Bleacher Buying Information and FAQs


Bleacher Buying Information and FAQs


The purpose of this guide is to help you understand common bleacher terms to help you make an informed decision regarding your bleacher purchase. The owner is responsible for compliance with local building and safety codes. 

What is the desired seating capacity (Gross seats vs. Net seats)?

Gross seating capacity for bench seating is figured using 18” per seat (not including aisles) if you divide the overall length of the system by 1.5’ and then multiply by the number of rows. Example:  5 row x 15’ length bleacher – 15/1.5 = 10 seats/row x 5 rows = 50 gross seats.

Net seating capacity is also figured using 18” per seat, except only for each seating section between aisles, usually the top row is the same as overall length. Example:  5 row x 15’ length bleacher with 3’ aisle at end, =  15-3 = 12/1.5 = 8 seats/row x 4 rows = 32 + 10 seats for top row = 42 net seats.

What is the available space?

Length (left to right) when seated (viewing the event) determines the overall length of the bleacher. Depth (front to back) when seated (viewing the event) determines how many rows of seating can be used.

Are there any obstacles to consider?

Some examples include light poles, dugouts, other buildings, press boxes, etc. Determine location of obstacle from a landmark (i.e. – yard marker, home plate, etc…) and note length and depth from desired bleacher location front corner or center (left or right when seated viewing the event).

What surface will the bleachers be installed on?

Most “angle frame” bleachers require a solid level surface and require anchoring to meet wind loads. The preferred surface is a concrete slab using wedge or screw type concrete anchors. Most bleachers can also be installed on any level surface capable of supporting bleacher loads and be anchored using “auger” type anchors.

What is the difference between “Single” vs. “Double” foot plank?

A single foot plank refers to a seat row bleacher that has only (1) plank to rest your feet on. A double foot plank refers to a seat row that has (2) foot planks to rest your feet on. Some models have (1) foot plank on certain rows and (2) foot planks on other rows in the same bleacher.  

What is the difference between “anodized” and “mill finish” aluminum planks?

Mill finish planks are aluminum planks that are usually specified for foot planks and supplied without any post extrusion coating processes. These planks will oxidize, darken and stain over time and are not recommended to be used as seating. Anodized aluminum planks are usually specified for seats and are “pre-oxidized” in a controlled environment that creates a very thin clear coating that is a natural barrier to corrosion and resist staining and discoloration.

What is a riser plank?

A riser plank refers to a plank that is mounted vertically (perpendicular) to the seat and foot plank and is installed under the seat plank and behind the foot plank. The riser plank is used to close the openings (no bigger than 4” space when seat is over 30”) between the foot planks to prevent a fall to the ground and meet the building and safety codes. Risers can also be useful in preventing trash from falling through and under the bleacher. There are many different sizes, finishes and configurations used depending on the rise and run and the decking arrangement used by the manufacturer

Per ICC 300-2012, Section 311: “Where an opening between the seatboard and footboard is located more than 30” (762 mm)  above the floor or ground below, the opening shall be closed with construction such that a 4” diameter (102 mm) sphere cannot pass through.”

What does the term “rise and run” mean?

The rise of a bleacher refers to the distance (height) between rows of seat and foot planks. The run of a bleacher refers the distance (depth) between rows of seat and foot planks. Industry standards vary but the most common on bleachers are 8” rise/ 24” run, & 6’’ rise/24” run on smaller 2-4 row and Low Rise (as shown above) systems. Many other custom rise and run combinations are available to provide better line of sight and leg room for comfort. Seats with backs and chairs require more depth per row than bench seating.

Do I need to have an aisle in my bleacher?

Most bleachers require an aisle to comply with building code although some “Low Rise” bleachers are manufactured with dimensions that meet ALL the conditions listed below that do not require an aisle to meet building code.

Per ICC 300-2012, Section 405.1: “An aisle is not required in seating facilities where all of the following conditions exist.”  

  1)   Seats are without backrests.

  2)   The rise from row to row does not exceed 6 inches (152 mm) per row.

  3)   The row spacing does not exceed 28 inches (711 mm) unless the seat boards and footboards are at the same elevation.

  4)   The number of rows does not exceed 16 rows in height.

  5)   The first seating board is not more than 12 inches (305 mm) above the ground or floor below or a cross aisle.

  6)   Seat boards have continuous flat surface.

  7)   Seat boards provide a walking surface with a minimum width of 11 inches (279 mm).

