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

Here’s a run down of proposals likely to be submitted Jan. 7th with the combined support of nearly all the contributors of the Deck Code Coalition.  I am proud of NADRA for being a part of this support.

By Glenn Mathewson

At the annual meeting in October, it was announced that I was prepared to work for NADRA and the decking industry to represent them in the development of the 2021 International Residential Code.  I know it’s hard for most to wrap their heads around the idea of changing the 2018 code already, considering it doesn’t even have widespread adoption yet. That’s why you’ve hired me, and I’ve already gotten to work.  The best place to begin that work was to contribute to the Deck Code Coalition, an unofficial coalition of the most powerful interests in deck code. Organizations such as the NAHB, SMA and AWC are involved. Code officials from multiple ICC chapters, product manufacturers, engineering firms, and many other professionals from various backgrounds are also there.  Where is there? It’s an imaginary campfire with all interests sitting around together, sharing, talking, contributing, arguing at times, but yet no one has been thrown in the fire. This is how code should be developed, with the overall interest being the people…the end user. I believe the efforts thus far, thanks to those members that have financially contributed, have been more successful than I expected.  

Here’s a run down of proposals likely to be submitted Jan. 7th with the combined support of nearly all the contributors of the Deck Code Coalition.  I am proud of NADRA for being a part of this support.

Are you shocked by the new minimum14-inch diameter footing/pier required in the 2018 IRC?  If you haven’t heard, even the four footings under that small stair landing must be 14 inch.  We expressed our concerns of this to the DCC and the American Wood Council (AWC) agreed and re-engineered new minimum footing diameters for the table.   How does a minimum 8-inch diameter sound for those little landing? Well, that’s what is being proposed and supported by the DCC. Had NADRA not expressed our concerns, no one was going to address it.  The AWC deserves a big thank you for their engineering work.

The new beam, joist and post sizing tables first included in the 2015 IRC only handled regions with up to a 40 psf snow load.  Through significant effort from the AWC, new larger tables have been engineered to handle snow loads of 50, 60 , and 70 psf. This new code, if included in the IRC, won’t help out for all regions, but for the snowier regions that were left with nothing but job-specific engineering, this provides a much more affordable design option.

Poorly written code is hard to understand, makes the industry it addresses look ignorant, and lends itself to inconsistent interpretation.  Changes to the exceptions for footing sizes and frost protection were left pretty messy in the 2018 IRC. A proposal that reorganizes those provisions will make the code much easier to read and understand.  While this may not seem like a big deal to many, rest assured, it’s worthwhile work.

Guards and handrails are like peanut butter and jelly, they are completely different, but often end up in the same sandwich.  Guards along stairs may include a handrail feature at the top, or they may support a handrail at the side, but serve a different function and must resist different loads and load directions.  The IRC has always lumped these two features together in the load table that specifies the load and load directions they must resist. With recent testing and validation for guard strength, manufacturers and others have published many details for how to build guards.  NADRA has long stood that before work is done to design guards to resist the code-specified minimum loads, those loads should be re-evaluated. In my research of minimum guard loading over the last 5 decades, it’s clear to see that the target loads have been a “best guess”.  After attending a meeting with the American Society of Civil Engineers (the authority on design loads) and supporting efforts by the NAHB, we are proud that a proposal to separate guards and handrails in the load table and address the direction of loading for guards more specifically will be submitted by the DCC in January.

On the same subject of guard loading, we have worked diligently to help other interests in deck code understand what we understand about guard design.  It’s creative and unique and that’s what “the people” want. Reputable professionals have a strong motivation to see a specific guard post connection detail illustration with proprietary hardware devices in the pages of the IRC.  The intent is good natured and understandable. Inspectors have long had nothing but a push on guards as their measure of code compliance (safety), and that can leave anyone with that responsibility a little uneasy. They too see the news of the failing decks across our country.  This is respectable and understandable. However, builders are equally uneasy about another “picture” being put in the code that appears to universally require proprietary hardware and a specific method for post attachment. Remember the lateral load anchor? How can you forget? It’s false flag and illusion of a complete lateral load design have forever changed the industry, and still today, 10 years later, it’s only “permitted” not “required”.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and for many inspectors there’s no need to read the permissive words if the seemingly required picture is there. We can’t see this happen to guards the same way it happened to ledgers.

