Adding a new handrail to a staircase

Juliet Fishenden

In the UK. handrails need to be present where you have a set of stairs and, if the flight of stairs exceeds a certain width, there needs to be a pair of handrails, one on either side of the staircase

That’s roughly the rule when it comes to handrails, stair banisters and railings in the UK. Building regulations also stipulate the height at which a handrail should be installed. The codes also cover the design of handrails, treads and risers and other fittings such as spindles.

Handrails come in all manner of designs and materials but a wrought iron handrail is near as safe and secure as you can get. On top of being a very safe choice, when looked after properly, a bespoke handrail wrought from iron will last for years.

So, do stairs have to have handrails?

The short answer is “yes”. UK building codes require that staircases require at least one handrail. Part K of the Building Regulations set out the requirements for handrails.

If the stairs are less than 1 metre wide then a handrail must be provided on one or both sides. If the stairs are wider than 1 metre then a handrail should be installed on both sides.

The first two steps of a staircase do not require a handrail.

How tall should a handrail be?

Whether you’re installing a new staircase or renovating an old one, the height at which you hang the handrail is important. If the railing is too high or too low it won’t be much use or perform the safety function that it’s designed to do.

In the UK, Building Regulations state that the handrail should be fitted at a height between 900 mm and 1000 mm above the pitch line of the stairs or the floor of a landing. The pitch line is a virtual line, running up the staircase and sitting on the nose of the treads.

Does a stair handrail need to be continuous?

UK building codes require each flight of stairs to have a continuous banister. The handrail does not need to be continuous on the landings between flights.

It’s important to understand the exact definition of a “flight”. A flight of stairs is a series of uninterrupted series of risers and treads. This includes the risers of windings. Windings are treads that are used to change the direction of the staircase.

A continuous railing is required except where there is a newel post installed to act as a handhold. A newel post is the upright post which supports the handrail. Most commonly such a pillar is found at the top and bottom of a staircase but they can also be used for intermediate posts and on landings. Wall brackets are used to secure the railing to the wall.

Other areas which would benefit from a handrail

Bespoke handrails can be used for a variety of other functions aside from providing safety on a staircase. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, iron handrails adorning garden walls, terraces and balconies ensure a safe and secure barrier to be formed. There are separate sections of the regulations which cover railings installed on balconies.

Juliet Fishenden
Juliet Fishenden

Here, you’ll find a news feed straight from the forge posted by myself, Juliet, Richard’s wife and business partner. Richard and I love beautiful, hand crafted objects so design is a hugely important aspect of our company. We’re thrilled to be working with a variety of British designers such as Anthony Dickens and Chris Eckersley. It’s here you’ll find updated product information as well as personal observations about Richard’s craft.

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