Following Building Codes – Vital in Installing Stair Railings

Stairs serve an important purpose to people whether it's installed in a home or building. But apart from providing access to people in going to and descending from upper levels, a vital component of the stair also ensures the safety of users.

The stair railings protect people from falls during their ascent or descent. These are made up different parts – baluster, newel post, guards, landing newel and handrail. The balusters are the ones that protect people from falling off while the handrails help users in keeping their balance while going up and down the stairs. These same parts give the stairs its unique style.

As stairs come in different types, shapes and designs, they also need to be constructed in a variety of ways. Depending on the available space in a home, stairs can be gradual or steep, wide or narrow, hidden or grand. The tread part or the one you step on can also either be an open or closed type. In addition, stairs can be built right in place or you can have one ordered according to your specific requirements.

Another thing to take into consideration when installing stair railings is to be aware of the building codes in your locality. Any stairs need to comply with codes to ensure their safety to all users. The codes pertain to the heights of risers, depth and width of treads as well as placement of handrails. While there are national standards, local codes vary and feature different restrictions. Your city or county building department is your best source for the local requirements.

The restrictions normally are on the types of stairs, their measurements, head-height clearance, placement and construction of railing. If you're installing a spiral stair, for instance, you need to follow codes concerning measurements. A tread depth of 9 to 10 inches at 12 to 14 inches from the narrow side is usually required by many codes.

For the balusters, the opening or spaces between the vertical posts should be from a minimum of four inches to a maximum of six inches. This is so because a wider space in between can allow small kids to get through which may result in accidents.

The handrails need to comply with certain codes as well. For stairs situated against the walls, the required handrail height in the US should be from 30 to 38 inches only while for open stairs, it should be from 34 to 38 inches. In Canada, the allowed height is 32 to 36 inches. A handrail is a must if the stairs are above 24 inches high.

It is also critical that stair railings include handrails that can be easily grasped by users. There have been many cases of slips and falls from places that use wide handrails whether made from wood or metal. The flat and wide types used in stair railings are not advisable because they are not friendly to the hands.

Protection is the foremost goal of stair railings but this can only be achieved if the proper building codes are followed during installation.