deck safety and outdoor living resources you can reference. Remember: Creating a deck maintenance plan can help you spend less time on issues in the long run!

Explore our resources by visiting

The Latest IRC Building Code Changes from RailFX

With summer almost here, it’s a good time to share the latest information about building code changes. While many of you may still be using the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), the 2021 IRC, published in October 2020, could be adopted in your area before you know it. There are changes to the 2021 IRC that impact the deck design of guardrails and handrails.

To keep you on the cutting edge — especially on the heels of Deck Safety Month — here’s an overview of changes that may affect your future deck designs.

New Rail Specs Depend on Function

Historically, guardrails and handrails had the same specification requirements within the building codes, even though they perform very different functions:

  • Typically installed alongside stairs and ramps, handrails must provide resistance in all directions, for people going up and down the stairway.
  • Generally located along the outer edges of the decks and elevated surfaces, guardrails (also referred to as guards in the IRC) are designed to keep people from falling off decks and, therefore, only need to provide critical support in one direction.

Previous versions of the IRC, 2018 included, stated both guardrails and handrails were subject to the same 200-lb concentrated load per square foot (psf) in any direction requirement. 

The new 2021 IRC clarifies the design intent of both types of rails, accounting for real-world usage of rails to determine loading requirements.

Previous versions of the IRC, 2018 included, stated both guardrails and handrails were subject to the same 200-lb concentrated load per square foot (psf) in any direction requirement. 

The new 2021 IRC clarifies the design intent of both types of rails, accounting for real-world usage of rails to determine loading requirements.

Table R301.5, Minimum Uniformly Distributed Live Loads in the second version in the 2021 IRC, dated November 2021, states both guardrails and handrails must support a concentrated load of 200 psf. This load requirement has been carried over from previous versions of the IRC.

The update for 2021 IRC is to clarify “Where the top of a guard system is not required to serve as a handrail, the single concentrated load shall be applied at any point along the top, in the vertical downward direction and in the horizontal direction away from the walking surface. Where the top of a guard is also serving as the handrail, a single concentrated load shall be applied in any direction at any point along the top. Concentrated loads shall not be applied concurrently.”

New 2021 IRC code changes help clarify the direction of loading for Guardrails. RailFX systems were already engineered to previous code revisions and are approved to handle loading in all directions.

New Requirements for Attachment of Exterior Guardrails

2021 IRC updates also include extra safety guidelines to ensure proper Guardrail attachments to wood-framed decks.

The 2021 IRC has a new section, R507.10, which details requirements regarding how the guardrails are attached to wood-framed decks. When guards are supported on the deck framing itself, IRC 2021 says “guard loads shall be transferred to the deck framing with a continuous load path to the deck joists.” And when guardrails are supported at the side of a deck joist or beam, the joist or beam must be connected to the adjacent joists to prevent rotation of the joist or beam. The code also goes on to say that “Connections relying only on fasteners in end grain withdrawal are not permitted.”

These new requirements do not dictate the exact connection methods but rather address the larger issue of how the guardrails are connected to the deck frame. You can continue to use standard blocking and fasteners. Our professional engineer (P.E.) approved RailFX system has guidelines for blocking and fasteners to ensure IRC code compliance and will continue to be updated as future IRC revisions materialize.

No Notched 4x4 Guard Posts at the Connection Point

New Section R507.10 also contains an important change regarding notched wood posts at deck guards.

Historically, building codes allowed notched 4×4 guard posts to be attached to the beam or the rim joist. It is now disallowed with the 2021 code update. 2021 IRC prohibits notching at the connection point when the post supports loads from the top and requires that the connection extends into the framing. Note that this change only impacts notching at the connection to the supporting structure.

We expect that this addition will help reduce accidents caused by guards that failed because of the notching. 

Safety First

At RailFX, we’re always building better ways to support you. Keeping you aware of building code changes is another way you can lean on us.

For more deck safety resources year-round, visit our Deck Safety page on our website, or each out to us via email.

Back and front yards can be an escape for homeowners. For example, if the backyard expands the great or family room, then the front yard is surely an extension of the living room. And the front of the house is all about curb appeal — making it inviting for socializing with neighbors, relaxing, and resale value.

Personalizing outdoor spaces is on-trend. Decking for the backyard and the front porch can be the focal point of the overall design. Whether upgrading or building a new deck or porch project, consider adding the proper railings. Often an afterthought, railings not only serve as a safety feature but can also add an aesthetic appeal.  

There are various railings choices, and they are as solid of an investment as the decking or porch material. You want to choose — or recommend — the most suitable material because trends come and go, the railings can last as long as the deck. Seek materials that offer aesthetic flexibility no matter the changes made to the outdoor area year after year.