  8)   Egress from seating is not restricted by rails, guards or other obstructions

What is a “Low Rise” bleacher?

A “Low Rise” bleacher is a non-elevated bleacher that generally has a lower row 1 seat height (under 12”) and a lower rise per row (6”) than a standard 8”rise per row and a 17” row 1 seat height bleacher. These models are designed to eliminate the need for guardrails and aisles to meet building codes.

What is a “Tip-N-Roll” bleacher?

A Tip-N-Roll bleacher is a commonly used term that refers to a bleacher that can be tipped up and rolled away for storage when not in use. These bleachers are designed to be used indoors when temporary seating is needed and when not in use the space can be used for other things.  Usually they are available in 2-3 & 4 row “Low Rise” models where the top seat is under 30” and do not require guardrails and can fit through standard height and width doorways.

What is the difference between a “portable” vs. “transportable” bleacher?

This is a commonly misunderstood term. Some manufacturers refer to “smaller” bleachers (up to 5 rows) as portable bleachers. Many times these bleachers are not designed to be moved and may not hold up to frequent moving without the proper mounting brackets and wheel kits.  A “transportable” bleacher is designed to be moved as frequent as necessary and accepts wheel mounting brackets and a wheel kit that can used on multiple bleachers to move them from one location to another on your grounds. These systems are generally not designed to be moved over the road, as they have a 5 mph speed limit.

Do I need a protective guardrail system for my bleacher?

Any bleacher seat above 30” requires a guardrail (see below reference). Generally that means guardrails are required above row 3 on an 8” rise non-elevated bleacher with row 1 seat height of 17”. Some “Low Rise” bleachers have a lower row 1 seat height and rise per row that does not require guardrails (see explanation in sections below).          

Per ICC 300-2012, Section 408.1: “Guards shall be provided for tiered along open sided walking surfaces, cross aisles, stepped aisles, ramps and landings of tiered seating areas which are located more than 30” (762 mm) above the floor or grade below. Such guards shall be not less than 42 inches (1067 mm) high, measured vertically above the leading edge of the tread, adjacent walking surface or adjacent bench seat.”  

Per ICC 300-2012, Section 408.2: “Open guards shall be constructed of materials such that a 4 inch diameter (102 mm) sphere cannot pass through any opening up to a height of 34 inches (864 mm) from a height of 34 (864 mm) Inches to 42 inches (1067 mm) above the adjacent walking surface, a sphere 8 inches (203 mm) in diameter shall not pass.”

Do I need ADA accessible seating areas to comply with state or local building code?

Please check with your local authorities to determine your requirements. ADA seating or wheelchair seating areas are usually incorporated in the first few rows of bleachers and are sometimes referred to as “cutouts” or “inserts” and result in the seat, foot and riser planks being configured to create a level space wide enough to accept 1 or more wheelchairs and have adjacent companion seats. The quantity of accessible seats required are based on the total net seating of your bleacher or possibly other ADA seating available at your site.     

Per ICC 300-2012, Section 310: “Tiered seating shall be accessible as required by the building code.”

What is the difference between a “Non-Elevated” vs. “Elevated” bleachers?

A Non-Elevated bleacher is generally referred to as a tiered seating system that does not have a foot plank for the first row and when seated on row 1 your feet will be on the ground.

An Elevated bleacher is generally referred to as a tiered system that when seated on row 1 your feet are resting on a foot plank or front walkway plank that is above the ground. Many different elevations are offered and are best utilized when you need to have a better line of sight to view the event or see over players, coaches, or others on the sidelines. Stairs and/or ramps will be required to enter the seating area.

What is the difference between a “Bleacher” and a “Grandstand”?

The definition of a Bleacher and a Grandstand are exactly the same in the building code. However generally in the industry a bleacher is considered an “angle frame” which is usually constructed of aluminum or steel angles and spaced at approx. 6’ apart joined by braces and installed on level ground without any space under the structure for storage or other access. A Grandstand is generally referred to as a “clear span” structure that is usually constructed with structural steel beam columns and channels that create usable space under the seating area for storage , access, egress, etc. However there are many different designs available that are considered “Bleachers” or “Grandstands” that do not fit the criteria listed above.

Per ICC 300-2012, Section 202: Defined Terms -Bleachers. “Tiered seating supported on a dedicated structural system and two or more rows high” (See “Grandstands”).

Per ICC 300-2012, Section 202: Defined Terms -Grandstands. ”Tiered seating supported on a dedicated structural system and two or more rows high” (See “Bleachers”).

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