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How High Should Stair Railing Be? (All You Need to Know)

Staircases are the most attractive and exquisite element of every household that has been utilized since antiquity. Even in current times, staircases are used to provide a sophisticated representation of any interior.

One of the most crucial components of every staircase is its railing. Railings are those which give us support while we walk down the stairs. Without the presence of a railing in a staircase, there are high chance of serious accidents every now and then.

Let’s see how high the railing of a staircase should be.

How high should the stair railing be?

A stair railing should be 34 to 38 inches. Moreover, it is very important to determine the correct height of the stair railing as we often ignore this small detail while building our stairs. 34 inches is the minimum height of a stair railing and it should not exceed 38 inches at best.

We use stairs in a variety of places in our day-to-day life. Thus, the height of the stair railing can vary as per the location of the stair it has been installed on.

Now, let us look into the height of some of the railings as per the location of the stairs. Those are as follows:

Staircase railing:

A staircase railing should be no less than 34 inches and not more than 38 inches. However, these numerical figures might vary based on the type of design or location where you will be installing the stairs.

Stair handrail:

Many of us consider that the handrail and railing might be the same thing in the case of stairs. Thus, we may often get confused about the difference between the staircase railing and the stair handrail.

A handrail is the rail that mainly gives us support while we walk down the stairs. Usually, handrails are kept at a height of 34 to 38 inches above the floor or the nosing line.

Deck stair railing:

On ship decks, there are numerous stairs as well. It is important to maintain a standard height for railings on the decks as well. Thus, deck stair railings should be at least 36 inches.

Outside stair railing:

We often have to install stairs outside our house in order to give them a sophisticated look. Therefore, outside railings should be 34 to 38 inches high from the floor.

What is the residential stair handrail height code?

The International Residential Code (IRC) states that the residential stair handrail height code should be a minimum of 34 inches and a maximum of 38 inches. When measuring the top of the handrail, it should be measured from the nose.

Every building has its own individual characteristics. Even though it might seem like some buildings are quite tricky to install a staircase in, there are a few hacks that make it possible.

Staircase codes are determined by the International Residential Code (IRC) or the International Building Code (IBC). This helps the local authorities to maintain a few specific codes in every building and residential area.

Besides, considering all the factors of a specific environment, such as its climate, weather, disaster prone nature, etc., these codes are very important for the systematic infrastructure of buildings.

Staircases are inclined among floors, and they do need handrails for support. Thus, the residential codes must be followed strictly, as violation of these codes might make your staircase and handrails uneven.

Therefore, as per the IRC, the residential stair handrail height code is 34 to 38 inches, which should be followed and cross-checked with the local authorities as well.

How to measure stair railing height?

To measure the stair railing properly, then you need to make sure that you follow a proper set of rules. Let’s get to know the process below.

Determine the overall height, from top to bottom:

The first and foremost thing that needs to be done in order to measure the height of the stair railing is to determine the overall height of the entire staircase from top to bottom.

This overall height should be carefully measured from the top set of stairs at the very start up to the bottom set of stairs at the floor or landing.

Determine the overall length:

The overall length should be determined horizontally from the very edge of the nosing.

This measurement should be taken from the first thread at the bottom of the stairs up to the edge of the nosing at the very top of the staircase.

Calculate the length of nosing:

There is a slight difference between measuring the overall length and the length of the nose. Thus, many of us tend to confuse it with one another.

In case of calculating the nosing, consider the measurement from the top edge of the nose of the first thread up to the top edge of the landing nose.

Measure the depth of the finished thread from front to back:

In order to measure the depth of the finished thread, it is quite enough if you take the length of just one finished thread. But make sure to measure it from front to back.

Determine the height of the finished thread:

To determine the height of the finished thread, start the calculation from the base thread and take it up to the next stair above it. This is how you can measure the height of the stair railing.

How to choose the stair railing height? Things to consider?

To choose the railing height you need to consider a few facts. Let’s take a look at them.

The height of the handrail:

The height of the handrail is one of the most crucial considerations while choosing the height of the stair railing. Keep it between 34 and 38 inches to maintain the building codes.

The minimum railing distances:

There should be a considerable amount of distance between the wall and the handrail. Thus, the minimum railing distance between the handrail and the wall should be 31 ½ inches.

Deciding upon the number of railings on the staircase:

Another important thing that needs your kind consideration regarding installing a stair railing is deciding upon the number of railings on the stairs. One railing is mostly used in modern-day staircases.

But, if you decide to put 2 railings on your staircase, it is important to keep a distance between them so that people can walk through them easily. Therefore, it is better to keep at least 27 inches between the two railings on a staircase.

Considering the projection of the railing from the wall:

It’s crucial to evaluate the railing’s projection from the wall while keeping the construction standards in mind. The main purpose of this projection is to estimate the distance between the railing and the wall to which the stairs are affixed.

The railing must not protrude more than 4 ½ inches from the wall, according to the construction rules. This applies to all types of railings.

Minimum handrail clearance from the wall:

A minimum distance should be kept between the handrail and the wall for smooth movement. The distance should be at least 1 ½ inch between the handrail and the wall so that the handrail can be easily grabbed without any discomfort.

How to install a stair handrail on stairs?

To install a stair handrail on stairs you need to follow a set of rules. Follow below to understand the process better.

Locating the studs:

Marking the studs is one of the first and foremost steps towards installing a handrail on stairs. For this, take the handrail and find the studs 4 feet apart. Thoroughly mark them with a marker or any other thing that would help you to recognize the positions of the studs.

After finding the studs, install the brackets on the handrail. Using more brackets would make the handrail stronger and longer-lasting.

Measure the length and cut the handrail as per that:

As per the overall length of the stairs, cut the handrail. Cut some extra inches to cover the extra width of the stair threads as well.

Fix the handrail height:

Take a tape scale and a marker or any other pointer to pin point the height of the handrail, which should be between 34 and 38 inches.

This should be marked thoroughly above the nose, top, middle, and bottom, which will reveal the top edge of the handrail.

Join the brackets to the wall:

Now, after you are done fixing the handrail height, join the brackets to the wall. Make sure the brackets are nicely attached to the wall. Look for any loose ends and fix them accordingly.

Fix the handrail to the brackets:

Once you are done joining the brackets to the wall, it is time to finally fix the handrail to the brackets.

Be careful with the positioning so that the alignment between the brackets and the handrail is compatible with each other. Tighten up the screws strongly to avoid any unwanted accidents.

Final Thoughts

The height of a stair railing should be between 34 to 38 inches. Furthermore, determining the proper stair railing height is essential since we frequently overlook this aspect while designing our stairs. The minimum height of a stair railing is 34 inches, and it should not exceed 38 inches at most.