If you’re planning to upgrade your home with a gorgeous new deck, one of your top priorities should be ensuring that the addition will meet code requirements. It’s a tricky challenge to tackle—especially when you see all the technical language in the “exterior deck” section of the International Residential Code (IRC).
It might seem like a waste of time to dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s—but if your deck isn’t built properly, it could collapse and cause serious damage or injuries. Plus, when you have a properly built deck, you can rest assured that your family will have a safe space to enjoy for years to come. Here are some of the most important requirements to keep in mind:
Building a solid foundation for your deck is one of the most important parts of construction. Footings support the posts that support your deck. If you dig too deep or not deep enough, the entire structure will be at risk. Footings need to be at least one foot below settled soil to prevent lateral movement. There’s no harm in digging deeper than the minimum requirements for footings—but be sure to call 811 before you start digging or building. They will come out to your home within the week to mark any buried utility lines you need to avoid.
Footings also need to be dug below the frost line, the deepest part of the ground at which the moisture present in the soil is expected to freeze. This depth varies according to climactic zone. To determine the proper footing size for your deck, refer toIRC’s Table R507.3, which specifies footing size based on soil composition and live load.
Posts & Beams
When you install your posts and beams, there are two important goals to keep in mind: longevity and stability.
Because your deck will be exposed to the entire spectrum of weather elements, your lumber should be treated to prevent decay. Many people use pressure-treated wood for their decks because it ensures longevity.
Secondly, you must attach the posts to footings using appropriate fasteners to prevent lateral movement and uplift. To maximize stability, be sure to:
- Use 4x4 support posts only for stair landings and other low-height, limited-weight applications.
- Install standard 6x6 support posts for higher areas (up to 16 feet off the ground).
- Use multiple layers of 2x material for beams and girders. (For example, instead of using a 6 x 6 beam, you can fasten together three layers of 2 x 6 lumber. Refer to IRC Table R507.6 to confirm the size and span of beam necessary for your deck.
Railing requirements vary depending on the height of your deck. In some cases, you may not need a guardrail at all (although we have to admit—we think cable railing is a must). As a general rule, keep these three points in mind:
- Guardrails are required if your deck is 30 inches or more above grade.
- A 36-inch rail, measured from the top of rail to the deck surface, is required.
- In California, the guardrail requirement is 42 inches.
If your deck isn’t 30+ inches above grade, guardrails are typically optional, but check your local code requirements to make sure you’re up to date.
Additionally, remember that railings aren’t only for safety—they can add class and style to your home, too.
Are you up to Code?
It might feel overwhelming to make sure every aspect of your deck is code-compliant—but we want to help you create the deck of your dreams.
At Cable Bullet, we’re dedicated to answering any questions you have, and we’re only a call away. We’ll help you find a railing that meets code requirementsand makes your property look classier than ever. Reach out to us today to get started.
Before starting any project, check your state and local requirements for railings. The Cable Bullet system meets the International Residental Code (IRC), but some states have additional requirements. For more information, review ourterms & conditions.