Whether you’re 8 or 108, you can likely benefit from the help of a sturdy handrail. Little ones and adults alike rely on handrails for accessibility, mobility, and safety. But exactly how high should a handrail be? Let’s take a look at specifications from the International Code Council (ICC), as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
How High Should a Handrail Be?
How Is Handrail Height Measured?
To get the most accurate measurement, you will need to assess a handrail’s height from the top of the stair treads or horizontal stepping members. The handrail’s very top is the upper limit of this measurement – which includes any decorative molding placed on top of the rail’s structural section.
International Code Council Requirements
So, who makes the rules when it comes to handrail height? The International Code Council (ICC) reevaluates and updates home and business owner codes on a regular basis. The current ICC code, updated in 2018, recommends the following:
- Handrail height must be uniform above each stair tread and surface of the ramp. This allows the rail to incline at the same rate as the stairs or ramp.
- Handrails should be no less than 34 inches above the stair or ramp.
- Handrails should be no more than 38 inches above the stair or ramp.
- If you are working with alternating tread devices or ship ladders, you must measure above the tread nosings. The rail should be between 30 and 34 inches above the tread nosings.
ADA Handrail Requirements
The ICC isn’t the only governing body that mandates handrail restrictions. Passed by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of Americans with disabilities. Fortunately, the ADA and the ICC have the same standards when it comes to handrail height. That said, you’ll still want to double-check to ensure your handrails are compliant – especially if your building is a public space where accessibility is especially important. For that reason, you should always work with an ADA-compliant handrail company like Aluminum Handrail Direct.
Special Height Considerations
Keep in mind that different states have different building codes – and different building codes have varying exterior stair railing requirements. These requirements can also vary based on the type of dwelling. For best results, look up your area building codes.
Handrails for Children
If accessibility is top of mind when it comes to your handrails, you may want to make special considerations for little ones. In fact, when children are the primary occupants of a space – for example, play gyms or preschools – the ADA requires the installation of both an adult and child rail. The child handrail requirements are as follows:
- You should measure the heights of handrails on ramps, stairs, and walkways at a 90-degree angle. This angle should be measured directly above the stair tread or walking surface.
- You must install a set of handrails on both sides of the stairway, ramp, or walkway.
- Child rail height should not exceed 28 inches.
- The set of child handrails and adult handrails should be spaced at least nine inches apart.
So, how high should a handrail be? In general, a rail should be between 34 and 38 inches high. However, be sure to double-check your local building codes to make determinations for your type of dwelling.
Now that you’ve explored handrail height requirements, are you looking for an expert who can walk you through purchasing and caring for a new aluminum railing? At Aluminum Handrail Direct, we are committed to providing high-quality aluminum handrails that are durable, maintenance free, affordable, and attractive. If you have questions about aluminum handrails or if you are searching for a handrail system that fits your needs, call us at 417-409-3179 or visit Aluminum Handrail Direct’s online store today. We offer handrails, wall mounts, mounting screws and anchors, touch-up spray paint, and much more. We look forward to hearing from you!