Q & A

Do Deck Stairs Need Railings?

A few years ago, I constructed a deck that was about 4 ft. above ground and featured two sets of stairs. Although constructing this deck was a lot of fun, I did struggle to determine if the stairs leading up to the deck from the home required railings. The other set of steps led in a different direction from the house, and were placed in the middle of the deck’s opposite side. If the elevation of the deck’s top is more than 24 inches above ground level, railings must be installed on the deck’s stairs. Stair rails are not required in some areas if the deck is lower than 30 inches off the ground. Whether or whether you need railings on both sides of the staircase depends on the layout of the stairs themselves. Do the steps lead up to nothing more than the deck, or do they lead up to a house or other building? The rest of this post will focus on these topics, with me drawing on my years of experience building decks and the truths I’ve learned about deck construction and railing installation to make my points. When you’re done reading this, I want you to feel entirely comfortable with the steps necessary to instal railings. Nothing is more frustrating than reading anything meant to teach or inform, only to be left with more questions than answers. That makes sense to me. Keep reading if you’re interested in finding out all there is to know about deck stair railings….

What You Need To Know When It Comes To Deck Railings?

You should have previously obtained the necessary building permits before beginning construction on your deck, and once you are finished, you should schedule an inspection with your local municipality. Do not forget to apply for the necessary permits and have your deck inspected. I’m aware that in some places the cost of acquiring a permit might be quite high. However, in my opinion, it’s always better to have someone who knows what they’re doing examine your construction job to make sure it complies with building codes. Because safety and the freedom to enjoy a deck without fear of injury are of paramount importance, it’s important to address any problems as soon as possible to prevent injuries. All right, here’s the lowdown on deck stair railings and whether or not they’re strictly necessary. Everything you need to know to proceed should become clear after reading this. As I continue writing, I will provide more specifics on every facet of this subject. No matter where you live, you will find that local construction codes vary. Some construction codes do really have an overarching standard. You should still do your homework and find out from the municipality or city hall how high a deck can be before stair rails are required. Thankfully, with today’s technology and the availability of the internet, researching these demands can be done quickly and conveniently from the comfort of your own home or on the go with your mobile device. Doing so is something I think you’ll really like. The typical height for a deck without rails on the steps is 24 inches. Putting up railings on a deck that is only 15 inches above ground level seems unnecessary. However, once the height reaches 24”–30”, it becomes clear that tripping off that height could become a serious issue for some people. This is an extremely risky activity. If one side of the staircase is flush against your house, you can get away with installing only one handrail on the open side. You should double-check this with the relevant municipal or county government office. It’s legal where I am, but I know there are places where a guardrail must be added to the house at the very least. In the next section, I will respond to some of the most often asked questions I receive on this subject.

Do Deck Stairs Need Railings On Both Sides?

The outdoor entertaining space and swimming pool in the backyard of a contemporary mansion. This question was answered above, though not explicitly. Here’s a more in-depth explanation. Yes, railings are required on both sides of steps when the deck is at or above the regulation height for when railings are necessary. If the deck’s stairs are built flush against a building like a house, only the open side of the stairs may need railings. A handrail may be required by local ordinances, while others may allow for nothing at all. Again, the best approach to find out for sure is to contact the appropriate municipal office in your area.

What Is The Difference Between A Handrail And A Stair Rail?

It goes without saying that there is a big difference between a railing and stair rails. Full-fledged railings, known as stair rails, are installed on the stairs and typically link to railing at the deck’s upper level. They feature posts and balusters (also known as spindles). Having a railing is a far less complicated alternative. Consider the stairs in your house as an illustration. The walls of most residences’ stairways are equipped with railings (handrails) of some kind. Brackets spaced throughout the length of a handrail are used to secure it to the wall.

How Many Steps Until You Need A Railing?

