One of the more visible parts of a deck is the guard rails. Guardrails are required for any point on the deck 30 inches or greater from grade level. I am not going to debate the good sense aspect of the 30 inch requirement, 29½ inches is along way to fall when you're not expecting it. I want to discuss another good sense part of guard rail construction, sturdiness.
The standard is the guardrail must be strong enough to resist a 200 lb. point load in any direction. That is a great deal of weight and I feel a good majority of guardrails I test would not bear up under scrutiny. When I say test, I simply push and pull on the railings and posts. I also examine the connections and general construction. I do not have some type of sophisticated testing device that can determine the point load. I doubt that anyone actually has such equipment or routinely performs that type of testing in the field.
The other day I found a set of guardrails that have to be one of the worst I have ever seen. At first glance they looked fine, but upon conducting the shake test they failed miserably. It wasn't so much the posts that were the problem as the lower boards where the bottoms of the balusters attach. The boards are a half inch thick!
The icing on the guardrail cake was the lower board's method of attachment to the posts. When I say attachment I use the term very loosely, pun intended. The board pictured was obviously cut short, but used anyway. That little piece of wood in the fore ground I believe was an attempt to shim the space. Over all it was shoddy workmanship done as minimally as possible.
I doubt these rails would pass a 50 lb test never mind 200.
My advice; if the guardrails shake and shimmy it's a good bet they may break and fail.
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