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How High Can A Deck Be Before You Need A Railing

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  • 10-02-2022
How High Can A Deck Be Before You Need A Railing

If you are installing decking in your garden, you may ask: how high can a deck be before you need a railing? We look at the safety requirements in the UK for decking installation and height.

Should I Have A Decking Balustrade

When you install a new deck, you want to ensure that the design and construction are not only safe for your family but meet UK building regulations. As the deck surface can become slippery during the rainy and winter months, the ground level of the deck floor can become a health hazard.

Installing a decking balustrade or railing is becoming a popular option, and it can be done to help you save money. There are some construction and regulation points you need to consider before installing a deck railing, such as the platform height and point load, but this article will explain all of those if you're considering installing deck railings at your home.

Building deck railings are on the rise among homeowners, and the materials you can build them from are becoming more versatile.

Metal and glass balustrades are common, as railings are more than a safety feature and add to the overall aesthetic of the deck stairs and surrounding areas.

They can increase curb appeal for multifamily buildings and older properties as long as the code requirements have been followed and deck railing height is considered. 

How High Can A Deck Be Before You Need A Railing?

Deck Terminology

Understanding the terminology used and building code when considering deck construction is essential, as they can cost a lot of money and installing one may be a great choice but can harm your family and children if done so incorrectly. The maintenance and components of your deck need continued support, so you must ensure you know what you're talking about when discussing with a contractor or other professional.

Here are some deck code terminology you should familiarise yourself with:

Guard Rails

These are the bars that run horizontally along the landing or another flat area and are sometimes referred to as simply a guard. They are notably different from a railing in the code guideline definitions but perform similar functions. 


A railing is a variation of a guard that protects (most commonly) stairways, running along the incline of a staircase. 


The ground level that joins the deck from the surrounding area is called the grade. 'Above grade' and 'below grade' are used to define a structure above or below ground level. 


In terms of decking, a baluster is a post that runs between the guardrail and railing, designed to stop people from falling off. These are especially useful for preventing children from being harmed and can protect more than a horizontal guard or an angled railing. 

Should I Have A Decking Balustrade

Low-Rise Decks

You may also know these as ground-level and floating decks, as they don't rise higher than 30 inches above ground level. Low-rise deckings do not require guardrails and are exempt from such requirements. Building permits are sometimes not needed for such builds but consult your Local Planning Authority (LPA) before attempting work. 


The vertical distance from a stair tread to the following one is called a rise. A stair tread is the horizontal part of the step that will be stood on. 


With deck stairs, you place your foot and stand on the flat part of the staircase, which is called a tread.  

What Height Does My Decking Railing Need To Be In The UK?

Despite being decorative, your decking railings do need to adhere to certain UK building regulations and guidelines. These generally only apply to commercial properties and builds, but you would also be wise to implement these safety measures into your domestic properties.

There is no straightforward answer as to how high the decking railing must be, as it follows the height of the deck itself. This is how low-rise deckings do not need them for the same reason that patios do not. Regardless of height, 100mm gaps are not to be advised, and this is the benchmark you should adhere to. 

If you have low-level decking, which is raised 300mm off the ground, then you must have railings that are a minimum of 900mm higher than the existing decking. The balustrade will support the handrail, which will result in the lowest profile possible while meeting UK building regulations,s which you wouldn't achieve with the handrail on the side.

This is only true for domestic properties, as a commercial decking must have a handrail at least 1100mm higher than the deck, giving less room for manoeuvrability. High-level decks and mid-span do have their own IRC requirements to follow. If you do not meet code requirements on decking, then you will have to remove the installation and be liable for a fine.

What Height Does My Decking Railing Need To Be In The UK?

In domestic properties, when the decking is higher than 300mm off the ground, you must also have a balustrade fixed to 1100mm.

Unlike with commercial properties, the railing doesn't have to be higher than 900mm regardless of this size.

Commercial decks attached to the property do require their own set of rules, and you will need railings installed if you have more than two stairs.

Commercial decks attached to the property do require their own set of rules, and you will need railings installed if you have more than two stairs.  A building inspector can ensure that all safety measures are being followed. 

Types of Railings

Despite what you may believe, there are many types of railings available to you, and they can match the style and aesthetic of your home and garden.

Whether you are looking for a traditional decking, modern decking or something more industrial, you can do this as long as you receive consent from Building Regulations. 

Stainless Steel

Deckings made from stainless steel can give a uniform and sleek look. It can be affordable for homeowners and prove sturdy and long-lasting against the elements.

Composite Railing

Much like composite decking, this is on the rise. Composite railing mimics the look of real wood without the harm that wood can cause and the risk of splinters and paint stains. This is longer lasting than wood and is excellent for environmental impact.

Cable Railing

These can provide a spotless look and are used across many interior and exterior spaces. Cable railing provides a chic aesthetic and won't prevent you from viewing your garden as you have done previously. 

Types of Railings


When it comes to decking, we spend a lot of our time maintaining them, so we want something that requires less care. Vinyl decking is low maintenance and can be colour matched to your existing decking and space. You won't deal with marks, stains and scratches as often as you do with wood, and doesn't need regular painting either.


If you're looking for something incredibly versatile, then aluminium is the railing for you. You still have customisation options with the colours and textures which fits your home's style. 

In domestic properties, you should note that stair rails should be approximately 36 inches, which is measured vertically from the nose of the tread to the top of the rail. Regardless of type, the bottom railing and the deck surface must be no more than 4 inches apart. 

Do My Deck Stairs Need Railings?

You do not need railings on your decking, depending on how high it is. In commercial decks, you will need a handrail if there are two or more stairs. If you would like railings installed, you can do so after a site inspection from a professional.

If you have stairs that are more than 1 metre wide, you will need handrails on either side of the staircase. For further information or a consultation on top rail and bottom rail requirements, please reach out to our team today via phone or email. 

Are you looking for garden decking or composite decking near you? If you require garden decking in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire contact us today. 

Our garden design experts can supply and install beautiful garden decking for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.