When we are talking about deck railings at Great Railing we are always mention that fact that our railing are certified ICC Railings. And while the salesman is talking it probably goes in one ear and out the other. But in fact this is something you should be asking yourself where ever you go to look for railings or decking boards or for that fact any other product; you want it to be certified or safe.
Deck railing is an integral part of any deck system and provides a first line of defense against fall-related injuries. As such, deck railings are strictly regulated by local building codes departments and are subject to inspection, even if the rest of the project is not. The industry standard code used by virtually all codes-enforcement authorities in the United States is the International Residential Code for One and Two Family Residences, developed by the International Code Council.
Today almost all plastic (PVC) or Composite decks and railings have some kind of certification from the ICC-ES to ensure the consumer is going to be safe. But there are few and far between who can bypass the ICC-ES rigorous testing and exams in order to just sell product. Building inspectors, like deck builders and homeowners, are challenged to keep up with the deck industry. There are changes to the IRC every three years. State and local amendments are added to those changes. New building materials and deck-related products are appearing on the market in record fashion.
Let try and explain a bit why it is so important to make sure wherever you buy that the product is ICC-ES certified. To make things easier we will use Great Railing as an example. Great Railings ICC-ES sheet is available on the front page of their website.
Before any Great Railing railing was to be put on the market for resale it was tested against the US residential code standards and passed all milestones handily. For those who care this means the railing was tested against testing regime AC174. These reports have been finalized and are available for download from our website. Let’s move on to the term “approved”.
Once a product passes the approved tests, all the data and the integrity of the testing firm are reviewed by the International Code Council (ICC) and only the ICC can issue their own “approval”. Passing AC174 tests conducted by a world renowned engineering testing is the first most important step. You have to actually pass the tests. The firm then writes up all the details of the test into a report which can be shared with any other engineers, architects and inspectors and be accepted as independent proof of acceptability.
The second step, which is not essential to show building code compliance but which is rather like “icing on the cake” is to submit these reports and your factory information, material sources and specifications and more to the ICC. Only the ICC issues their proprietary seal of “approval”.
But receiving this “approval” is the gold standard and we will be submitting all results to the ICC for their oversight and of course hope all will go well. The ICC is the organization that provides their opinion on whether a construction product or system complies with the requirements of the building codes either as an acceptable solution or an alternative solution or a combination of both. Acceptable solutions are those that comply with the code’s applicable requirements.
Without these rigorous testing by expert engineers you are putting your life and the lives of family and friends at risk. For instance read the news from time and time and you will decks, buildings, railings and such that fail and have killed or hurt a lot of people at one time and, due to increased load, these events often occur when maximum numbers of people are exposed to harm: wedding receptions, parties, family barbecues, even wakes.
Tragic stories are heard all over the country every year and they all demonstrate the importance of building inspections of new and existing decks and why this step can literally save lives. It’s estimated that 2.5 million new or replacement decks were built last year. Almost every new home being built today includes an elevated deck or porch. And, existing decks on older homes are being replaced at a very high rate. In fact, the number of personal injuries and deaths related to decks each year is likely to continue to rise because more decks are being constructed each year and existing decks are deteriorating.
The International Residential Code (IRC) requires residential decks and porches to withstand a minimum of 40 pounds per square foot plus the weight of the porch. Balconies, which are only supported where they connect to the building without additional posts, should withstand 60 pounds per square foot. Experts agree that the main sources of injuries are failures of the connection between the deck ledger and house band joist and railing related accidents.
The International Code Council (ICC) suggests looking for the following when inspecting decks, balconies, or porches: split or rotting wood; loose or missing nails, screws, or anchors where the structure is attached to the building; missing, damaged or loose support beams and planking; and, wobbly handrails or guardrails.
So Great Railing suggests that when looking for Railings and Decking to make sure all products are ICC approved, ask for the ICC report.