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Handrails

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[#1] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 3:21:27 PM
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I may be interpreting the IRC incorrectly about handrails. If there is a handrail on the closed side of a set of stairs (4 or more risers), is a handrail required on the open side?

I'm looking at R312 "Open sides of stairs with a total rise of more than 30 inches above the floor or grade shall have guards..."

I was told that a municipal buidling inspector said that if there is a railing on the closed side of the stairs, a railing isn't required on the open side. Exception: if the stairs are more than six feet wide. (not seeing that in the codes, either). So, the stairs could be conpletely open on one side without any handrail at that open side?

The pic was shown to the AHJ. He said no handrail/guard required.

Thanks


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Neal Lewis
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[#2] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 3:37:21 PM
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Clarification: A guard and a handrail are two different things. A handrail and railing are the same, I think. There may have been a misunderstanding with the code inspector.

Marc

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[#3] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 4:20:26 PM
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I think you already answered the question quite well.

It doesn't matter if there's a rail on the wall above a stair - R312.1 requires the open side to have a guard, if the total rise is more than 30". There's no exceptions.

Bill Kibbel, Historic & Commercial Building Inspections - Old House Resources
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[#4] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 4:34:45 PM
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What are the tread/riser dimensions? Looks awfully steep in that photo. Should generally be in the area of 11"/7" for tread & riser, respectively.

Marc

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[#5] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 4:38:24 PM
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I may be wrong in my approach, but in a situation such as this, I simply let common sense prevail, and call the addition of a guardrail as an opportunity to enhance safety.
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[#6] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 4:39:04 PM
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Marc, I didn't measure them; they felt comfortable walking on them. It's a 1950's house.
Neal Lewis
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[#7] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 5:18:40 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Bill Kibbel

I think you already answered the question quite well.

It doesn't matter if there's a rail on the wall above a stair - R312.1 requires the open side to have a guard, if the total rise is more than 30". There's no exceptions.


I agree, and additionaly the handrail is short. it should extend beyond the first riser 12" by current codes (min 6" depending on code).

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[#8] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 8:18:13 PM
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This is a good guide that has been posted before: http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2...REEN.pdf

Ramon-- what code requires the handrail to extent past the top/ bottom riser?

Brandon

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[#9] Posted: 05/05/2010 - 10:38:25 PM
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Thanks for linking that Brandon! I remember seeing that a while back and have looked for it since. I just uploaded this to the TIJ Library. Waiting for approval.
Cary
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[#10] Posted: 05/06/2010 - 04:35:19 AM
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I'll second the thanks - nice find Brandon.
Terry



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[#11] Posted: 05/06/2010 - 08:04:35 AM
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This is a drift of sorts, but I call for handrails for any stairs that have 2 risers or more. Old people fall and need all the help they can get. For seniors, that first fall is often the beginning of the end. The statistics are more than sobering.
Mike Lamb
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[#12] Posted: 05/06/2010 - 09:08:55 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

This is a good guide that has been posted before: http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2...REEN.pdf

Ramon-- what code requires the handrail to extent past the top/ bottom riser?


1982 UBC 3306 (j) Handrails. ...They shall be continuous the full length of the stairs and except for private stairways at least one handrail shall extend not less than 6 inches beyond the top and bottom risers. ends shall be returned and shall terminate in newel posts or safety terminals.

1991 UBC 3306 (i) Handrails. Verbiage is nearly identical to 1982 except for 12 inch.

Clearly the interpretation of "private" is open. However when I was building Single Family Residences in the 90's all of the jurisdictions I built in interpreted open stairs leading to more than one bedroom to be "not private". Most AHJ considered the volute an acceptable substitution for this. Since the stairs in question are not restrained by the rail at the open side, I believe that the minimum standard of care would be to extend the railing beyond the first riser and return it to the wall.

I also take issue with the handrail bracket being mounted so far back from the end of the railing. Simple physics would tell us that the railing is a lever arm and could place the fasteners into shear as well as torque. Inevitably the screws are angled into a 2x4 and the heads could easily be sheared in a fall.

With that being said and since we are also discussing the visual interpretation of the IRC you will note that in R311.5.6.2 Continuity that the requirement is for the handrail to be continuous from a point directly above to end risers. The photo of the stair being discussed and all of the codes agree that the railing in question is short of minimum requirements. If the stair was restrained by a handrail with a volute would meet the minimums.

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[#13] Posted: 05/13/2010 - 11:25:10 AM
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This is my first post!

Ok, from a municipal inspectors point of view:

It appears that you guys go by the IRC codes, but the IRC is primarily for new construction. If this house was built in the 50's then at that time it may have been in compliance and is therefore grandfathered in. While the photo indicates an open portion of stairs, the IRC is code for new construction so I would go by the IPMC. It states:

307.1 General. Every exterior and interior flight of stairs having
more than four risers shall have a handrail on one side of the
stair and every open portion of a stair, landing, balcony, porch,
deck, ramp or other walking surface which is more than 30
inches (762 mm) above the floor or grade below shall have
guards.

There is more than four stairs and there is a handrail on one side. It looks as if the fifth tread begins were the wall is located. So depending on where 30" inches is located the open side above 30" should have a guard.
But the code also states that the code official has the authority to render interpretations to the code. In this circumstance I would point out the railing must run the full length of the stairs and return to the wall as per the IRC for safety reasons.

   
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