What is a grippable handrail?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A graspable handrail is one that you can easily and securely get your hand around to steady yourself while you are on a stair. It must be continuous for the entire length of a stair, from directly above the top riser to directly above the bottom riser, and terminate (die into) the adjacent wall or a newel post. The International Residential Code (IRC 311.7.8.3) has very specific requirements for the grip size, divided into two types:

1. Type I. Handrails with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of not less than 11/4 inches (32 mm) and not greater than 2 inches (51mm). If the handrail is not circular, it shall have a perimeter dimension of not less than 4 inches (102mm) and not greater than 6-1/4 inches (160 mm) with a cross section of dimension of not more than 2-1/4 inches (57 mm). Edges shall have a radius of not less than 0.01 inch (0.25 mm).

2. Type II. Handrails with a perimeter greater than 6-1/4 inches (160 mm) shall have a graspable finger recess area on both sides of the profile. The finger recess shall begin within a distance of 3/4 inch (19mm) measured vertically from the tallest portion of the profile and achieve a depth of not less than 5/16 inch (8 mm) within 7/8 inch (22 mm) below the widest portion of the profile. This required depth shall continue for not less than 3/8 inch (10mm) to a level that is not less than 1-3/4 inches (45mm) below the tallest portion of the profile. The width of the handrail above the recess shall be not less than 1-1/4 inches (32 mm) and not more than 2-3/4 inches (70 mm). Edges shall have a radius ofnot less than 0.01 inch (0.25 mm).

    Here’s some examples of both the right and wrong way to do a grippable handrail from Code Check:

    Top of the handrail required to be 34 to 38-inches above edge or nosing, and the handrail must be minimum 1-1/2-inches away from wall.

     Also, see our blog posts What is the difference between a handrail and a guardrail? and How many exterior steps require a handrail? and When is a handrail required on both sides of stairs? 

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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about STAIRS:

What do home inspectors check when inspecting stairs?

Is a landing always required at the top and bottom of stairs? 

When is a railing required at stairs?

What is the building code for the minimum height of stair steps (risers)? 

When is a nosing required on a stair tread?

What is the building code requirement for receptacle outlets at stairs and stair landings?  

Are open stair risers acceptable?

What is the steepest residential stair allowed?

Why is a single step dangerous in a house?

 Do I need stairs at all exit doors from a mobile home? 

The stairs feel too steep. What's the building code? 

• What is the longest stair run allowed? 

• What is the lighting requirement for stairs?

• A light is required over a stair after how many steps/risers? 

• When is safety glass required for windows at stairs and stair landings?

   Visit our STAIRS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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