If you want to know how many steps you can have before you require a railing, you’ll need to know two things: how high your deck is, and how high your steps are. If the deck’s height is below the minimum threshold set by local regulations, then railings are not required. If the deck is at or over the required height, however, the height must be determined by gauging it from the ground up. Divide that number by 7.5 inches (or 19 cm, if you’re not in the US) to get the number of steps you’ll need. Although 7.5″ is considered the standard stair height, I indicated previously that the actual stair height can make a difference (19 cm). This is because the height of a set of steps may need to be modified before the equation can be solved. Let me illustrate with an example. You’ll definitely want railings if your deck is 30 inches (76 centimetres) high, so divide that number by 7.5 inches (19 centimetres) to get the number 4. Obviously, it would be ideal if everything we attempted was fruitful, but this is not the case. We know better, but in this case, 4 steps will do. Multiplying the height of your deck (say, 33 inches) by the height of your stairs (say, 7.5 inches) will give you a value of 4.4. To make this work, you’d need to put in 4.4 additional steps. Maybe not, though. A stair that short is obviously not acceptable. That ridiculously small amount of height (just 4 inches) just won’t do. Now, here’s what you can do about it. The stair stringer’s attachment height to the deck can be adjusted, or you can dig down into the ground by 4 inches (if that makes any sense, which it might not). These days, many decks use prefabricated metal (often aluminium) or precut pressure-treated wood stringers. Before installing, their height on the deck’s surface can be easily modified. The resulting height of the top stair, relative to the peak of the deck, will be greater than or equal to 7.5 inches. Stair stringers can be raised to the necessary height by placing something like patio stones under the bottom of each one, if the rise exceeds 7.5 inches.

Do You Need A Railing For Two Steps?

If there are only two steps down from the deck to the ground, then you probably won’t need a railing. However, anything higher than three steps, or one metre in total, will. The answer to this question will rely on the depth (or diameter) of the stairs as well as their height.

Do You Need A Railing For One Step?

It is unnecessary to have a railing for the first step because of what has already been said. If there are more than three steps, railings are typically required. A railing is required for any surface that is more than 1 metre (3.3 feet) off the ground, hence step thickness should be taken into consideration.

What Are The OSHA Requirements For Handrails?

Some of the things that handrails must do to meet OSHA standards are: All stairways must have a handrail that is at least 42 inches above the treads. Between 30 and 38 inches is required for the handrail’s height above the deck. Any stairways with unprotected sides should have regular railings installed. At the very least, one side of a closed stairwell needs to be fitted with a regular handrail.

How High Can A Platform Be Without A Railing?

If your deck’s platform is more than 30 inches above ground, a railing is typically required by law. Anything greater than 15 inches above the ground should have a handrail installed for safety reasons. No handrail is necessary for a deck that is less than 15 inches off the floor.

How Do You Install Deck Railings On Stairs?

The following are the procedures involved in putting in deck railings on stairs: Before you start installing your deck railings, plan out their placement. Make sure the bottom rail post is aligned in the same way if the top rail post is at the back of the thread. All open sides of stairs that rise more than 30 inches from the ground should have guard rails installed. Two bolts, each half an inch in diameter, should be used to fasten the base stair post to the frame. Attach the rail post to the riser board or stair stringer using bolts. You need to make sure the rail post can hold a minimum 34″ railing. In addition, remember to factor in some breathing room for the cap mountings. Make sure the top and bottom posts of the stairs are level. To get the correct angle, lay the bottom rail on top of the stairs and make a mark where it meets the rail posts. To ensure that the top and bottom rails are the same length, cut them down. Fasten the rail connector to the top and bottom rails with screws. Center the bottom rail between the support pillars during installation. Make sure there isn’t more than a four-inch gap between the baluster connectors on your stairs. Mark the appropriate connector points on the top and bottom rail sections with a level to ensure proper alignment. Get accurate measurements for your railing assembly and cut the balusters to size. Put the balusters on by sliding them over the stair rail connectors at the bottom. Now, moving from the bottom up, insert the top rail connections into the balusters. Connect the top rail to the top of the 44 using rail connection screws. Cap the top rail with the 24. To get started, screw the top caps into the rail posts after first predrilling them. After that, add more screws to the centre to make sure it stays put. Then, screw the top cap onto the side of the bottom stair rail post, capping off the 2×4. Attach the top cap on the lower post of the stair rail and tighten it.

Can A 2×4 Be Used As A Deck Railing?

Top and bottom deck rails typically consist of 2x4s. It’s strong and stable up to the 6 feet in length that is the standard between rail posts. Add balusters to your railing to make it even more sturdy.

How Wide Can Steps Be Without A Railing?

Wider deck stairs are typically not as steep as narrow ones. Therefore, a guardrail is usually unnecessary. Wider steps are a practical and aesthetically pleasing addition to lower decks. A guardrail should be installed if the height of the platform is more than 15 inches.


In conclusion, a railing is required if the highest point of a deck is more than 24 inches above ground level. It’s safer to err on the side of caution, even if some jurisdictions allow a deck height of 30 inches before requiring stair rails. If the step rise is more than 15 inches, I think it’s safe to say that a guardrail is necessary. Whether or not a railing is required on both sides of the staircase depends on its location. I pray that this essay has been helpful to you. Thanks for the info, and I hope you have great success with the deck railing.            

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