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En Garde with your Guardrails?

Guardrail Damage #1

Guardrail Damage #2

Do the pictures below resemble similar conditions to the guardrails around your building? Want to enjoy the beautiful Florida scenery, but just can’t get past the sight of those guardrails? An evaluation by a Structural Engineer may be over due. When there is doubt of a structural system’s general performance under normal service loads, an engineering assessment is required.

Visual signs that your guardrails may be reaching or has already gone beyond its life expectancy may include:

  • Corroded fasteners or rust staining around connection points
  • Large areas of oxidation
  • Loose or disconnected pickets, top rails, or bottom rails
  • Noticeable deflection when leaned upon or grasped
  • Section loss due to corrosion

The first thing you may ask is, “When am I required to have an inspection performed at my property?” According to Florida Administrative Code Rule 61C-3.001(5)(a), an inspection of the balcony areas, including stairways and railways, is required every three (3) years for a building which is 3-stories or higher and categorized as public lodging. Florida Statute 509.242 classifies a public lodging establishment as the following: hotels, motels, vacation rentals, nontransient apartments (a building or complex of buildings in which more than 25 percent of the units are advertised or held out to the public as available for transient occupancy), bed and breakfast inns, and timeshare properties.

Any building not described above is exempt of this requirement. However, that doesn’t release the duty to have an evaluation performed regularly. Ignoring signs of deterioration in a guardrail system can lead to high maintenance costs, systematic failures, or eventually become a safety issue.

It is important to know when a guardrail requires typical maintenance versus needing to be replaced. Many premanufactured guardrail systems have concealed connections and the current condition of these fasteners can’t always be adequately evaluated visually. When this condition occurs, the Engineer’s assessment may involve performing a structural analysis or an in-situ load test. Testing criteria is described in the Florida Building Code and the in-situ load tests MUST be supervised by a registered professional. BillerReinhart has the expertise and experience to provide a professional evaluation of the general performance, overall condition, and can provide recommendations to assist in your future guardrail and balcony restoration projects.

If you are having any of the described conditions above and would like to schedule a review, please feel free to contact our office.