Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


What is it with kids and ladders?

We have all heard about how the building codes are a “minimum” standard.

One of my favorite examples is related to guards (barriers).  Guards are required at decks, balconies, stairs and other similar areas where protection against falls is required. There is lots to know about guards and today I only want to discuss my beef with a particular approved type of guard.

The ladder type guard.

Ladder guards
A ladder-guard is just like what it sounds like.  Instead of vertical balusters to divide the space, the space dividers are horizontal, thus creating what amounts to a “ladder.”  Of course no kid is ever tempted by a ladder so what is the big problem you ask?

Well, besides offering up a tantalizing jungle-gym for any small child, what can often make the issue even worse is when that ladder is made of stretched wires.

ladder guards

The codes state that the openings cannot be greater than 4 inches.  The wires in this railing were spaced 3 inches apart so what is the problem?  The problem is that the wires could be easily stretched to create openings of greater than 4 inches. 
ladder guard
So now, not only is this a climbing hazard, it has become a strangulation hazard for small children and pets.

So why are these kinds of guards still allowed?

Apparently because looks wins over logic.

The jurisdictional inspectors might argue that the installation actually does not meet code because the spaces can be stretched to more than 4 inches, but that would be the same jurisdictional inspectors that likely signed off on this installation.

Even if the wires are so tight that they cannot be stretched to more than 4 inches, they still amount to a nice ladder.

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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6 commentsCharles Buell • March 01 2015 01:42PM
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