The will to address poorly built deck guards in the IRC is strong and has made two attempts at guard structural design code in the last two editions.  To do this work respectably, no one should have everything their way. While NADRA has incredible experience with boots on the ground, we don’t know it all.  If we appreciate the experience from other professionals when we agree, then we must also respect their experiences when we disagree. With this humble philosophy comes respectable code.  Code that was carried to the hearings in many loving arms is far greater than code pushed in with singular, selfish power. Compromise has to be made by all, so NADRA took the first step. To respect the concerns of others and hope they return it with respect for ours, we entertained new code language to prohibit some of the notoriously insufficient guard designs.  Minimum 4×4 posts for guards will eliminate some shoddy 2×4 posts that can be found. Notching of 4×4 posts in guard construction has been done for all of time, and though it works in some rare cases, it generally does not. Research has been done on this subject, and the proof is pretty clear. To help show our willingness to address this common mode of guard failure, NADRA has thus far agreed to support a prohibition of notching 4×4 guard posts.  Other proposed code language includes clear instruction that the guard posts must be secured to adjacent joists and transfer the loads into the whole deck, not just the rim joist. We were careful this language didn’t specify “blocking” that could interfere with deck drainage systems. We also made sure to exclude any mention of proprietary hardware.

It was our hope that by taking the first step to compromise and draft code language to address guard safety we would encourage others of the same teamwork and they would withdrawal their proposal for a “picture”.  Unfortunately…we were unsuccessful. Though the DCC was able to agree on 6 proposals, including the one we compromised in, select members have announced they will still propose the “picture” and we must battle it out at the hearings.  To say I’m disappointed is an understatement, and to say I didn’t lose a little respect for those professionals would be a lie. The code must represent all professional experiences and be the best mix of them all. Period. The professionals contributing to the DCC bring enough experience and spent enough time sharing it together, that any proposal that could not be agreed upon by all, is a proposal unfit for the hearing and for the code.  Period. No exceptions. In bringing the voice of the decking industry to the code development process, we must do it with as much respect and understanding as possible, and we can only hope to receive it in return. Alas, NADRA will need to take that message to the hearing and be sure the attendance knows that the guard picture proposed next year is lacking the support of many professionals.

Now for the bad news… Helping with these 6 proposals is only a slice of the work to be done.  They are simply the proposals we could contribute to before the hearings. On January 7th of next year, thousands of pages of proposals will be submitted and they will likely contain many deck-related proposals we have yet to know anything about.  NADRA must be prepared to comb through these proposals when they are published in March. I’ve heard some rumors of two proposals to expect. One to require the same additional load on deck boards that stair treads must resist.  Notice how with most plastic composite lumber you can’t span as far on stair treads as you can for deck boards? A max 16-inch span for decking is often reduced to 12 inches on stairs, but not if that proposal wins. Of course every single max span you have come to know could change with this next one.  A proposal from a powerful proponent is likely to be submitted, one that would raise the minimum design live load of 40 psf to 60 psf, but just for decks. Not the floor inside the house.

Did you hear those last two?  Ready to change all your design norms?  Ready to retest all your manufactured decking?  Are you ready for singular powers that don’t manufacture, sell, or build decks to tell you how to do it? When was the last time you had a deck built to 40 psf collapse under load? Not due to some construction flaw.

These last few months of 2018 have proven the necessity for NADRA to have funding to represent the industry in code, but the work has hardly begun. Much is still needed of the membership if NADRA is to continue contributing to this work. Your help is needed.

To support NADRA’s important Code initiative, please visit and share our code fundraising page and consider contributing today. 

Thank you for your support! 

Viance’s, Chris Kollwitz talks about AWPA Modifications

We wanted to thank the entire NADRA organization for the opportunity to meet with some of the leading deck builders in the industry, at NADRA’s regional meeting in Atlanta.

As beautiful custom wood framed decks and outdoor projects are constructed by NADRA members, they should be guided by the latest, most accurate information available.

Recent updates to the 2016 American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) Use Category System for treated wood, which include modifications to the section that outlines proper applications of Above Ground (UC3B) and Ground Contact (UC4A) treated wood, are causing some confusion in the industry.

Unfortunately, some retailers and wood treatment companies have misinterpreted the language to mean that only ground contact lumber meets the updated AWPA Use Category System standard for deck framing applications. That is not the case.

When it comes to residential decks projects, here’s what you need to know.

