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Four Measurements Required For Stair Railings

Your local building code will provide exact guidance on the requirements for stair rails and banisters, but there are generally five measurements that need careful attention. Your code will provide a range of allowed measurements, so the following guide is necessary to interpret how you should apply them to your new railing project.

1. Height

The height of the railing is simply the distance between the top of the railing and the ground. The distance is measured from the tip of the front edge of each step so that the railing runs parallel to the stairs. The height range given by the local building code is aimed at the average adult. If you have more children using stairs, such as in a preschool, then install the railing at the lower end of the accepted height range. Otherwise, aiming for the middle of the range will likely be the most useful to most people.

2. Wall Distance

Codes will also determine the amount of space between the railing and the wall. The key is to place the railing far enough away from the wall that it is easy to grip, but not so far out that it narrows the stairway too greatly. The required range will likely fall somewhere between 1 and 4 inches. A distance of 1 to 2 inches is usually sufficient, but you may want to go further if those with mobility issues commonly use the stairs — as long as your stairs are wide enough. More space can make the rail easier to grip firmly.

3. Stair Width

As mentioned above, there are codes the determine how wide a stairway must be. The width is measured as the space between the outer edges of the railings or banister, so railings that stick out too far can decrease stairway width to the point it no longer meets code. If space is tight, choose a thinner railing since it won't jut out as much as thick railings.

4. Spindle Spacing

Most stairs will have a wall-mounted railing on one side and a banister with a railing on the other. The spindles in the banister will also be subjected to local building codes. There is typically no minimum spacing but a maximum spacing will be in effect. This measurement is designed to be narrow enough so that a child cannot stick their head through the spindles and become stuck.

Contact an interior railing service for more help in choosing attractive but safe railings for your stairs.