NADRA Code Update: What Happens in Vegas…

By Glenn Mathewson, NADRA Technical Advisor

…doesn’t stay in Vegas, at least not when it’s about deck code!  Here’s a recap of what to expect in your 2021 International Residential Code from the ICC Public Comment Hearing that occurred in Las Vegas last week.  This information is as fresh as it gets, because NADRA members don’t chase behind future codes, they are part of their creation.

Proposals that did not receive any public comment disputing the committee decision at the first hearing in May are lumped together in a “consensus vote” and these are as good as done.  Here are the proposals the committee approved and will be in the 2021 code.

  • RB187-19:  The organization of footing depth and frost protection provisions have been modified for better comprehension.  Frost protection for decks, previously in the foundation chapter, are now located alongside other deck provisions in the deck section 507.  An added bonus for the free market is a new method for frost protection: “Other approved method of frost protection”.  This will help new innovations that provide protection equivalent to digging a deep hole to have a better chance of being evaluated and approved for use.
  • RB188-19:  A minor change in wording makes it clear that a multi-ply beam must be fastened “together”.
  • RB189-19:  A minor change in wording clarifies that allowable beam cantilevers beyond an end post are based on the actual adjacent span of the beam, not the allowable span.
  • RB190-19:  Many don’t realize that the maximum allowable beam spans, based on the joist spans they carry, are actually sized assuming the joists are cantilevered beyond the beam by their maximum allowable distance.  When not cantilevering joists past a beam, this left beams significantly oversized.  A new modification footnote is now added to the beam span table to allow adjustments based on various percentages of joist cantilever and zero cantilever.  No longer will a beam span be limited based on loads that don’t exist.  This is a huge win for prescriptive deck designs to be closer to the actual design and not a “one-size-fits-all approach”.
  • RB191-19:  With the increase of deck designs and patterns in the industry, many decks are built with decking supported by only two joists and having only one span.  However, decking is not tested or evaluated for performance in this manner, manufactured or wood.  Technically speaking, they are not allowed to be installed in that manner without alternative approval, such as from an engineer.  To support decking designs with validated spans for “single span decking” the maximum joist spacing for wood decking table has been expanded.  5/4-inch wood decking is now provided single span limits of 12 inches for perpendicular installations and 8 inches for diagonal.  Those may appear as new limitations in deck construction, but they are actually new allowances.  What has been being done was never actually supported by the code.  Now it is.  It’s important to note that for manufactured decking, this change can’t be done in the IRC.  The testing standard must be changed.

Three of our proposals were turned down at the committee hearing, and we wrote public comments to give them a second chance.  Another one that was approved received an outside comment and thus needed reconsideration.  The results from the membership vote at the final hearings last week are not the final votes.  Governmental members will still have time after the hearings to make an online vote.  This can change the outcome, but here’s how those proposals currently stand.

  • RB46-19:  Guards and handrails are like peanut butter and jelly.  Just because they can be in the same sandwich, doesn’t mean they are the same thing.  Both are required to resist a 200 lb. concentrated load in “any direction”.  While handrails are meant for someone to purposefully brace themselves while ascending or descending obstacles, like stairs and ramps, guards are only meant to barricade an accidental fall over the edge of the deck.  This proposal changed the loading direction for guards to be only outward and downward and argued that guards don’t need to resist an inward or upward load of that magnitude.  The committee turned this down at the last hearing and said it was the decision of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  The ICC membership at the hearing last week disagreed, and through their professional experience in analyzing guards in backyards across this county, decided to make the decision.  The IRC has now broken away from the singular power of the ASCE to allow a wider diversity of professionals to develop residential codes.  There is value here far beyond this one proposal.  Much like rallying NADRA involvement in development of deck codes, no single group of professionals should be making any rules in our private homes.  That is the beauty of the transparent ICC development process.  Though the final vote is given only to governmental members (a single group of professionals), they are the only group free from financial interest or professional gain from the results.
  • RB184:  This was our biggest proposal and with modifications, the ICC membership voted it with a 98% approval!  That’s a great way to start the online voting and a good sign this will make it in the future code.  Here are some bullets of what this large proposal offers.
  • Design tables are increased for 50, 60, and 70 psf snow load regions, making the code more useful to more builders in the country and reducing the need for specific engineering.
    • The absolute minimum diameter footing was reduced from an excessive 14-inch diameter to as low as 8-inch diameter when supporting deck areas up to 5 square feet.  (consider a small stair landing with four footings/piers)
    • The post sizing table was expanded and based on the actual loads the post is carrying.  No longer are there single limits for post height based only on the heaviest possible loading.  Like with beams and joists cantilevers, previously mentioned, it’s no longer “one-size-fits-all”.
    • The joist span tables have been revised so that maximum cantilevers of joists are no longer based on the maximum allowable span of joists, but by their actual span.  Like other modifications, this allows design limits to be based on the actual deck design.
  • RB185-19:  This proposal was approved by the committee in the first hearing but received a public comment that fixed an oversight in the first proposal.  It was then approved by the membership.  New provisions prohibiting the notching of 4×4 guard posts at the connection point were included alongside language requiring guard post connection to tie into the overall framing of the deck, and not just a single side joist.  Without limiting guard design and construction methods and without providing any specific graphics, this proposal will support better guard construction without a loss in architectural freedom.
  • RB301-19:  Of all our proposals and all our testimony to other proposals, this was the only one that we didn’t win.  Turned down at the committee hearings, this proposal would have provided specific details for guard post connections in an appendix chapter.  An appendix chapter is optional and must be individually adopted by a government.  Though our industry fears pictures in the code (think…lateral load anchor), the compromise with others who don’t share this fear was to put them in an appendix.  The details provided engineered methods of resisting a 200 lb. load on a single post using either metal hardware or only commodity fasteners.  Through much debate and mutual compromise, the Deck Code Coalition was still unable to provide unified testimony in support of this proposal.  The membership did not approve it.