  • Despite what some in the industry are communicating, the AWPA U1 Use Category System (UCS), and the IRC® and IBC® building codes continue to allow Above Ground (UC3B) treated wood for common deck applications.
  • There is NO requirement to use Ground Contact materials for ALL Above Ground decks.
  • Above Ground (UC3B) wood treated under the AWPA U1 standards remains Code Compliant for deck framing, joists, beams, decking surfaces and railing systems, while using the appropriate amount of preservatives required to protect the wood from decay and termite attack.
  • Look for the CheckMark® on treated wood end tags. Only wood treated to the AWPA standards is third-party inspected and bears the CheckMark® of quality on end tags. Be sure to use products endorsed with the CheckMark logo.
  • Viance has reaffirmed its warranty coverage on treated wood products, and will continue to extend the terms of its Lifetime Limited Warranty for Above Ground (UC3B) treated wood products when used properly.
  • The preservative levels required to meet the AWPA UC4A ground contact standard not only increases the likelihood of higher project expense through more expensive wood, it also increases the chemical needed to complete projects. Above ground treated wood remains code compliant for most common decking applications while using the appropriate amount of preservative to ensure performance. Why use more chemicals than necessary?

To learn more about the revisions to the AWPA-UCS standard and why Above Ground treatments are still the best choice in treated wood, visit www.treatedwood.com/options. Viance is an ICC Preferred Education Provider and offers an accredited Continuing Education Course (CEU) course: Code Compliant Treated Wood for Residential Deck Construction

We are happy to review any questions you may have, email them to codequestions@viance.net.

Thank you

Chris Kollwitz

Christopher Kollwitz

Viance – Treated Wood Solutions

Director of Marketing

NADRA member since 2009

Contact Info:

Email: ckollwitz@viance.net

Office: 800-421-8661

 Over 30 Years Building Products Sales and Marketing with a focus on process improvement, product training, merchandising, events and business development programs.

  • 8 Years with Hechinger Co. in Washington DC
  • 14 years with Georgia-Pacific Building Products
  • 8 years with Viance – Treated Wood Solutions.
  • Currently responsible for the development and management of Viance marketing initiatives and execution.

Your Future; This Week

October 1st, 2013

Your Future; This Week

As this hits your inbox, I’m likely in route to Atlantic City, New Jersey to represent, support and defend the decking industry.  This week, your future will be decided in the 2015 International Residential Code.  On my last day to prepare before leaving Colorado, I’m nervous, but excited.  Most of all, I’m proud.  I’m proud because we’ve achieved one of the most important aspects of code development…recognition.  The code development process is complicated, cumbersome, and difficult just at published face value, but there is also a professional, dare I say social, aspect to it.  Recognition, respect and trust are vital to this work.  Here is where I feel NADRA has succeeded, and this will be the foundation for all code development work now and into the future.  Every year this process occurs for different codes, and every three years for the IRC.

There’s a lot at stake this year in code development.  Will you be installing hold-downs on every guard post, or will you be free from installing them on every ledger?  Will all decks be outright prohibited from within 5 feet of property lines?  Will there finally be joist, beam and post sizing provisions available to ease design validation?

What won’t be at stake this year is NADRA.  We have demonstrated our commitment to our vision and mission statement for code development, and we have been appreciated for it.

Vision: Safe decks with well-thought-out engineering and a common sense practical approach to code requirements.

Code Mission Statement: To advance and protect industry interests in the code development arena and to promote member involvement; to promote governmental and agency reliance on NADRA as a voice for the industry; to create and maintain relationships with key government agencies and code officials; to be a forum for the discussion, study, and investigation of proposed and existing model code development, federal and state legislation and programs, and to report such findings to the Board of Directors and the Membership.

We have contributed heavily to an informal discussion group regarding deck codes and during the committee hearings in May.  We have worked with other professionals and organizations on shared proposals, and we have provided assistance to proposals of others.  We have made it clear that we are here, ready and willing to be a part of any discussion, work, or progress regarding the standards of the decking and railing industry.  We expect to be a part of it.

While we may not exactly know the course the decking industry is sailing, we are in the pilot’s cabin.  However the votes go on Thursday and Friday of this week, we know that we we’re heard and respected.  We ARE the voice of the decking industry, and we have been and will continue to speak.  However, we are also the ears of the industry, as we cannot speak for it without first listening the to all segments.  With no cards up our sleeves and no hidden agendas, we have opened ourselves up to listen and respond honestly to all that are willing to share their opinions, ideas, concerns and experiences.  We have asked for compromise and mutual understanding.  We have encouraged learning from each other and finding common ground.  We have respected the segments of the industry, all of which deserve such, and regardless of our agreement or not.

This has been a good year for NADRA in code development, and I am proud to have been at the heart of it.  Thank you, NADRA members and the industry at large, for your support of my work, our work.  Thank you for trusting me with this job.

I’ll do my best to keep you informed on hearings live through my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but you can certainly expect a full recap after the hearings…after a long nap.

Glenn Mathewson, MCP

NADRA Technical Advisor