Do Deck Stairs Need Railings?

If you’re building an elevated deck or outdoor stairs, this post about handrails and stair railings is a must-read.

The International Residential Code (IRC), as well as the International Building Code (IBC), requires the installation of handrails on all stairs that are used to access and out of the home. 

It is mandatory to install a handrail on more than four risers. Handrails are for your hands to rest on, while stair rails keep you from sliding off the stairs.

There are a lot of essential safety rules in this area and we’ll take an overview of the need for handrails in greater detail.

What is the Building Code for Handrails on the Outside Steps?

The International Residential Code (IRC), as well as the International Building Code (IBC), requires the installation of handrails on all stairs that you must take to access the outside or inside of your home. The railing must be installed for risers with four or more. 

The riser forms the horizontal part of a staircase while the tread is the horizontal section you walk onto.

On the internet, there are a lot of divergent opinions on handrail codes. This is probably due to the fact that codes differ between regions. Make sure you check the local county or city ordinances.

Another set of rules comes directly from the Americans With Disabilities Act, also known as the ADA. The ADA rules are applicable to all places of public accommodation as well as commercial establishments. 

The rules suggest handrails for stairs with at least two risers. Your stairs at home do not need to be governed by ADA regulations, except if you have a parent who is disabled.

Building codes are intended for construction projects or major remodels, like those which require inspections. If inspectors are visiting your house, they make sure that the safety standards required by law are being met.

If you’re considering selling your house, then complying with the code’s requirements can be crucial. If you’re just upgrading your backyard and don’t have to be inspected in terms of safety, then technically you aren’t required to satisfy any safety standards. But, should you bother?

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Take a look at some of the IRC and ADA guidelines even if you don’t need to pass an examination.

Safety codes are great guides for all of us. Codes can be an issue, but underneath the code is a group of smart engineers who are trying to ensure that people are safe. Think about the idea that is “graspability”.

Guidelines for Graspability ensure that humans’ hands can grasp the handrail with ease and safely. Engineers have found that round handrails must be at least 1.25 inches and 2.25 inches in diameter.

If your handrail isn’t round, the most effective measurement of the circumference can be between 4 to 6.5 inches, and with no one side, that is larger than 2.25 inches.

They also found that the rail must be 1.5 inches from the wall. The handrail should measure between 35 and 38 inches along an upward direction from the stairway.

The recommended railings start about a foot off the stairs and extend one foot further than the bottom stairwell.

The reality is that stairs outside are more dangerous than those in the indoors. Perhaps, you’ve not experienced frozen stairs in your home, but in many locations, there is a lot of ice on outdoor staircases.

Rain, ice, snow, and algae are all able to make outdoor stairs more slippery than ones indoors. The effects of weathering make stairs uneven and lead to slipping dangers.

The statistics show that more than one million injuries per year result from falling down. No matter what building code or other regulations, if you’re an elderly person, a handicapped person, or an older (shorter) person who is living in or visiting your house, put in the handrail.

Then, install some staircase lighting. You’ll be happy you did.

Do Deck Stairs Need Railings? (Is it illegal to not Install what They Have?)

If the deck you have is greater than 30 inches away from the floor, according to law, you must have railings for the deck steps. The low rise (aka floating) decks are smaller than 30 inches away from the ground and are therefore exempt from the requirement.

Let’s make it clear here. There are safety guidelines for handrails, and a few for guardrails (aka guards or guards). Both serve different functions. Handrails are for your hands to hold to ensure your balance when going both ways.

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Guardrails are a safety measure that protects children, pets, and even you from falling from a drop. Guardrails should be put up on a deck that is high or on a balcony.

Stair rails are a kind of guardrail. They protect you from falling over the staircase. In many cases, the stair rails are known as railings.

Sometimes, a handrail and stairs rail are different however, sometimes they are made as one unit.

Do I require handrails on both sides of the Deck Stairs?

Nope. You don’t require an additional handrail on either side but you might require railings in the event that your deck is taller than 30 feet.

Many contractors design a combo handrail as well as a stair rail that is placed on both sides to satisfy all safety standards.

How many steps outside do you need a handrail? (2 3, 4, or more?)

The latest code comes from the IRC (Section R311.5.6 2003 IRC) stipulates that handrails must be installed on at the very least one side of every continuous staircase with at least four risers.

What is the difference between A Handrail and a Stairrail?

Handrails are for your hands to grasp. It’s designed to be as easy to grasp as possible. Stair rails are made to protect you – but probably your puppy or toddler – from falling from the open edges of the staircase.

How do you install a Stair Handrail?

We decided to install an aluminum (vinyl for the exterior, and thick aluminum inside) handrail for stairs to the concrete stairway and patio. The stairs featured four risers.

  1. Follow the directions from beginning to end. If the company offers an instructional video, you should watch it at least once.
  2. Remove all the pieces and arrange them on the Tarp.
  3. Test the stairs with all posts. Check that they are able to fit on the steps.
  4. Install a post on the corner of the stairwell and then put the base cap on the post. Place the post in a way that the base cap fits well onto the cement stairs as well, approximately 1.5 inches to the edges of concrete.
  5. With a marker, draw dots on the cement using the screw holes on the bottom of the post made from aluminum.
  6. After you have marked the four holes on each post then, use a center punch to create a pilot hole in the concrete.
  7. You can then use a 1/4″ 6-inch masonry bit of the hammer drill to make five inches holes.
  8. Utilize a vacuum or compressed air to clean the cement holes.
  9. Install the posts on top of the holes you’ve drilled. Use a washer and the drill to drive in all anchor bolts. The process of driving into the anchor bolts will be slow. Make sure that you don’t tighten to the point that you are able to plumb the posts.
  10. Utilize a level as well as the kit shims to ensure the posts are straight both up and down. Then make sure the bolts are tightened down. Cut off the shims using an Exacto knife along the edges of the posts made of aluminum to conceal the shims.
  11. Install the rails’ upper and lower stabilizer blocks.
  12. Cut the vinyl post sleeves to the appropriate size. Code stipulates that they must be between 34 to 38 inches.
  13. Place the posts over the blocks that stabilize.
  14. The base camp can be moved and the post cap onto the base cap.
  15. It’s time to install the railing. The railing is fitted with slots for balusters. Take measurements between the uprights in order to ensure identical balusters. The top railing measurement and the lower railing measurement should be equal.
  16. Make use of a miter saw or a miter box to cut the right angle for your staircase.
  17. Lastly, join the railing in place with the balusters using stair brackets. Make sure to make pilot holes in order to start the screws to get the stair brackets in place.
  18. Apply some adhesive vinyl to the caps on your posts if you need it.
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Final Words

And here we are If you’re constructing stairs with four or more risers the building regulations state that you must have handrails and railings.

There are numerous situations these days when health and safety regulations seem to have been abused however this isn’t one of them.

It’s comforting knowing that, for your safety and the safety of your loved ones in the case of the stair railings, you’re doing according to the guidelines.

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