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Discussion Starter #1
I know nothing about construction practices so I am here to ask for a little brainstorming - or at least some ideas. We’ve lived in this house for 21 years now without a handrail on these stairs which is used a lot daily. Both of us being crippled up - should have been done years ago.

80A81055-CE28-4EDA-9054-1FFFA8D66869.jpeg

I had some basic unfinished handrail and brackets delivered yesterday - just jump in and see if I can make it work.

The issue is at the top of the stairs on the right in the pic. I either have to put in a separate rail piece at the top on the painted part or figure out some type of offset. I would much rather have a continuous rail to the top but may be impossible. The offset from the stair side below and the painted part is around 5.5”. I looked online and found some offset handrail brackets but they are a 3” standoff.

Any ideas on how to make up that offset or should I just put up a separate section of rail on the painted wall section.
 

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Not sure what you bought for handrail. It is possible that where ever you bought it may also sell a 90 deg "quarter turn" angle that you could use at the top to turn the rail into the wall. Something like this:

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Creative-Stair-Parts-Stain-Grade-Quarter-Turn-Handrail-Fittings/1000554165

I think there are pros/cons to doing that and using 2 separate rails.

If you use the quarter turn, it's going to be hanging out there as you go through the door at the top of the stairs. There is a good chance people will smack themselves on it. But you'd have a continuous handrail all the way down.

If you use two rails, you have to switch between them as you're stepping down the stairs.
 

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I know nothing about construction practices so I am here to ask for a little brainstorming - or at least some ideas. We’ve lived in this house for 21 years now without a handrail on these stairs which is used a lot daily. Both of us being crippled up - should have been done years ago.

View attachment 651408

I had some basic unfinished handrail and brackets delivered yesterday - just jump in and see if I can make it work.

The issue is at the top of the stairs on the right in the pic. I either have to put in a separate rail piece at the top on the painted part or figure out some type of offset. I would much rather have a continuous rail to the top but may be impossible. The offset from the stair side below and the painted part is around 5.5”. I looked online and found some offset handrail brackets but they are a 3” standoff.

Any ideas on how to make up that offset or should I just put up a separate section of rail on the painted wall section.
Add an ornamental 6x6 post at the top of the stairs against the painted wall and die the handrail into it with a standard bracket!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Not sure what you bought for handrail. It is possible that where ever you bought it may also sell a 90 deg "quarter turn" angle that you could use at the top to turn the rail into the wall. Something like this:

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Creative-Stair-Parts-Stain-Grade-Quarter-Turn-Handrail-Fittings/1000554165

I think there are pros/cons to doing that and using 2 separate rails.

If you use the quarter turn, it's going to be hanging out there as you go through the door at the top of the stairs. There is a good chance people will smack themselves on it. But you'd have a continuous handrail all the way down.

If you use two rails, you have to switch between them as you're stepping down the stairs.
The cost of that quarter turn is more than I paid for 16’ of rail and 10 brackets.....

This is the rail I got and the brackets -

https://www.lowes.com/pd/2-25-in-x-8-ft-Raw-Handrail/3878815

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Gatehouse-Brass-Zinc-Line-Bracket-Handrail-Brackets/1000193013


I know having the rail offset - Weather a seperate rail or with a quarter turn like that - is not ideal. Will have to let go of one and grab another while on the steps.

I may have to look at installing the rail on the opposite side. I could attach the top bracket to the fence post there - have a 2.5” offset there. But really didn’t want to go up that side but I guess it doesn’t matter.

AAEFF652-B89E-4CB5-A46C-612C6EB3B6E8.jpeg
 

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Add an ornamental 6x6 post at the top of the stairs against the painted wall and die the handrail into it with a standard bracket!
You could do the same thing on the left hand side of the pic. Shim the handrail bracket out off of the newel post with a piece of hardwood screwed into the side of the post. Stained and finished to match.

ha! you beat me to it!!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The first thing I thought of was a 6x6 post but all I have are some pressure treated pieces that have been outside for years - wouldn’t look very good and likely wouldn’t take the stain very well.

Shimming our the other side where the big post is might be easier. I’ll hold the rail up along that side and see how it looks.

Just a side note - I bought the rail sight unseen - it’s actually a nicer rail than it shows on the website. I just can’t believe it was free shipping for the 8’ lengths. Thank goodness as it is a 3 hour round trip to Lowe’s which I just don’t have in me right now.
 

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I believe that code states that all ends of hand rails have to return to the walls or posts. This is so clothing or equipment cannot catch on the ends of the handrails.
Also the handrails have to be continuous from the top to bottom. This is so someone can travel the steps without letting go of the hand rail.

I would lean toward pappa's idea of adding a post on the right to build it out even. If you will also be putting a handrail on the left. Just add some blocks to the existing post to build it out even.
 