Consider cable railing for a modern, sleek, upscale look that will last. Cable railings’ minimal design means small decks and porches appear more spacious and, for both large and small spaces. The railings blend in rather than stand out, offering unobstructed views for maximum coverage.  

With proper installation, rest assured, cable railings are a safe option for any deck or porch. We’ve outlined common safety points, to make you feel comfortable choosing cable railing for your next project.

1. Safety

Post spacing and railing height should follow local code and guidelines. For level runs, height standards are 36- or 42-inch railings and posts no more than four to five feet apart for cable railings. If you’re unsure, check the latest 2021 International Residential Code (IRC) or local jurisdiction for the proper guard and handrail requirements.

2. Ladder Effect

Most deck pros and homeowners are concerned with the climbing risks or the “ladder effect.” A three-year study by the International Code Council (ICC) code Technology Committee (CTC) concluded that “the most current and thorough documentation available shows no indication that a problem exists and there had not been sufficient justification established to mandate a high level of climbability restriction on guards.”

Falls from railings — as well as porches, balconies, floor openings, handrails, and banisters — among children aged 18 months to four years are estimated to be less than an eighth of a percent (0.032) according to a joint report by National Ornament and Miscellaneous Metals Association (NOMMA) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

3. Installation

Correct installation ensures that the cables are properly tensioned, limiting deflection, and never be spaced more than three inches apart, along with the post spacing recommendations mentioned above. With proper installation, cable railings should not allow a 4-inch sphere to pass between the cables.

4. Durability

Cable railings have high tensile strength and withstand at least 200 pounds of force — and with proper installation and tensioning, they will last for years with minimal maintenance. The 316-grade stainless steel makes cable railing corrosion-resistant and can withstand the most challenging climates, including coastal environments.

5. Options

Cable railing is available in 1/8- and 3/16-inch diameter 1×19 type 316 stainless steel. It is most common for residential applications to use 1/8-inch thick stainless steel cable. Lightweight and easy to maintain, the cable railing is code compliant with the proper tensioning.

At RailFX, we offer an aluminum cable railing system that makes ordering and installation easy. We also provide cable kits and FlexFX that incorporate our fittings into any residential application with the same ease.

With any product you choose, follow the manufacturers installation instructions, and call customer service for any help. This ensures a proper installation (to code), less call-backs, and a safe and beautiful result.

May is Deck Safety Month, and each year building professionals — deck builders, contractors, manufacturers, and home inspectors — emphasize the importance of inspecting the residential deck to ensure it is safe and secure for the warm weather season. Most homeowners can perform their own precursory inspections with the steps outlined below.

Deck Safety Month 2022

1. Check deck boards

Whether it’s a composite, PVC, or wood deck boards, check for any damage from the winter. Look for loose, rotting, or warped boards, and replace or add a finishing coat of paint or stain. While checking the boards, look for any rusted or corroded nails or fasteners and replace them with Grip-Rite fasteners.

2. Examine railings and banisters

Check that banisters (posts) are properly fastened and secured (with brackets or per the manufacturers’ recommendation). Ensure railings are accurately spaced and follow the 4-inch sphere rule, and if you notice loose or wobbly connections, repair or replace them as necessary.

3. Inspect stairs

Ensure stair stringers are sturdy and secure to the deck frame from the surface to the landing area. Like deck boards, check stairs for loose, rotting, or warped boards and replace them as necessary. Check the handrail for grasp-abilty, and that it is continuous and smooth.

4. Check underbelly connections

Check for any deck ledger connections that have pulled away from the home (if applicable) and are connected appropriately to the deck joist. Check the posts, beams, and footings are stable and secure.

5. Check for pest damage, mold, and mildew

Pest damage can occur on exterior structures no matter your location. Check for nesting areas and any insect damage; treat appropriately. Mold and mildew grow on everything, from humid to wet and cold regions. Clean off any residual mold and mildew with a deck cleaner.

6. Clean your railings

Most deck surfaces only require washing off the debris collected over the fall and winter months. For railings, especially if you have cable railings, use a mild detergent and soft cloth to clean and protect your cable railings. We offer RailFX EZ-Clean that cleans and protects all season long.

These quick tips are easy for most homeowners to inspect the deck and detect any quick fixes. Keeping up with regular maintenance is essential to ensure your deck lasts for years to come.

If your deck is older than 10-years or you detect some problem areas, it is recommended that you seek a building professional to conduct a thorough inspection for peace of mind.

Codes Cheat Sheet: Residential Railing and Decking

QUICK REFERENCE: The following is a quick reference guide for code specific deck guardrail and handrail minimum standards to meet for installation of a railing for both level and stair runs.


