Handrail Rules

Handrails are one of the most important safety items in the home.  It is amazing just how many porches decks are lacking rails or have poorly built ones.

Wind Knocks Girl Over

This little girl was almost blown away by a gust of wind (via Jukin Media)

Posted by NowThis on Sunday, March 12, 2017

Over 2 million decks are built and replaced yearly in America. The most common causes of deck collapse are ledgers that pull away from homes.

Changes to International Residential Code for decks now require “positive attachment” to resist lateral loads. “with an allowable stress design capacity of not less than 1,500 pounds”, which must be installed on at least two locations per deck (IRC 2012 Section R507.2.3).

These new hold-down devices must be attached to the joists of the deck, penetrate through the ledger board, the wall sheathing and band joist of the house, and then fasten to the floor framing inside the house.

Handrails on Stairs should be continuous, approx 36” above the stair noseObstructions that prevent a hand from continuously holding the handrail are not permitted. Handrails must be graspable, (< 2.5” wide) and a perimeter dimension between 4 and 6-¼ inches.

Code says “Staircases built with 3 or fewer steps or are <30” high, do not require railings.” I would argue code is the minimum and a railing is always a good idea.

Safety rails should be 36” high and recommended wherever there is a drop of 18” or greater. This is not code, but is best practice.
If a hazard exists, use common sense. Remember Code is the minimum requirement, we can always do more.

They are required around decks and any surface that can be walked on like a built in bench.
“Required Guards at stairs, porches, balconies, or landings shall not be
<36” high when measured vertically above the adjacent walking surface or adjacent fixed seating…” 2009 International Residential Code (IRC)


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