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3 Tips on Guard Rails for Your Timber Home

Customize your guard rails to match your timber frame home's decor while keeping your loved ones safe from falls.



One of the best things about a timber home is its openness, as the weight-bearing posts and beams largely eliminate the need for intrusive bearing walls. But when it comes to stairways, catwalks, decks or any spot with an abrupt drop-off, you (and your local code inspector) will want a barrier in place for safety. Fortunately, you can customize your railings to nearly any specification you like. Here are a few factors to consider.


Check Local Codes

The International Residential Code requires that guards be installed along open-sided walking surfaces (such as stairs, ramps or landings) that are located more than 30 inches above the floor or ground. It also stipulates that such barriers be at least 34 inches in height, and no more than 38 inches high if used as a handrail.

In general, openings between balusters must be small enough to deny passage of a 4-inch sphere. Local codes may vary from these standards, so check in advance to avoid a costly but legally required remodel.


Factor In Wear and Tear

If you're in the market for an exterior railing, consider the stresses your local climate will throw at your investment. Homeowners in windy areas may wish to avoid panel railings, and folks along the coast will need to find materials, such as galvanized steel or properly sealed wood, that can withstand the stresses of the marine environment.

Also consider the temperature of your materials, as metal will not be as comfortable and may not be as durable as wood in extremely hot or cold areas. Interior wear and tear depends largely on the user. Homes with small children and elderly or disabled adults would be better off with sturdier railing construction, as heavy dependence on a railing's support can cause wear over time. 


Complement Your Decor

Railings come in so many stock varieties, but you're not limited to what's already available on the market. Get your favorite scenery laser cut into a metal panel, or use your leftover reclaimed timber to fashion complementary hand grips. Your railings will run the full length of your stairwell, porch or deck, which gives you a lot of room for personal expression. Make them your own.

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