Modifications to these proposals can no longer be made in this cycle, as all that is left is the final online vote by the governmental members. 

By the end of this year, the 2021 IRC will be decided.

To help NADRA continue our work in the code arena, please consider contributing to our code fundraising initiative. Click here to learn more and to support our efforts.

NADRA Code Update: Should Decks be Built Like Stairs?

October 2019 Update

By: Glenn Mathewson

Some believe they should.  Stair treads must resist the same uniform load as decking, but with an added requirement to resist a 300 lb. concentrated load at mid span.  Consider the impact your feet place on treads as you come running down them. This extra requirement is not without consequences, as spans allowed for composite decking are often reduced when used for stair treads.  Many products require minimum 12- or 10-inch stringer spacing. This could be the future for joist spacing. Do I have your attention?

Though NADRA has been involved in the International Residential Code modification process, there are many other organizations and processes that affect the codes and standards of the decking and railing industry.  The American Society of Civil Engineers is one such organization. They develop the ASCE 7 standard, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, which establishes the minimum design loads historically copied into the International Code Council’s (ICC) building and residential codes.  

In the ICC hearings, NADRA has supported a proposal to adjust the loading direction required of guards that was submitted to the International Residential Code (IRC) development process this year.  At the ICC hearings, the committee did not approve the change and requested it first be made in the ASCE 7 standard. We will contest this at the IRC final hearings this week, but we also turned our attention to the ASCE standard development process.  Last week, by luck, the ASCE committee was meeting in Denver, and with a short drive and NADRA support, I was able to attend.

Though I was going there for the guard proposal, another one came up, and my concerns for guards were quickly replaced with decking.  A proposal was received to require all deck boards to resist a 300 lb. concentrated load at mid span, just as is required for stair treads.  The committee discussed the reasoning, that ladders can place a concentrated load on a single deck board upwards of this magnitude. Prior to closing their discussion, they invited comment from guests. .

I shared concerns of proposals that place additional loads on decks different than inside a house, where ladders could similarly be used.  I explained how composite decking spans are reduced when used on stairs and subjected to a 300 lb. design load. I asked if they had the data on how wood and manufactured decking product maximum spans would be affected by the proposal.

It appeared this analysis was not included with the proposal, but the committee was interested.  They turned the question back to me—to NADRA… Now the ball is in our court to answer. How will this affect our industry?  Will current composite decking formulations on the market require a reduction of joist spacing to support this load? Will manufacturers “simply” change formulations and retest in order to maintain current spans?  Will joist spacing for wood decking require reduction?

We are working on some of these answers, but you should be too.

Because this could become the new rule.

NADRA Code Update – Proposals RB185-19 and RB301-19 Guard Post Connections

August 29th, 2019

By: Glenn Mathewson

The latest 2018 edition of the International Residential Code provides a complete package of prescriptive structural design tables for decks… sort of…  When we think of structural design, most people imagine the skeleton of ledgers, joists, beams, and posts. At this completion, one might be ready for a “rough frame” inspection.  Install the decking and you’ve got a system that will hold people up, but it won’t keep them up. There’s a critical structural component of elevated decks that’s missing.

Guards.

Guards are barriers required at the edges of raised floors that help keep us from falling off.  They can be rails, cables or pipes. They can be wood, metal, vinyl, or glass. They can be benches, planter boxes, outdoor kitchens, or privacy walls.  Architecturally, they can be practically anything that meets the minimum height, maximum openings, and minimum structural capacity. Indeed, guards are part of the deck structure.  Table 301.5 requires a live load resistance of 200 lbs. in any direction along the top of the guard, but stops there. There is no guidance in the code for how to achieve this.

