Is it legal to install a guardrail with horizontal wire ropes in Canada? This question is often asked by our customers or people looking to modernize their deck. You have probably noticed more and more cable railings in your neighborhoods, social media, magazines, etc. In connection with this hot trend, here are some details on the standards and regulations concerning the installation of railings with horizontal stainless steel cable.
What does the national building code say about the installation of horizontal cables or ornamental elements that may encourage climbing?
The National Building Code of Canada establishes the guiding principles for the construction of various buildings and structures, including deck, balustrades and guardrails. In the latest version of the National Building Code (NBC) 2015, the provisions concerning any element that could facilitate climbing have been abolished. Here is the wording of the article in question (p.760):
In other words, the installation of a guardrail with horizontal wire ropes is authorized up to a height of 4.2 meters (13’ ¾’’). In fact, the NBC stipulates that for guardrails protecting a level located less than 4.2 m above the adjacent level, the notion of a guardrail not allowing climbing no longer applies in relation to the old version of the code. According to the 2015 National Building Code of Canada, it is therefore completely legal to install a railing with stainless steel cable horizontally up to a height of 4.2 meters (13’ ¾’’).
The majority of Canadian provinces have adopted these guidelines. For instance, the new version of the Québec Construction Code, Building chapter (NBC 2015 amended – Québec) of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec, which went into effect on January 8, 2022, consists of the National Building Code of Canada 2015, with amendments for Québec. In this version, we find the same articles regarding guardrail (see p, 781) :
The different regulations between the Canadian provinces on guardrails and balustrade cause some confusion among contractors and consumers. For some of our customers, the issue of security is paramount.
It is often claimed that this type of structure can be dangerous for children, even if the national building code recognizes that it is not a safe issue up to a height of 13'. Parental supervision is the first criterion for the protection and safety of children.
Generally speaking, to comply with building code regulations in your jurisdiction (Canada or USA), a maximum distance of 4” / 100mm must be allowed between each cable runs. In most building codes around the world, rules require that a 4” sphere should not be able to pass through any gap in a railing system.
We also remind you of the design elements to respect in the installation of a safe guardrail:
Minimum height of interior guardrail: 900mm or 36’’
Minimum height of exterior guardrail with deck surface under 1800mm or 71’’ : 900mm or 36’’
Minimum height of exterior guardrail with deck surface under 1800mm or 71’’ : 1070mm or 42''
Minimum height for pool access: 1220mm or 48’’
In any case, we recommend you check with local authorities for guardrail height requirements.