Can you imagine walking down a steep set of stairs or inching toward a balcony edge without handrails? We often take them for granted, but railings are a commonplace safety feature in most homes and office buildings. They provide architectural interest and security in a multitude of situations. This guide provides you with highlights of when handrails are required as derived from the United States Access Board. However, because communities often adopt and then adapt this code, you also need to check with your local permitting agency before installing railing or guards. Staircase railing and guard construction (new or remodel) may also adhere to permit requirements. Furthermore, railings that must comply with ADA requirements have additional codes to follow that dictate characteristics such as the handrail height and wall clearance. Before you get started, get a grip on when handrails are, in fact, required.
When Handrails Are Required
The final authority on where and when handrails are required on steps, stairs, landings, balconies, and decks, rests with your local building code official. However, as a general rule, the building code requirement for stair railings typically requires hand railings on stairs that have a total rise of three feet or more. Additionally, handrails are required in the following situations:
- Handrails are required on ramp runs with a rise greater than 6 inches.
- Handrails shall be provided on both sides of stairs and ramps.
- Handrails shall be continuous within the full length of each stair flight or ramp run.
- Inside handrails on switchback or dogleg stairs and ramps shall be continuous between flights or runs.
- At the top of a stair flight, handrails shall extend horizontally above the landing for 12 inches minimum beginning directly above the first riser nosing.
- At the bottom of a stair flight, handrails shall extend at the slope of the stair flight for a horizontal distance at least equal to one tread depth beyond the last riser nosing.
There are a few exceptions to the list above. For a complete list of handrail exceptions, please visit access-board.gov. For your convenience, we have decided to highlight a few of the main exceptions here:
- Handrails are not required on walking surfaces with running slopes less than 1:20.
- Within employee work areas, handrails shall not be required where ramps that are part of common use circulation paths are designed to permit the installation of handrails.
- Handrails provided in elevator cabs and platform lifts are not required to comply with the requirements for handrails on walking surfaces.
Benefits of Handrails
There are several benefits of installing handrails next to your stairs, walkways, and other inclined areas. The biggest – and most obvious – benefit is related to your safety while ascending and descending the slope or steps. It is natural for humans to want to hold onto something while climbing up or down the stairs because it is easy to lose balance while you are in motion. Handrails serve the purpose of giving your body this balance.
Handrails exist for a multitude of other reasons. For example, when you are about to slip or fall on the stairs, it is a handrail you can grab onto. Also, when your building needs to be in compliance with ADA requirements, handrails are there. For people with visual problems and disabilities, mobility up and down the stairs largely depends on handrails. Furthermore, the use of handrails is not restricted to practical purposes. They are also used to enhance the aesthetics of a house or business. They can add architectural lines and interest to your stairway in a way that no other feature can.
Explore Your Options at Aluminum Handrail Direct
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 when handrails are required or if you are searching for a handrail system that fits your needs, call us at 417-655-0866 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!