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

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

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.