Code Assistance

Code and Design Assistance

Basic Residential Stairway Requirements

Residential Code

Height of the handrail. For a rake is typically between 34 and 38 inches (864 and 965 mm), measured to the nose of the tread. The ideal rake height is 36 inches. The minimum height of a balcony handrail is 36 inches (914 mm) and no more than 42 inches tall.

Maximum space between the balusters of the handrail. This is typically 4 inches (102 mm).

Handrails for stairways shall be continuous for the full length of the flight, from a point directly above the top riser of the flight to a point directly above lowest riser of the flight. Handrail ends shall be returned or shall terminate in newel posts or safety terminals. Handrails adjacent to a wall shall have a space of not less than 1 1/2 inch (38 mm) between the wall and the handrails.

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

Mandate handrails if there is more than a certain number of steps (typically 2 risers).

Minimum tread length, typically 9 inches (229 mm) excluding the nosing for private residences. Some building codes also specify a minimum riser height, often 7 1/4 inches (127 mm).

Variance on riser height and tread depth between steps on the same flight should be very low (<3/8″)”. The reason is that on a continuous flight of stairs, people get used to a regular step and may trip if there is a step that is different, especially at night. The general rule is that all steps on the same flight must be identical.

Maximum nosing protrusion, typically 1.25 inches (32 mm) to prevent people from tripping on the nosing.

Headroom: At least 6′ 8″ (211 cm).

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