NADRA supported a proposal with others in the Deck Code Coalition to change that.  After many meetings with discussions ranging from a complete detail of guard construction to not adding anything, compromise (which is not a negative thing) and shared perspectives led us to common ground.  The proposal would prohibit a few notorious problems and provide some general language about the load path. This would be a good start. This is proposal RB185-19, and it was approved at the IRC Committee Action Hearing this March.  Here is a brief, bulleted summary of what it includes.

  • Guard posts must be connected into the deck framing, not just the outer joist or beam, where such member can rotate under load.
  • Guard posts cannot be fastened only into the end-grain of lumber.
  • Guard posts mounted on top of the deck (surface mounted) must be done according the manufacturer installation instruction and must connect to the deck framing or blocking.
  • Wood 4×4 guard posts cannot be notched at the point of connection.

While this will reduce the most egregious guard connections and make a big impact on safety, it still doesn’t provide any assurance of any guard construction capability.  That’s what proposal RB301-19 provides.

With such variety of guard design, it’s difficult to specify one method, and it risks all other designs being considered “noncompliant”.  Something common, however, to many guards is a wood post. This second guard proposal provides a handful of engineered methods to attach a guard post to wood deck framing that will meet the loads required by the IRC.  Methods using hardware and methods using only commodity fasteners are provided for design flexibility. These details are proposed for a new appendix chapter in the IRC, so they are not misunderstood as a strict requirement.  Appendix chapters are optional unless adopted as mandatory by a government. They provide guidance, and that is exactly the intent of the appendix we have proposed. This proposal was not approved at the first hearing, but we received good feedback as to why.  NADRA and the DCC members got back together and kept at it. We submitted a public comment in hopes of earning the ICC governmental membership approval this October at the Final Action Hearings.

Please support RB185-19 and RB301-19 and help us develop quality minimum standards for safe deck design and construction, while balancing affordability and freedom.

NADRA CODE UPDATE

August 14th, 2019

By: Glenn Mathewson

Proposal RB190 – Table R507.5

Through the efforts of NADRA.org and other organizations and professionals, the 2015 IRC revealed the first deck beam-sizing table (Table R507.5) to ever be included in a US model code.  It provides maximum spans of simple deck beams based on different loading, species, profiles, and number of plies of common lumber.  It was a welcome addition for building departments that have long struggled to approve deck designs without requiring an engineer and without having to develop their own span tables, as many had done.  The American Wood Council (AWC) created their popular document, DCA6, to help alleviate this problem and provide pre-engineered design tables.  These tables would become the 2015 provisions, and still today the AWC provides the engineering for most of the new deck structural provisions.  For contractors working in regions not utilizing the DCA6, the new tables came as a little shock.  In comparing the beams spans that have been acceptable, the new IRC tables cut them down dramatically.  Why?

Creating a pre-engineered design table is not necessarily simple, specifically for beams.  To provide a maximum allowable beam span, the load the beam is supporting has to be known.  In its most simple form, a beam supports joists of the same length and carries half that length.  A ledger, presumably, is carrying the other half.  Those same joists, however, could cantilever beyond the beam, and the beam would support the entire load of the cantilever.  This is just one design variable of many.  A beam could be at an angle and support a non-uniform load along its length, or it could be supporting joists spanning from both sides.  Currently none of those variables are provided in the code.

Why did many allowable beam spans suddenly reduce with the new code?  The table is calculated on the assumption that every beam is supporting maximum-cantilevered joists.  In many cases, joists can cantilever beyond the beam up to 1/4 their span, and that’s a lot of added load…load that is being designed for every time, whether there or not.  Consider a deck with a 12 ft. joist span and no cantilever.  The beam is actually carrying 6 feet of joist, but the code is sizing it as if it’s carrying 9 ft., because it’s assuming the maximum allowable 3 ft. joist cantilever is there.  If you did cantilever the joist the maximum distance, the table is accurate.  If you didn’t, your beam spans are unnecessarily restricted…significantly.  Okay—Let’s fix that!

The NADRA proposal RB190 adds a footnote to the beam span table with a set of modifiers.  The modifiers allow you to alter the input “joist span” in the beam span table based on different percentages of joist cantilever from zero to one-fourth.  Included are cantilevers of 1/12, 1/10, 1/8, 1/6, and the maximum 1/4 of the joist span.  Currently, a (2) 2×10 southern pine beam supporting a 12 ft. joist span is restricted 7 ft. – 4 in., REGARDLESS of whether the joists cantilever or not.  With RB190’s modifiers, if the joists don’t cantilever, the 12 ft. span can be multiplied by .66 to yield an equivalent span of 8 ft.  Using this value in the table results in an accurate maximum beam span of 9 ft.  That’s no small margin from the current 7 ft. – 4 inch maximum!  There is no reason not to allow beams to be sized for their actual loads, and possibly reduce some costs or visually obstructive posts from our neighbors’ backyards.

