Deck and Outdoor Staircase Railing Regulations

In order to make sure your project doesn’t get hung up and delayed by failing to pass inspections, it’s important to understand the regulations for railing installed both on your deck and your outdoor staircases. Regulations enforce safety standards regardless of appearance, but that doesn’t mean the beauty of your outdoor space needs to be compromised.

We’ve outlined some basic guidelines below to help you understand how to best design your railing to fit your aesthetic needs while still following the laws. If you’re soon to be a Cascade Fence and Deck customer, then we’ll take care of it for you!


Deck Height

This one’s easy. If the deck is 30 inches or higher above ground, then you will need railing. The minimum height requirement for residential decks is 3 feet (36 inches) tall.


Rail Post Spacing

Regulation requires that rail posts are spaced at a minimum of 4-8 feet apart for stability and strength. The exact space is determined by the material used, but here are some standards to go by:

  • Standard Aluminum Pickets
    Aluminum is tuff stuff, so it can be spaced out as far as 6 feet.
  • Aluminum Cable Rail Pickets
    Unlike standard aluminum railing, cable railing has a much shorter maximum width allowance at only 4 feet.
  • Vinyl Railing
    Vinyl railing is the longest of the materials, coming in at a maximum space of 8 feet! That’s when both the bottom and top rails are reinforced, which is the way we prefer.


Staircase Railing

Staircases are commonly included on deck projects, so let’s not forget those! Code requires that there be a continuous graspable handrail down at least one side of the staircase, and that the height of the railing should be 34-38 inches above the nosing of the treads.


State Regulations

That’s a decent general overview to get you started. These are just basic guidelines—every state has different laws, so if you’re going full DIY then make sure to check your local listing for the official requirements. We have included both Washington and Oregon’s deck railing regulations below:



No time to stress over regulations? Contact us to get started on an estimate for your new project.