Newels Handrails and Guards

Handrails run parallel to stairs and are designed to be grasped when ascending or descending, while guards surround openings to protect against falling over the edge. All stairways of three or more risers should have a handrail from floor to floor, and on both sides if the stair is 43 in. (1100 mm) or wider. For stairways that rise between enclosing walls, the rail is attached to the wall with brackets into solid framing members. For stairs that are open on one or both sides, handrails are usually supported by balusters and end against newel posts. Handrails should be set between 32 and 38 in. (800 and 965 mm) above the tread at the nosing line, with at least 15/8 in. (40 mm) clearance from the wall, and be built so that there is no obstruction that could break a handhold.

Guards should be placed around openings at landings and balconies that are more than 24 in. (600 mm) above the adjacent level, and alongside the open portions of stairways. They should never be less than 35 in. (900 mm) high around openings and above the stair nosings along the open sides of stairways. Where one or both sides of a stairway are open, the guard is also the handrail. Guards for exterior balconies or landings, porches or decks that are more than 5 ft. 11 in. (1800 mm) above finished ground level must be at least 42 in. (1070 mm) high. Spacing between balusters for all guards should not permit a 4 in. (100 mm) sphere from passing through.

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