Residential Handrails & Guards

Customers are encouraged to call their local city to get information about their local building codes. City building codes supersede national building codes. Inline Design is providing this information in an advisory capacity only and is not liable for any code non-compliance.

Handrails: Provide a graspable surface along stairs. 


handrail circumference

When Required: Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers. 

Height: 34” – 38” 

Continuity: Handrails shall be continuous for the full length of the stairs and handrails ends shall be returned or terminate in newel posts or safety terminals. Handrails shall have a space of not less than 1 1⁄2" between a wall and the handrail 

(See Figure 1). 


Circular handrails shall have a diameter of 1 1⁄4” – 2” (See Figure 2) 


o No noncircular handrail shall have a perimeter less than 4” (See Figure 3) 

o If the perimeter is 4”–61⁄4”shallhavea maximum cross section of 2 1⁄4” (See Figure 3) 

o If the perimeter is greater than 6 1⁄4” shall have a graspable finger recess area on both sides (see Figure 4) 

Figure 1. Handrail height 

Figure 2. Circular handrail 

Figure 3. Noncircular handrail 

diameter cable railing rectangular shape section perimeter 

BSD#182 – 6/30/16 

Figure 4. Noncircular handrail, with recess 

Guards: Protect people from falling from elevated walking surfaces. 

When Required: Along any open-sided walking surface, including stairs, ramps and landings, that are located more than 30” vertically above grade at any point within 36” horizontally to the edge of the open side. If a stair is more than 30” above grade at any point in the stair’s flight, a guard is required along the full length of the open side. 

Height: 36” minimum above the walking surface or the line connecting the leading edge of treads 

Opening limitations: 

No openings shall be large enough to allow a 4” diameter sphere to pass through (See Figure 5), with the following exceptions: 

         Triangular openings on a stair, between the tread, riser and bottom rail of a guard, shall not allow a 6” diameter sphere to pass through (See Figure 6)

         Other openings on guards located on stairs shall not allow a 4 3/8” sphere to pass through (See Figure 6)

4in sphere 

Figure 5. Guard height and opening limitations 

sphere stairs 

This handout is for general informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for the full code text. If discrepancies arise, the code shall govern. 

Figure 6. Guard opening limitations on stairs 


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