Proposal RB190 was prompted by NADRA, developed with the help of the Deck Code Coalition, and engineered by the American Wood Council.  It is solid engineering in a solid concept.  It was approved at the Committee Action Hearings with no opposition.  There is good reason to believe it will make it through the last part of the ICC code development process, the Final Action Hearing.

Please support proposal RB190 and let’s maintain an appropriate balance between safety, design freedom, and affordability. 

Please contact NADRA for any questions or concerns regarding this proposal.  We welcome your conversation. You can send an email to Info@NADRA.org

NADRA Code Update

July 3rd, 2019

By: Glenn Mathewson

To finish a marathon, you’ve got to push through the last mile.  Such is the same with developing a new edition of the International Residential Code.  Thousands of people are currently running a marathon toward the 2021 IRC, and though they are halfway through, there’s no telling who (or who’s proposals) will make it to the finish line.  While it’s too soon to start cheering, it’s not to soon to feel confident and strong, and that’s how the NADRA and Deck Code Coalition proposals are looking.

With the publishing of the final report from the Committee Action Hearings, the public can not only see the results of the hearing, but also a summary of the comments made by the committee.  There are three result categories, but since those aren’t “final” results, the comments should be the focus.  The committee comments could be looked at as spectators cheering on or booing the runners.  They provide direction, encouragement, and suggestions, much like “you got this! Keep going! You’re so close”.  Unfortunately, sometimes the comments can feel more like “you’re never going to make it! Give up now!  You look so tired!”

The race is not over until you pass the finish line, and sometimes people get a second wind.  That’s what the next phase of the code modification process can offer—a second chance.  Regardless of the committee result, every proposal can receive a public comment modification, and if received, the proposal will be heard again at the final hearings, where a final vote will be made…but not really.  The final vote is actually made online a few weeks after the hearing.  In this vote, only governmental ICC members can cast the final thumbs up or thumbs down.   These members could vote down a proposal approved by the committee, and likewise, the members could turn around a proposal disapproved by the committee.

Public comments to the committee results are due July 24th and these will be the catalyst for the next step in the process.  A proposal that does not receive a public comment is almost certain to be finalized as-is in the “bulk vote” where the governmental members vote for the entire package of proposals.  Having not received any disagreement from the public, the assumption is that the committee opinion is good to go.  Here is the part to pay close attention to:

If the committee result for a proposal is not challenged by July 24th, consider it done.  If there is something you don’t like, silence is equivalent to support.

So let me put it this way…  “Speak now or forever hold your peace”.

Okay…that’s not exactly true, but you would have to hold it until the 2024 IRC code development hearings where everything is on the table again.

Thanks to select NADRA members that have financially supported NADRA representation in the code modification process, I am working alongside other professionals in the Deck Code Coaltion and we are preparing public comments.  We are running this marathon until the end.  I hope you are on the sidelines cheering us on.  Here are the results and comments from the Committee Action Hearings that have us in a runner’s high.  You can view all the Group B ICC documents and the live video from the Group B hearing at this link:  https://www.iccsafe.org/products-and-services/i-codes/code-development/

RB184: Disapproved

Committee Reason:  There were multiple corrections expressed in a modification that the committee felt was too extensive. The wording in Section 507.4 is confusing. The committee urges that the corrections should be brought forward in a public comment. The collaborative effort, and inclusion of engineers in the effort, was a positive aspect for this proposal. (Vote: 10-1)

RB185: Approved As Modified

Committee Reason: The modification to Section R507.10.1.2 removed ‘approved’ because this adjective cannot be applied to manufacture’s instructions. The modification to Section to R507.10.2 reworded the two sentences for clarity. The modification to Section R507.10.4 removes ‘approved’ because this would be confusing to the homeowner. The proposal provided good general prescriptive language for guards that will reduce the need for engineering of guards. The committee had several suggestions for better wording that should come forward in a public comment: Add ‘also’ to Section R312.1.4; ‘design’ instead of ‘construction’ in Section 507.10; revise ‘prevent’ to ‘limit’ in Section R507.10.1.1; joists are part of the deck framing, so the language in Section R507.10.1 is confusing. (Vote: 9-2)

