How to build a Front Deck 42 inches above the ground with NO rail

frenderMay 27, 2009


We just remodeled our home on the inside and need to build a new deck to get to the front door. Our front door is approximately 42" from the ground. We raised our house 30 inches to get out of the flood zone - thus the front door is pretty high off the ground.

We would like to build a 16 foot wide X 7 foot deep deck onto the front door. The front door is all the way to the right and the stairs up the the deck would also be on the right side along the wall for the garage.

The problem is the railing. Code calls for a 42" tall railing, which I don't want to use, because it would block are view from the living room windows as well as if we were sitting on our deck looking towards the street.

The non railing option calls for a planter box to be approximately 18" tall that would be within 30" of the deck. However, the inspector says that the planter box would need to be 5 feet deep all the way around the deck.

This seems crazy. Anyone have any suggestions?

Thank you

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Your trying to get around the permit store Right Linda? The view is more important to you than anything. All the acidents happen to someone else.

The inspector is trying to keep you and who ever gets on your frount deck safe. 42'' is only required on upstairs decks in my area lower leval is 36''.There are all sorts of ways to install a low impact rail system including alum balusters these guys will plasma cut any design any size rail insert you can come up with.

One way to completly get around the 42'' railing>> hire a dump truck to unload a pile of dirt right in frount of your deck, final out the permit, load the dirt back on the truck.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 8:29AM
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I would carefully consider the information that john hyatt offered in his post above.

The whole issue regarding the railing comes back to one thing: Liability.

I know that working with a building inspector can be a royal pain. Working with an insurance company can be the same sort of experience. Been there. Done that.

In my situation (restoring an 1880's home) all of the "original" banisters were grandfathered in. New, or additional, railings fall under current regulations and zoning requirements. If I wanted to restore/preserve existing architectural elements I could do whatever I wanted to do, but on the new section of porch we added, I had to alter the design. A real pain in the butt.

Could you lower the height of the deck itself and perhaps have some steps or a platform from the deck to the door height? By lowering the height of the deck you may be able to eliminate the need for a railing.

If you stay with the original design and want to preserve the view, I would recommend that you go with a slim profile aluminum or cast iron type railing. Something thin, painted black or perhaps dark green, will blend right in so as to be almost not noticeable, and will eliminate/reduce your liability issue.

With the type of "hurry to the courthouse" mentality people have now, I would say that trying to do a "work around" simply isn't worth the risk.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 9:37AM
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Thanks for the postings. We have a building permit and will be having the deck inspected, so we have to follow code.

Code allows for no railing if you have a plantar box within 30" of the deck. The inspector isn't sure how wide it needs to be and threw out 5 feet as a random number.

Has anyone built a deck without railings and using this plantar box or 30" rule - any pics? I can't find much on the net.

Also, we are thinking of doing the plantar boxes, plus adding a railing of 36" around the deck - which would not impact the view - now we just need to pick a brand and color.

Thanks for any suggestions,

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 1:14AM
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