Code-Compliant Guardrail Post Connections

"Today, we're chatting with our good friend Michelle Yee, territory manager for Simpson Strong-Tie in the Pacific Northwest. We appreciate Michelle working with her colleagues to put together this valuable article on installing safe and code-compliant guardrail post connections. Take it away, Michelle!"

Jim Coshow


Deck railing posts are a critical point of connection to deck framing. Unfortunately, they are too often inadequately attached—and similar to deck ledger board connections, their failure can lead to catastrophic results. These guardrail post connections are also subject to a high level of scrutiny from building code officials, so knowing how to attach them properly will not only keep everyone safe, it will help keep your project on schedule. Let’s look at how to install them correctly.

Code-Compliant Guardrail Post Connections
Photo credit: Simpson Strong-Tie

In order to provide the required load resistance at the handrail, the post must not only be fastened to the rim joist, but also tied back into the joist framing. In other words, machine bolts through the post and rim joist alone do not typically meet the performance requirements of the building code.

What is the code for guardrail posts?

  • IBC/IRC 2015/2018 requires guards and handrails to be able to resist a single concentrated load of 200 pounds applied in any direction at any point along the top.
  • The height of the guards shall be a minimum of 36” tall (IRC) and up to 42” tall for certain occupancies (IBC).

Through testing and analysis done by Simpson Strong-Tie, we are able to provide connectors and fasteners that can meet the 200-pound load requirement. Please refer to T-C-GRDRL20 by Simpson Strong-Tie for further information and installation instructions.

When installing a guard post to deck framing for a 36” railing, a DTT2 connector and the SDS fasteners that come with each part meet the load requirement with ease. Two examples of attaching guard posts to deck framing are shown below:

simpson strong-tie
Image credit: Simpson Strong-Tie

 

For railings up to 42” tall, we recommend an HTT4 wood connector with Strong-Drive SD connector screws #10 for the highest load capacity. Below are two examples of attaching guard posts to deck framing for railings up to 42” in height.

simpson strong-tie diagram
Image credit: Simpson Strong-Tie

An alternative code-compliant solution for attaching guardrail posts to deck framing without the use of wood connectors and typical through-bolts is fastening the guard posts and framing elements with Strong-Drive SDWS Timber screws. The SDWS fasteners are code-compliant in the IAPMO UES ER-192. The solutions shown below have been tested and verified for 36” guard posts constructed with Douglas Fir/Larch, Hem-Fir and SP (Southern Pine) framing. These solutions have also been tested and verified for 42” guard posts constructed with Douglas Fir/Larch and SP (Southern Pine) framing only. Please refer to Simpson Strong-Tie T-F-GRDPSTRL18 for further details regarding use of SDWS for guardrail post attachments.

simpson strong-tie screw
Image credit: Simpson Strong-Tie


Thanks to Michelle for keeping us updated on these ever-evolving best practices! Check out some other great decking and fastener advice from Michelle in this
article on ledger board attachment, and see an in-depth review of attachment systems in this handy wood screw guide.