RB186: Approved As Modified

Committee Reason: The modification restores rivets and puts in the term ‘glulam’ to be consistent with the term used in ASTM F1667. Adding the Class D is appropriate for this product. (Vote: 11-0)

RB187: Approved As Submitted

Committee Reason: The committee felt that the overall proposal is a good reorganization that add clarity to the code requirements. Item 3 in Section R507.3.3 is an alternative means that is currently allowed in Chapter 1. (Vote: 11-0)

RB188: Approved As Submitted

Committee Reason: This revision will clarify the engineering option for deck beams where fastened together. (Vote: 11-0)

RB189: Approved As Submitted

Committee Reason: This change clarifies the cantilever limitations. (Vote: 11-0)

RB190: Approved As Submitted

Committee Reason: The proposed footnote allows for a design that does not use the full cantilever, which will allow for a more efficient design. If you do not use this option, the table is more conservative. The commentary should include an example. (Vote: 11-0)

RB191: Approved As Submitted

Committee Reason: The revisions add clarification to the code and allows for better design practice for wood decking. (Vote 11-0)


NADRA Code Update

May 8th, 2019

Notes from NADRA’s Code Committee Chair, Mark Guthrie:

Building codes are always going to play a critical part in the safety, growth and public perception of our industry.  NADRA recognizes this and has been dedicating an increasing amount of time and resources to better understanding and shaping the codes that we all must build to and live by.   A big part of this is our preparation and attendance at the ICC Code Hearings.

Last week, I attended the hearings along with our Technical Advisor Glenn Mathewson.  We spoke on behalf of NADRA, both “for” and “against” code proposals that have the potential to impact our future. In most cases, we were able to gain the support of the voting committee on the codes that we felt best represented the position of NADRA – safer decks built to reasonable, fact-based standards of construction.  

Other than the individual code items that we spoke to, the biggest win in my mind was that NADRA came away from this meeting as a more recognized and respected voice in a room full of the most influential and credentialed building industry professionals.  Glenn was well prepared to state our case supported by facts and passion on our behalf and it was recognized.

What follows are Glenn’s notes on the meetings.  It’s a great rundown of what we can look forward to in future codes and how to shape it with your help.  It’s well worth the read.

Update from Glenn Mathewson:

Last week, I had the honor of attending and speaking on behalf of NADRA at the International Code Council Committee Action Hearing for the creation of the 2021 International Residential Code.  

These hearings ran from 8am to 7pm, with every code topic imaginable being scrutinized, debated and voted on throughout the week.  Deck-specific proposals were scattered between more general ones. Keep in mind that many features inside a home, like stairs for instance, are also an important part of decks.  However, many proponents of change don’t necessarily realize how their proposals may impact our industry. I was there to consider and react to these, ready to defend the interests of our membership while still focusing on the deck related changes we had prepared for.

The code hearing process can be a little confusing but worth a quick explanation.  A volunteer committee of varied professionals at this stage considered testimony for and against the more than 300 modification proposals.   Their majority vote for approval or disapproval then set in motion the next phase where the public can submit changes to these proposals. All proposals that receive a public comment for modification will be deliberated again in the Final Action Hearings in October like last week’s meeting.  However, this time the final vote will be made by governmental ICC members made up mostly of local code officials from around the country.

There is still more work that needs to be done whether you agreed or disagreed with the votes taken last week.  A modification to a proposal that was approved by the committee only now requires a majority vote to become 2021 code.  To turn over a committee disapproval takes a 2/3rd majority. So, if you don’t agree with the committees vote this time, you better submit a public comment to help sway sentiment at the final hearings.  

Here is a rundown of the more significant deck-related proposals and what the committee felt about them:

RB46 & RB47 were the work of many in trying to separate guards and handrails into their own rows in the minimum live load table, and to better identify the loading direction that must be resisted.  Currently both must resist loads in all possible directions. Argument was delivered that a guard is for fall protection off an elevated floor surface and thus should not be required to be designed to support the same loads pulling back in toward the deck as those pushing out over the edge.  The committee disagreed and this one was a half win. Handrails and guards were split on the table, but the loading direction was unchanged. This is still a good first step that will allow future work to better identify the loads they must each resist.

RB50 was a serious proposal suggesting that all decks be built to a minimum 60 psf live load, rather than the current 40 psf.  However, to achieve this, the proposal required a using the 70 psf snow load tables in a different proposal by NADRA and the Deck Code Coalition (DCC).  Luckily, after much deliberation, the committee decided this was not appropriate and the proposal was disapproved. After the decision, I reached out to the proponent and invited them to discuss their concerns in deck live loads with us.  There are many with ideas and experience in decks and they cannot be dismissed. NADRA stands by collaboration as the only way to appropriately develop the future codes of our industry.

