Guard Connections at Engineered and Conventional Floor Systems

Guards can minimize the possibility of falls from an elevated surface.  If attached to a floor system that cannot resist the loads applied to the guard it will fail.  A new regulation is proposed for inclusion in the 2024 International Residential Code (IRC). This change will be on the agenda of the Code Development Hearing to be held in Rochester, NY, March 27 – April 6.

Engineering Calculations

Torsion Calculations

Rotation Calculations

Engineering Drawings

Floor Edge Bracing Details

Floor Framing Supporting Guards (8638)

IRC: R502.11 (New), R502.11.1 (New), 502.11.2 (New), 502.11.3 (New)

Proponents:  David Cooper, representing Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association (coderep@stairways.org)

Add new text as follows:
R502.11 Floor framing supporting guards..  The framing at the open edge of a floor supporting a required guard assembly not exceeding 44 in. (1118 mm) in height shall be constructed in accordance with R502.11.1 or R502.11.2 or shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice to support the guard assembly. Trusses and I-joists are prohibited as edge framing members supporting guards except where the effects of the guard loads are specifically considered in the design of the edge member.

R502.11.1 Conventional edge framing.. The framing at the edge of the floor shall consist of a solid or built-up wood member having a minimum net width of 3 inches (76mm) and a minimum net depth of 9-1/4 in. (235 mm) and shall be braced to resist rotation by roll bracing as described in 502.11.3 with a roll brace aligned with each guard post.

502.11.2 Timber edge framing.. The framing at the edge of the floor shall consist of a minimum 6×10 sawn timber or a minimum 5-1/8 in. x 9-1/4 in. (130 mm x 235 mm) glued laminated timber and shall be braced to resist rotation by roll bracing as described in 502.11.3 at intervals of 48 in. (1219 mm) or less.

502.11.3 Roll bracing.. Each roll brace shall be a joist or blocking matching the depth of the edge member and extending perpendicular to the edge member a minimum of 16 in. from the edge. Blocking shall have end connections with a minimum of six (6) – 16d common nails. Floor sheathing shall be continuous for a minimum of 24 in (610 mm) from the edge and shall be fastened to each roll brace with a minimum of twelve (12) – 10d common nails and shall be fastened to the edge member with a minimum of twelve (12) – 10d common nails within 12 inches (305 mm) of the roll brace.

Reason: The Problem:
Guards are required to transfer the outward and downward loads applied at the top of the guard to the structure. If the structure fails, the guard cannot perform its defined function to minimize the possibility of a fall. Many floor systems (both conventional and engineered) are not being designed and constructed to resist guard loads at the edge of walking surfaces where guards are required. Manufacturers and designers of  engineered floor systems (e.g., trusses and I-joists) and plan reviewers are commonly unaware of guard attachment  requirements and do not ensure that framing is adequate to support guards. Inadequate framing is commonly encountered with costly reinforcement (and possibly redesign) needed at the time of guard installation. In current practice where inadequate framing is encountered, flooring or ceilings are ripped out to install blocking to harden the edge beam for attachment of the guard. Such fixes are not engineered and, in many cases, occur after the rough inspection. The problem will persist unless a solution can be codified.

A Collaborative Formed:
The SMA surveyed our membership and found the problem to be chronic across the nation and assembled a task group representing manufacturers of, trusses, I- joists, framing and post connection hardware, and guard components as well as, home builders, guard fabricators, guard installers, stairbuilders, and others from industry at large, some 18  participants in all. About half of the team are engineers, and about half have extensive involvement in code and standard development. Meeting biweekly since early fall of 2021 this team has worked together to develop consensus upon an engineered solution presented here with two prescriptive options suitable for inclusion in the 2024 IRC.

A Prescriptive Solution:
By recommendation of the manufacturers of I-joists and trusses and consensus of the entire task group this proposal prohibits the use of I-joists and trusses as edge framing members supporting guards except where the effects of the guard loads are specifically considered in the design of the edge member. This is based upon the limited embedment of fasteners in the thickness of the joist and truss materials, open areas/voids, and surfaces where fasteners cannot be used that would weaken the component or connections between the truss/I-joist components.
Both top mount and side mount guards are suitable provided there is sufficient material to engage threaded fasteners and the edge beam/joist is not subject to rotation or torsion. Based upon calculation of the loads transferred to the structure from the top of the guard, two options are provided. (Calculations may be reviewed at the link below.)

R502.11.1 Conventional edge framing, describes the minimal thickness to resist withdrawal of fasteners and height of the edge beam/joist as that of a common double 2 x 10. Blocking/roll bracing is aligned with the post locations to resist rotation and eliminate torsion induced by guard loads.

R502.11.2 Timber edge framing, provides specifications to allow use of a thicker timber or glulam which is sized to resist torsion allowing roll bracing to be spaced at a maximum distance of 48 inches on center to alleviate the need for precise alignment of the post with the roll bracing or a joist. Although the minimum guard height in the IRC is 36 inches it is not unusual that portions of the guard, post caps, or finials extend above the guard height. We agreed that a height of 44 inches would be reasonably conservative to use for the purpose of calculating the edge beam size and roll bracing requirements. To restrict outward movement of the top of the edge beam, specific nailing of the floor sheathing is called out at the location of roll bracing. Floor sheathing must be continuous for a minimum distance from the open edge to assure the structural integrity of the bracing and edge beam. The nailing requirements for attachment of the blocking used as roll bracing to the joists prevents uplift of the blocking, and the minimum length allows it to fit into one joist bay where joist spacing is taken from the open edge of the edge beam. These details are specified in R502.11.3 Roll Bracing.

This proposal has been clearly and carefully constructed to be understood and enforced without figures referenced in the code text. We have included drawings to aid understanding among the many proposals to be considered in this cycle. The drawings submitted would however be suitable for inclusion in the commentary.

Engineering Calculations supporting this proposal can be found at this link: www.stairways.org/guard-calculations.

PLEASE SEE DRAWINGS HERE. 

Cost Impact: The code change proposal will decrease the cost of construction.  This proposal will decrease the cost of construction due to the elimination of necessary after-the-fact demolition and repair to install blocking at each post location. An average job with guards has three or more posts with 1 to 2 hours each for blocking plus repairs to finish surfaces estimated at approximately $400 – $800 in extra charges per 3 post job. This does not include any engineering fees if applicable.

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