Early summer is here, and it’s a prime time for home improvement projects you’ve been putting off. You might be building stairs to your new deck, upgrading your home’s interior, or taking time to double-check your commercial building’s code adherence; either way, there’s a good chance you have handrails on the brain. And while handrail requirements are clearly outlined in building codes, you might find yourself wondering: How many steps require a handrail?
How Many Steps Require a Handrail?
Ask the International Code Council: How Many Steps Require a Handrail?
First, let’s take a look at the International Code Council’s rules for steps and handrails. The International Code Council, or ICC, manages a series of 15 building safety codes that, per the ICC website, “help ensure the engineering of safe, sustainable, affordable, and resilient structures.” These codes clearly outline how many steps require a handrail; however, the code refers to “risers,” not “steps.” According to building code, handrails are required when there are four or more “risers,” referring to the vertical portion of a stair. With that in mind, we can refer to a “four-riser minimum” as a “four-step minimum.” In these cases, a handrail must be mounted on at least one side if the stairway is less than 44 inches wide. Finally, remember handrails must be between 30 and 38 inches as measured from the leading edge of the stair tread.
Guardrail Requirements vs. Handrail Requirements
At this point, we know that you need a handrail if you have four or more steps. However, while you may not need a handrail for fewer steps, you may have to install a guardrail. It can be easy to confuse the two. Remember, a handrail is the rail you grab onto when climbing or descending stairs. On the other hand, a guardrail prevents falling off the side of a deck or stairway. Per the ICC, a guardrail is a must when the distance from the grade below to the walking surface above is greater than 30 inches. Finally, you’ll need to measure from the top tread of the stairs to the ground below. If there is a “drop” of 48 inches or higher from the top tread, you need a guardrail.
Selecting a Safe Handrail for Your Space
Sure, you want an attractive handrail – but you probably also want a reliable handrail with minimal maintenance. An aluminum handrail can offer the best of both worlds. Aluminum handrails are an ideal choice for interior or exterior spaces, holding up beautifully against the elements while blending seamlessly with the aesthetic of your home or business.
So, how many steps require a handrail? Per the ICC codes cited above, if a stair has four or more risers, you need to install a handrail. However, the rules for guardrail installation are different. Make sure you double-check both requirements before finalizing your stairway plans. Finally, consider that the ICC building codes are a minimum safety standard. If you want to ensure that your space is safe and accessible for all, a handrail is always a good idea.
Now that you’ve confirmed how many steps require a handrail, 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!