RB106 suggested a strict method of constructing stairs, including stringer cuts, spans and spacing, securing to a concrete landing, and details for connecting the stairs at the top.  The proposal is not a surprise, as the absence structural code provisions for how to build stairs is well known. However, the suggestions in RB106 just didn’t represent very much flexibility and needed more work.  We spoke against this proposal and it was disapproved.

There were many other proposals with minor impacts that we spoke to in support and opposition, and in nearly all cases the committee voted in the manner we had hoped.  On the last full day of testimony, the proposals that NADRA and the DCC have spent months developing were heard.

RB184 was our largest proposal and offered new design tables for sizing deck structural members.  The new tables expanded the current 40 psf live load to 50, 60 and 70 psf snow loads options.  This would allow many more regions to use the prescriptive design method in the IRC. This proposal also included critical alterations to the footing table, such as reducing the minimum 14-inch diameter pier currently in the IRC to as small as 8-inch diameter for small decks and stair landings.  It also expanded the post-sizing table to include the actual area of the deck supported and various wood species. Unfortunately, some last minute engineering tweaks had to be made to the table that was submitted and the committee didn’t feel they had sufficient time to review them. They disapproved it.  Luckily, there were no negative statements made in committee discussions and no opposition testimony. The committee encouraged us to submit the revisions as public comment so they can be thoroughly reviewed. Other attendees at the hearing, not affiliated with the DCC, stood and spoke in favor of our proposal.  There is still hope for a strong vote of approval in the Final Action Hearings.

RB185 was the most collaborated proposal of all from the DCC, as it was related to guard post installation.  Working with the many parties in the DCC, there have always been very differing opinions about how specific guard construction should be detailed in the IRC.  After much argument, disagreement, and sharing of knowledge, the members of the DCC were able to respect each other and all agree on a minimum proposal to make a step forward in safer guard construction.  We agreed to prohibit the notching of 4×4 posts and to include code language requiring a post to be secured into the adjacent framing of the deck, not just the single rim board. However, no specific hardware was specified, keeping the code generic and flexible.  The committee congratulated us a number of times for the professional manner in which we worked together. The proposal was approved.

RB187 was a pretty simple proposal to make better sense of various deck foundation types, minimum depths, and frost depth exceptions.  With the committee approval of this proposal, the code will be better presented. One clarification made was that decks attached to non-frost-protected structures, such as detached garages or sheds, will not have to themselves be frost protected.

RB190 is a proposal that makes beam design for decks much more flexible.  The current table in the IRC for sizing beams is based on the span of the joist supported by the beam, but it assumes those joists are at their maximum allowable cantilever beyond the beam.  For decks with flush beams and no cantilevered joists, the maximum beam span is incredibly conservative. We proposed a footnote modification method that will allow the table to be more flexible and alter the values based on the lesser amount of cantilever.  The example used in the proposal showed how a beam without cantilevered joists was still being limited to a maximum 7 foot 4 inches, but with our new footnote modification would actually be able to span 9 feet. The committee agreed that this was a much-needed flexibility to the table and approved our proposal.

RB 191 is a proposal based in truth, though it may not be something deck builders will be thrilled about.  None-the-less, our reputation as contributors to the code development process must remain grounded in what is most appropriate for the industry.  The maximum joists spacing of different thicknesses of wood decking is derived from an analysis method that assumes each board is spanning at least two joist bays, bearing on three joists.  This is not currently explained in the code. The provisions we proposed maintained the maximum joists spacing for decking supported on at least three joists, but reduced the maximum spacing for decking supported by only two joists.  For these short lengths, the maximum joist spacing will be approximately half. Revealing this oversight in the code maintains a high level of professionalism in our industry, yet also allowed us to craft the code in a manner that provides more assurance for sound construction, while also allowing for design freedom..

RB302 was our final proposal and it was related to the guard design collaboration.  To address concerns of building departments that have no way to approve simple, basic guard designs while not hindering the professional builders from unique guard designs, a new appendix chapter was proposed.  IRC appendix chapters must be adopted individually by a jurisdiction and are not automatically part of the mandatory code. Where not adopted, they can still be referenced as an approved manner for construction.  The proposal included specific methods for attaching guard posts that have been engineered to support the 200 lb. required design load. Assuming the committee would agree that guards don’t need to support a 200 lb. inward load, that load was not specifically addressed.  Unfortunately, that assumption was incorrect, and the committee did not approve the appendix proposal.

Overall, the contributions of NADRA and the DCC were an overwhelming success.  Our voice was heard, respected, and made a difference. It’s a voice that we can’t allow to ever go silent.  The IRC will be modified every three years, as will the IBC and the swimming pool and spa code (ISPSC), both of which have implications on decks.  There will always be a need for the deck industry to stand and speak. We have made a great impression, but there is still much work to be done to complete the 2021 IRC.