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I believe that code states that all ends of hand rails have to return to the walls or posts. This is so clothing or equipment cannot catch on the ends of the handrails.
Also the handrails have to be continuous from the top to bottom. This is so someone can travel the steps without letting go of the hand rail.
One way or another here, he's going to be violating a building code. As you you said, the IRC requires that the rail be continuous. But the IRC also says that the rail can't be more than 4.5" from the wall. I don't see any way he can meet both of those at the same time here.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Code? Not to make light of what you guys are saying....I am working on a 100+ year old house. Any handrail will be better than no handrail.

But with that said - I am leaning on installing it on the left side with the top bracket connected to the present post with a shim.

Now - trying to think ahead - don’t know if I should continue down the same side of the bottom section of stairs or on the opposite side. My thinking is to have it on the same side. If using the cane I don’t think it would be too convienent to switch hands - or if carrying something. My original plan was to run the rail around the outside of the landing but that won’t work if I go down the left side.

Since I have no idea what I am doing there is going to be a lot of test fitting before any cuts are made.....

Don’t want to have to switch hands like shown here -

A8DAD3FB-6CC7-42A6-840D-6D1F3309AC78.jpeg
 

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The suggestions given to you here would all work, including your own ideas. However you should look into what your local or county codes are regarding handrails. Search the International building code that your county is now using which is now almost universal building code in America. You will find easy to follow instructions on the code & how to make the rail itself safe. As stated above your rail will need a return to the wall to keep things like clothing, equipment & even your own body parts from getting caught. Also there is a specific measurement from the stair tread up to the rail.

Having said all of this, your home is not new. So you could put up a rail on your own & "Grandfather" it in against any current codes. But if you call in a pro, by law he/she must bring the rail in under the new code, which may in fact require that they also remedy any other deficiencies in your staircase like width, rise of the stair tread.

Sorry to rag on about this to you. But this is the junk all us homeowners are faced with-stupid over regulations on the simplest of things. Good Luck with it.
 

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I am usually very cynical about code. I often feel that code exists to either boost sales on a product/service or prevent liability. In this case, although maybe not perfect, the codes being discussed are intended to provide safety (in essence prevent liability). But, if you are putting up a railing because you recognize a safety concern, maybe there is some credence to the code.

A continuous rail can be done but will clearly require turns. Although not the best photo to illustrate it, this is an example in my house.

IMG_3605.jpg

Clearly this same curved rail could be used with only wall attachments. But, it provides the continuity that others have mentioned.
 

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I am usually very cynical about code. I often feel that code exists to either boost sales on a product/service or prevent liability. In this case, although maybe not perfect, the codes being discussed are intended to provide safety (in essence prevent liability). But, if you are putting up a railing because you recognize a safety concern, maybe there is some credence to the code.

A continuous rail can be done but will clearly require turns. Although not the best photo to illustrate it, this is an example in my house.

Clearly this same curved rail could be used with only wall attachments. But, it provides the continuity that others have mentioned.
I'm curious as to why you feel that codes are written to boost sales on a product/service or to prevent liability. You make it sound like the code writer or authority are being paid by the insurance companies, lawyers & the manufacturers of construction products.

I agree that some of this stuff is over the top. But without code, can you imagine what you would have within the city limits? Maybe turn of the century (20th) tenements with ten people stuffed into two room with one toilet down the hall? And out in the country, people building on unsuitable & unstable ground with no foundations? The photos of your home appear to be new construction or a renovation. Looks like a very nice home. Did you do the work yourself. If you did, I am sure you were mindful of those irritating codes. And if you had it done by a contractor, I bet you would have insisted his work was by code. And keep in mind that meeting a building code, it is the VERY LEAST allowable standard from a construction & engineering point of view. It's nice to know that while in your bed the ceiling fan over you bed is not going to come crashing down & taking your head off. When it comes time to sell your home, your going to hear an awful lot about codes & corrections prior to sale. I'm saying this from experience.
 

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Code? Not to make light of what you guys are saying....I am working on a 100+ year old house. Any handrail will be better than no handrail
Just trying to keep ya informed! :laugh: You can use to comply with code or not. Your choice! But they do exist for a reason and following them usually makes sense from a practical sense even if you don't like them.

As you said, you have a 100+ year old house. No one but you is going to be able to prove when those railings got installed so it isn't like you're going to get hit with fines. And I agree, any rail is better than none.
 

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Truth be told, the steps are likely not in code compliance from a tread depth and riser perspective which is very common in older homes. Many older homes have stairs which are too shallow on distance from the back of each step to it's front edge. It's not unusual for the general height of the risers and the overall incline of stairs in older homes not to meet today's building codes.

