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Ensuring Balcony Safety in California: Compliance with Inspection Laws, Height Limitations, and Rail

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

In 2015, a tragic incident occurred in Berkley that resulted in the loss of many lives due to a faulty balcony collapse. In response to this tragedy, the state of California introduced two new balcony laws, namely SB326 and SB721. These laws require homeowners with buildings that have more than three units to get their balconies and other exterior elevated elements inspected. It's important to ensure that your balcony is safe for human use and that you are aware of any potential problems that could lead to injury. Compliance with California laws is essential, but the safety of the people who use these buildings is even more important.

In this blog post, we will be discussing balcony height limitations and codes, as well as any restrictions on railings and guardrails. After reading this post, you will have a better understanding of whether your building meets these requirements and what steps you need to take to ensure the safety of your balcony. It's important to prioritize the safety of your building's occupants and take any necessary measures to prevent any accidents or tragedies.

To begin discussing height limitations and codes for balconies, it's important to first understand the requirements for inspection. You may be wondering if your balcony needs to be inspected, and the answer is yes if it's an exterior elevated element. This doesn't just include balconies, but also porches, decks, walkways, and stairways. In California, these elements need to be inspected in order to comply with balcony laws. It's important to note that any elevated exterior element needs to be inspected if it meets certain requirements. These include being located in a building with at least 3 units, being 6 feet above the ground, designed for human use, and extending beyond the exterior walls of the building. If your balcony or any other exterior elevated element meets these requirements, then it needs to be inspected according to the law.

Moving on to railing heights and standards, it's important to note that building codes vary from case to case. Traditionally, balconies and other exterior elevated elements are required to have a railing that sits more than 30 inches above the ground. However, newer buildings may have different codes than older buildings, and some buildings may even require the balcony floor to be attached above the second or third-floor surface. It's important to review your building and the city's code to determine the specific requirements for your railing's height.

Lastly, it's important to understand the difference between guardrails and handrails. Guardrails are required on exterior elevated elements such as balconies, decks, porches, and walkways. They must reach a height of 36 inches and be placed no more than 4 inches apart. The main purpose of these rails is to protect the usage of these exterior elevated elements. Handrails, on the other hand, are a specific type of rail that is found on stairways. Handrails are a type of guardrail, but the requirements for them may be different depending on your building's code. Typically, handrails have the same requirements as traditional guardrails.

We hope our blog post has provided helpful information about complying with California Balcony Inspection laws. However, if you still have questions or concerns, we're here to help. At EEE Advisor, we are an engineering firm that specializes in California Balcony Inspection. Our team of experts can provide you with the necessary guidance and support to ensure that your building meets all safety requirements and complies with state laws.

If you're ready to schedule an inspection or have any questions, please visit our website to learn more about our services and get in touch with us. We're committed to helping you keep your building and its occupants safe, and we look forward to working with you.

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