I recently went to a good friend’s place, who had just purchased a new home outside the city. We were enjoying a few drinks on the deck when I noticed he didn’t have a guard rail. I asked him how high the deck was, to which he replied, “I dunno, about two or three feet.” As railings are what I do for a living, obviously this concerned me, so I asked him for a tape measure, and luckily, it was just under 24 inches.
Why was that lucky for my friend? Had the deck been any higher off the ground, he would have been required by the National Building Code of Canada to install railing, or risk his property being uninsurable. That means if someone were to get hurt on his deck, and he was in violation of the building code, he could be sued for liability - yes even in Canada!
You have to take the responsibility into your own hands as many home inspectors overlook railing, or assume you’re aware of the by-laws. Did you know falling accidents account for about 9 million emergency room visits in North America each year? If you’re an adult between their twenties and fifties, this might not be as serious. However, you need to be especially careful about children or elderly people slipping. Furthermore, there is added risk when it's snowy or rainy.
Another time, I was out getting measurements of an elderly woman’s front steps that had badly damaged iron wrought railing. There were five steps, and the rail looked like it could do more harm than good in preventing a fall. According to the National Building Code of Canada, you must have a railing installed on four or more steps. The railing also needs to be:
Between 36-42 inches
Have a minimum of two inches between the wall and the handrail
Not create a hazard or obstruct pedestrian travel
May also need a guardrail depending on the slope and width of the stairs
Being on social security, budgeting for a new railing system could have been tricky. However, the cost of liability if someone had fallen because of the horrendously dangerous steps would be much more costly. If her insurance had found that her railing wasn’t up to date, it would not have covered her in case of an accident. Thankfully, she decided to have the front railing installed.
Ottawa Deck and Rail is proud to offer life-time warrantied powder-coated aluminum that exceeds National Building Code of Canada’s safety standards. Just visit us online, in-store, or give us a call to help you navigate the safety requirements of your home’s railing. Matt and his team will be more than happy to show you how you can save money and ensure your home is insurable, to help keep your loved ones safe.