Congratulations to us all on this success,

Glenn Mathewson, MCP – NADRA Technical Advisor.

NADRA Code Update

ICC Committee Action Hearings, Group B Codes – Albuquerque, 2019:

May 2nd, 2019 Update – By: Glenn Mathewson

Deep into the IRC Committee Action Hearings. So far the deck industry has been well represented by The North American Deck and Railing Association and our friends in the Deck Code Coalition.

Preview of our accomplishments as the voice for our industry:

  • Guard and handrail load requirements were approved to be split into two columns which sets the stag to better evaluate the unique job they each do.
  • Raising the minimum design live load for decks from 40 psf to 60 psf was disapproved.

This is just the beginning of the process though, as public comments and the Final Action hearing can still change everything, MUCH work is still to be done. Please consider making a pledge today to help NADRA continue to have representation at these critical hearings. Learn more about our fundraising initiative HERE.

Today will be another long 11-hour day of testimony, but I’m proud to be here speaking on behalf of NADRA and for all those that work in decks and rails!

NADRA Code Challenge

April 11th, 2019: By Judy Verblaauw

The Challenge is on! Let’s Go NADRA Members!!! 

During the last Southeast regional meeting, Glenn Mathewson spoke about the code changes that have been proposed and what it could mean for our industry.  At the Northeast regional meeting, Bruce Verblaauw discussed the same things.  After these meetings, Decks by Kiefer, a NADRA Builder member from New Jersey, decided to challenge all other members to meet or beat his contribution of $500 to the code initiative

All contributors will receive the official 2019 NADRA “Power of One” Ambassador logo for their marketing use & will receive a shoutout on the official fundraising page.

Special thank you to the following NADRA members for contributing: 

  • NADRA Builder Member, Southeastern Underdeck Systems, LLC
  • NADRA Builder Member, C. Verblaauw & Sons, LLC
  • NADRA Builder Member, Deck and Basement Company
  • NADRA Builder Member, O’Keefe Built, Inc. 
  • NADRA Builder Member, Titan Building Products
  • NADRA Builder Member, Back to Nature Decks
  • NADRA Builder Member, Casey Fence and Deck
  • NADRA Distributor Member, Excelsior Lumber
  • NADRA Manufacturer Member, HDG Engineered Products
  • NADRA Manufacturer Member, TREX
  • NADRA Builder Member, Decks by Kiefer
  • NADRA Builder Member, DeckRemodelers.com

Stand up and help support NADRA’s efforts.  Click here to learn more and add your “2 cents” to this great cause. On this page, you will also see links for all official code updates from Glenn Mathewson.

The proposals for the creation of the 2021 IRC have been released for review and can be viewed HERE

NADRA Code Update

March, 2019

The Deck Future in the Making, By Glenn Mathewson

Professionals are now planning and strategizing their proponent and opponent testimonies for delivery at the Committee Action Hearing in Albuquerque the first week of May.  NADRA will be proudly supporting nine proposals that came together through the effort and contribution of many professionals and organizations from a variety of backgrounds, and are thus the kind of ideas that NADRA was proud to cosponsor.  For a building code to honestly and respectfully represent a civilization, the whole civilization should be invited to their creation.

NADRA invites all those with interest in deck codes to share and contribute together with us and those we work with. We strongly believe that is path to the most appropriate, minimum standard.

Here are your 2021 IRC deck-related code proposals and a simple summary:

RB50-19: Increase minimum design load for decks from 40 psf to 60 psf.  This is the proposal the decking industry must pay the greatest attention to.  It raises the minimum required design load from 40 psf, as it has been for all of time, to 60 psf.  Whether you agree with this or not, the proposal did not include any new prescriptive design tables to accommodate the increase.  Rather, they added a footnote that the 70 PSF SNOW LOAD table must be used. Ironically…this table does not yet exist. It only exists in the DCC/NADRA proposal that offers expanded design tables for regions with greater snow loads, such as 50, 60 & 70 psf.

Our proposal was intended to allow the IRC to be used for design in the few pockets of the country with large snow loads.  RB50-19 takes the largest of those snow loads AND APPLIES IT TO THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.  Florida would be building decks as they are built in the Rocky Mountains.  Denver would be building decks equivalent to the live load combined with the snow load.  When is the last time you had people shoulder to shoulder on a deck with multiple feet of snow?

The second proposal that appears to have the greatest impact on the decking industry is RB106-19.  This proposals offers new prescriptive requirements for deck stair construction, including the minimum remaining cut of stringers, number of stringers, securing and bearing area, and maximum span of stringers.  The remaining proposals certainly need our review and I believe can certainly use our contribution, whether in support or in opposition—with included constructive criticism.