Stairs rails on decks should be between 34-inches and 38-inches high and are measured vertically from the nose of the tread to the top of the rail. The treads, measuring front to back, must be at least10-inches deep. Handrails should not project more than 4-1/2-inches from the wall. Anything further will crowd the throughway. Minimum hand clearance from the wall should be at least 1-1/2-inches for ease of grasping. The IRC code also states that there must be an 80-inchclearance (6-ft. and 9-in.) measured from the nose of the thread to the obstruction above floor, beam, coffered ceiling, etc.)


Handrails need to be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flights with four or more risers at a height of 34-inches to 38-inches. Minimum hand clearance from the wall should be at least 1-1/2-inches for ease of grasping.

  • Circular handrails: For ease of grasping, circular handrails shall have no less than a 1-1/4-inch to 2-inchperimeter.
  • Noncircular handrails: For noncircular handrails, they shall have no less than a 4-inch perimeter; anything greater and up to 6-1/4-inches shall have a 2-1/4-inch cross section. Any perimeter greater than 6-1/4-inches shall have a graspable finger recess area on both sides.


The minimum height for a residential structure should be at least36-inches above a residential deck. Commercial height requirement is 42-inches for multifamily, restaurant, and bar applications. Low-rise decks, not more than 30-inches above grade, are not required to have guardrails, although it is recommended.

Guards are required along any open-sided walking surface, including stairs, ramps and landing, that are located more than 30-inchesvertically above grade at any point within 36-inches horizontally to the edge of the open side. A stair that is more than 30-inches above grade, at any point, requires a guard along the full length of the openside. The minimum height of guards is 36-inches above the walking surface or the line connecting the leading-edge treads. The opening limitations should not allow a 4-inch diameter sphere to pass through except:

  • Triangular openings: On the stair, between the tread, riser, and bottom rail of the guard, shall not allow a 6-inch sphere to pass.
  • Other openings: On guards located on stairs shall not allow a4-3/8-inch sphere to pass.


Deck balusters are required to be 4-inches apart or less.


Using the 4-inch sphere rule, states that no opening be large enough to pass a 4-inch sphere (the head size of a small child) is permitted except:

  • 4-3/8-inch opening for stairs
  • 6-inch opening between the bottom rail and the tread (triangular-area)


Guardrails must be able to sustain 200-pounds of force applied at the top and mid-span between posts without excessive deflection.
Balusters and infill railing must be able to withstand a minimum load of 50-pounds in an area equal to one-square-foot.


There is no wording in the current code, nor has there ever been any wording containing the terminology “The Ladder Effect” in the IBC. It was referenced more than 20 years ago in an IRC edition and since been removed. The ICC Code Technology Committee(CTC) was tasked to determine how to make guards less climbable. After a three-year study period, the ICC’s CTC reviewed and weighed testimony and documentation regarding the issues surrounding climbable guards for railings focused on determining if any additional measures are needed to the existing code. The CTC determined the most current and thorough documentation available shows no indication that a problem exists and there is no need to mandate a higher level of climb-ability restrictions on guards that what is currently required in the 2006 ICC codes.


There are several code bodies and standards to follow for both residential and commercial building design. Below are the most common governing code bodies and standards required when installing decking, balconies, railings, and guardrails.


Safety first when it comes secure deck railings on any level. Considered prescriptive the International Residential Code (IRC) R312.1.1 throughR312.1.4 and R311.7.8.2 through R311.7.11.2 monitors deck railings for decks attached to single-family homes as well as handrails. The majority of code officials will refer to the International Building Code(IBC). Sections 1014 Handrails and Section 1015 Guards are the relevant IBC to follow. Commercial deck railings attached to multi-family and commercial buildings are regulated by IBC. Both the IRC and the IBCare governed by the International Code Council (ICC).

Regulations vary by location throughout the U.S., and Canada has its own set of regulations, and it is vital that you check the authorities in each state or city that works with building standards and codes.


Part of the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, ensures the safe and healthful working conditions for workers, setting and enforcing standards as well as provides training, outreach, education, and assistance.

The OSHA section 1910.29(b)(1) is most relevant to guard railing and section 1910.29(f) is most relevant to handrails and stair rail systems.


The United States Access Board or ADAAG issues, jointly with the ABA Accessibility Guidelines for federally funded facilities, the current ADA standards based upon the updated ADA Accessibility Guidelines (2004).

  • ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures access to the built environment for people with disabilities. Chapter 5 or 505 describes the standards for handrails.
  • ANSI: American National Standards Institute overseas standards and conformity assessment activities in the U.S. and safeguarding their integrity. ANSI A117.1 is the Accessible and Usable Building standard for making buildings and elements accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.