I'm installing a stair railing along a wall. I tried to consult the
local building code and it says that the railing needs to be
"continuous the full length of the stairs" with the ends returned or
terminated in newel posts.
I'm wondering what this means about where the railing should start and
end. How far beyond the bottom stair should it go? Can it end
anywhere beyond the bottom nose? And what about the top stair? If
I'm going to do a mitered return it can't run all the way to the door
frame at the top. (The railing will project out beyond the door frame
if I install it at the required distance away from the wall.) Is it
acceptable to stop it in the center of the top tread?
Hmmm. Does residential code require something different? I did
notice that the stair railings at my workplace have a flat section
(parallel to the floor) at each end of the stairs. I've never seen a
railing like that in a residence. They are always just straight,
sometimes with returns to the wall. For my stairs, going 12" beyond
the very top nosing (which extends from the floor at the top level)
would mean passing through the door frame into a newel post sitting
out in the next room. And if I extended a straight railing that far
at the other end the railing would terminate at a height of 26" above
the floor, which seems kind of silly.
Sounds like the stair doesn't meet code.
Code is usually considered MINIMUM requirement.
That said, it is often violated in owner occupied houses.
Rails should go to top and bottom stair nosing.
ADA, which applies to the elderly as well as the physically limited, asks for more.
I would continue the top end of the rail as far as possible.
No, the stair does not meet code. The house was built in 1954. The
stair is slightly steeper than allowed by modern code, and it lacks
the code specified head room. These things are rather hard to change.
I do understand that code gives minimum requirements, but I seriously
I doubt I'll have the opportunity to exceed code requirements in this
The bottom is no problem. I have lots of room. At the top I have
1) Railing terminates in doorway casing at top of stairs. (This door
is 2" behind the nosing on the top level floor.) Railing may be
located closer to the wall than specified by code, and I'll have to
carve off 1/2" or so of the railing near the end so the door at the
top of the stairs can close.
2) Railing terminates approximately 4" from the top floor nosing, near
the middle of the top tread (one step down from the upper level floor)
and I don't have to do anything weird to the railing.
Option 1 is ugly. (Getting rid of the door was vetoed because it
helps confine loud noises to the basement. The door cannot be turned
to open the other way.)
I agree with the gist of what Greg said. Do the best you can, try to make
it look good and safe and forget about it in a homeowner occupied home. No
one really cares. And most reasonable home inspectors on the sale of the
property will point out there is no better option if they even manage to
notice that there is a problem.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.