Code is always wise to follow whenever possible, but on one's own home and doing the work yourself, it's not the "compliance issue" that is would be for a third party doing the work. Anything that's not code compliant would likely have to be addressed when the day comes and your house is sold, but for now, the main thing is to significantly improve the safe travel for both of you on the existing stairs.

Important things to keep in mind when planning your handrail installation;

1.- Funny thing about steps and such is when you have been using them yourself several times daily for decades, even subtle changes in them, such as adding a handrail where none previously existed, tend to throw you off, so be very careful. Anything that can alter the way you climb and descend the steps because you are doing something different now, than you have previously, takes time getting used to.

2. - Definitely make sure the top end of the handrail returns to the wall or post or extension or however you choose to mount it as having a straight end of the handrail at the top of stairs is very dangerous for catching clothing on when walking down the steps. This is probably one of the biggest risks related to adding a hand rail where none previously existed.

3. - It's also a good idea to have several mounting brackets into wall studs in that 8 foot length in case you do come to rely on the rail in a fall. I have seen where handrails with two brackets, one near the top and the other near the end, fail when someone "catches themselves" in the center of the hand rail and exerts a lot of force on it. It's better to be over secure than under secure for the handrail mounting.

4. - You also want the "grab height" on the rail to be optimal for both of you, based upon your height and posture. Take some measurements where you would be comfortably reaching for the rail at the top of the stairs and consider the correct "code height" as a lot of consideration goes into determining the safest uniform hand rail height. Too high and you can't "catch yourself" easily and too low, and you are leaning down to grab the handrail and that's dangerous from a balance perspective.

5. - It's very important that the hand rail height relative to the stairs is consistent at the top and the bottom and with the second hand rail if necessary, so there is consistency. Otherwise it can cause balance problems as a fall risk.

6. - Also, since you haven't had a handrail there before, I find even though Mrs. Bear and I are both right handed, we naturally grab the left side handrail on our stairs. Often, you are carrying something in your dominant hand and people also tend to reach for things with their "open hand", which often means their non dominant hand. Our stairs happen to have the rails on both sides, otherwise it means you are using your left hand to climb the stairs and your right hand to descend the stairs.

7. - Also keep in mind, CT, that if you have the lower rail on say the left side of the stairs and the upper section of the rail switches to the right side of the stairs, when you are ascending the steps, you will be using your left hand until you reach the landing and then switching to your right hand for the remaining climb. Just the opposite when descending the stairs. That means if you are carrying something in one of your hands, you are going to have to switch the item to the opposite hand to be able to continue using the hand rail. Just something to think about. It's funny but when I have to use a handrail with the opposite hand that I am used to, it feels unnatural and unusual. It's all what you get used to.

Bottom line, a handrail is better than no handrail, as long as it doesn't create a fall or trip risk which doesn't exist at this time, such as with the non returned end on the handrail.
 

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One way or another here, he's going to be violating a building code. As you you said, the IRC requires that the rail be continuous. But the IRC also says that the rail can't be more than 4.5" from the wall. I don't see any way he can meet both of those at the same time here.
Section 311.7.8 of the residential code only requires a handrail on one side that is continuous. It also states that a minimum of 1 1/2" is required between the handrail and the wall, no maximum distance is stated. Read the code! Stan is right about the 100 year old house being made better. No homeowner ever came to me for a permit to install handrails in an old house. I had a handout for them just in case they wanted to do it right!:laugh:

Any code geeks see anything wrong with this handout?
 

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I'd have no issue attaching a decorative post to the right side wall and running from there. Code requirements aren't relevant in this case. I'd bet the rise/run is not compliant. Personally, I'd rather have the rail down the right side but the same could be accomplished on the left assuming the left post is fastened securely. Its not uncommon for freestanding posts to loosen up over time so look at that closely if you decide to use it.
 

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Section 311.7.8 of the residential code only requires a handrail on one side that is continuous. It also states that a minimum of 1 1/2" is required between the handrail and the wall, no maximum distance is stated.
The IRC *does* contain a maximum distance. You have to apply ALL of the building code. Not just one paragraph.

Section 1003.3.3 reads:

"Hortzontal Projections

Objects with leading edges of more than 27 inches (685 mm) and not more than 80 inches (2030 mm) above the floor shall not project horizontally more than 4 inches into the circulation path.

Exception: Handrails are permitted to protrude 4 1/2 inches from the wall."

https://codes.iccsafe.org/public/document/IBC2015/chapter-10-means-of-egress
 

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Is the rail more for you or your wife?

Is it harder to go up the stairs or down the stairs?

Which side is your stronger side?

Because you have no real constraints, I would place the rail where it will be most helpful to its primary user in the situation found to be most difficult.


Also, guys, the code horse is dead. Go beat it in another thread.
 
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