These remaining proposals have some effect on the decking industry, and should be reviewed by the industry.  I will be providing my recommendations to NADRA, but now is the time for YOU to speak up. Do you support these proposals? …Do you not?  Are you going to do anything with that opinion?…Or will you not?

RB20-19:  New definition for a “porch” including specifics regarding its separation from the dwelling and conditioning of the space.

RB59-19:  Requirement to extend the fire-resistance rated wall that separates townhomes to a height of 8 feet above a rooftop deck.

RB97-19:  New limitations and requirements for emergency escape and rescue opening covers.

  • Could prohibit extension and termination of window wells up to deck levels
  • Requires cover to remain open upon opening
  • Limits weight of cover to 25 lb.

RB99-19: Requires the minimum 36-inch high path under a deck from an escape opening to now also be a minimum of 36 inches wide.

RB105-19 & 106-19:  Clarifies that only stairs and ramps connected to a building, porch, or deck must comply with code.

RB112-19: Reduces the maximum stair rise from 7 ¾ inches to 7 inches and increases the minimum tread depth from 10 inches to 11 inches.

RB113-19:  Allows an exterior stair landing that is also critical to water drainage to slope up to 1:48 from the previous ¼:48 limit.

RB114-19:  Allows a continuous handrail to be interrupted or offset by up to 6 inches and still be considered continuous.

RB116-19: Removes all provisions regarding stairway geometry and references an NFPA document for the requirements.

RB118-19: Removes reference to “walking surfaces” for required guards and replaces with the term “floors”

RB119-19: Requires ALL guards to be a minimum of 36 inches high.  Currently only “required” guards must be this high.

RB136-19: Removes the provision that requires the building official to determine if local experience demonstrates a need for decay resistances of deck framing and replaces it with a direct requirement for decay resistance where the deck is not protected from the weather.

RB192-19: Expands the allowable band joist material for ledger connections from specific species to any code-compliant engineered wood rim board.

If you are in the decking industry, we need your help.  The ideas are being discussed and the rules are being made.  You shouldn’t stand on the sidelines any longer. We need you in the game. There are two ways you can help in a big way:

1. Offer your monetary support: To contribute to the fundraising initiative, follow this link here to see what our goal and how the funds are being used to keep this effort moving forward.

2. Offer your time: To volunteer time, please email Info@NADRA.org and we will work with you and the code committee to see how we can best utilize your skills – most likely, helping to review the proposals in March.

The proposals for the creation of the 2021 IRC have been released for review and can be viewed HERE.

Successful Southeast NADRA Meeting

The Springtime NADRA event was an overwhelming success. Held at Six Bridges Brewing in Johns Creek, Georgia, some 50-60 industry professionals gathered for a great Monday night kickoff into what promises to be an exciting year for everyone. It was great seeing so many familiar faces all in one place, and encouraging to see a handful of first-time attendees!

Our guest speaker was Glenn Mathewson, who generously gave of his time to share with us the importance of staying engaged with the ever-changing deck code. Afterwards, he made himself available to anyone who had questions or concerns, providing great insight from an insider’s perspective on the goings-on in code development.

We were thrilled to see such a good turnout, and are excited to get together again soon!

I’m was so excited to be the guest speaker for the Southeast NADRA meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. My job was to get these deck professionals pumped up for my representation of the decking industry this year for the development of the 2021 IRC. Your voices are critical to development of the codes of their industry, and you need to know your value in safeguarding the public with the most appropriate and economical standards to preserve safety and American freedom. I’m so proud to carry your voice this year. There is incredible knowledge from the trenches that must be included in code development.

We spoke a bit about NADRA education and the code fundraising initiative. 

Special thank you to the following NADRA members for contributing to the 2019 Code Initiative:

  • NADRA Builder Member, Southeastern Underdeck Systems, LLC
  • NADRA Builder Member, C. Verblaauw & Sons, LLC
  • NADRA Builder Member, Deck and Basement Company
  • NADRA Builder Member, O’Keefe Built, Inc. 
  • NADRA Builder Member, Titan Building Products
  • NADRA Builder Member, Back to Nature Decks
  • NADRA Builder Member, Casey Fence and Deck
  • NADRA Distributor Member, Excelsior Lumber
  • NADRA Manufacturer Member, HDG Engineered Products
  • NADRA Manufacturer Members, TREX
  • NADRA Builder Members, Decks by Kiefer
  • NADRA Builder Member, DeckRemodelers.com

To learn more about NADRA’s initiative in code, or to make a contribution today, please visit the fundraising and updates page HERE.