Residential handrails can add a lot of aesthetic value to your home. Of course, looks can be deceiving, and even the most stylish handrail can fall short of safety requirements. When installing a handrail inside or outside your home, keep in mind that a railing’s safety function is truly the most important thing. Not sure of the best way to keep your family safe around stairs? Review the most recent residential handrail requirements below.
Residential Handrail Requirements
Where to Find Handrail Requirements
The key to following residential handrail requirements is knowing where to look. Residential railings must adhere to the standards published in the International Residential Code (IRC), which was developed by the International Code Council. The International Code Council designed the IRC to encompass all one- and two-family homes of three stories or less. Any reputable builder or contractor will adhere to the code, which covers construction elements including energy use, plumbing, and electrical provisions. The International Code Council updates this document periodically, so make sure you’re using the most recent version of the code when installing your handrail. The current code was updated in 2018, and you can find residential handrail requirements in the Building Planning section of the code.
Handrail Height and Length
The IRC dictates several very specific rules for residential handrails when it comes to height and length:
- Handrails must be available on at least one side of any continuous flight of stairs with at least four risers.
- Handrails must be continuous for the full length of the stairs, starting from a point directly above the top riser of the flight and reaching to a point directly below the bottom riser.
- 34 inches is the minimum height for handrails, and 38 inches is the maximum. There are two exceptions to this rule listed in the code. The first exception involves the use of a volute, turnout, or starting easing, and the second exception involves handrail fittings. Make sure to read these exceptions closely if you’re using any of these features.
Handrails and Walls
Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re meeting the requirements for handrail height and length. However, you’ll also want to make sure you secure your handrail to the adjacent wall properly:
- When handrails are adjacent to a wall, there should be a space of no less than one and a half inches between the wall and the handrail. The only exceptions involve newel posts at the handrail turn and starting newels at the lowest tread.
- The ends of handrails must be returned or end in newel posts or safety terminals for maximum security.
Local Building Codes
So, you’ve read the IRC and made sure that your handrail complies. All done, right? Wrong. Be sure to also examine your local building codes to make sure that your handrail is compliant. While many cities use the International Building Code, others may adopt different regulations. Fortunately, you can easily explore your local building codes for handrail requirements, residential building permits, remodeling regulations, and guidelines for any other upgrades. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has several requirements for handrails and guards. These requirements are particularly important if you’re renting your building – or would simply like to ensure that your home is safe for individuals of all ability levels.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by residential handrail requirements, don’t worry. Working with an expert is the best way to ensure handrail compliance. Purchasing a high-quality handrail with clear installation instructions is a great place to start.
At Aluminum Handrail Direct, we’re committed to providing high-quality aluminum handrails that are durable, maintenance-free, affordable, and attractive. If you have questions about handrail installation – or are searching for a handrail system that is perfect for your needs – visit our online store today.