The code (R312.1) does not require them on drop-offs under 30 inches (as long as grade does not slope to more than that within 36″ of the drop-off). I am pretty sure if someone was to fall off a deck 29 inches above the ground, even with a rose bush to break their fall, they could die or be seriously injured or at least spill their beer.
I personally recommend guards be installed at any deck/porch/floor surface that is more than anyone would expect to step off of. In other words, ideally 7-3/4 as defined by the maximum riser height in the code.
When one steps off a surface in the dark, wouldn’t it be nice if one could “expect” to stop in that distance?
In my area, lots of people apparently agree with me as lots of times I will see guards where none are required, like in the following picture.
The City of Seattle made a code clarification that guards, when installed in areas where not required, must meet the same installation requirements of locations that do require them. This requirement results in guards that look like the following picture, and to me, it makes a lot of sense.
These guard requirements include the height of the guard, the size of openings and their ability to resist lateral forces. Strangulation issues for small children can exist with improper guards whether the deck is one foot of the ground or 30+ inches off the ground.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email! 🙂