Friday, June 5, 2009

Handrail Code Items

Handrail codes have relaxed over the years to allow for a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are some of the relevant code items for the 2006 Seattle Residential Building Code:

  • Must be positioned 34"-38" when measured vertically above the front of each tread.
  • If installed against a wall, the space between the handrail and the wall may not be less than 1 1/2"
  • Must extend at least from a point directly above the lowest riser to a point directly above the upper riser (it can extend beyond these points). See next bullet point for exception.
  • At the bottom tread, a 'starting newel' is allowed over the lowest tread (meaning the handrail may end a little earlier than above the lowest riser).
  • Handrails must return to wall or to newel post.
  • For the actual handrail you have two choices:

    Type 1: Handrails with a circular cross section must have a diameter between 1 1/4" - 2". If the handrail is not circular, the perimeter dimension must be at least 4" and not greater than 6 1/4" with a maximum cross section dimension of 2 1/4".

    Type 2: Handrails with a perimeter greater than 6 1/4" shall provide a graspable finger recess area on both sides of the profile. The finger recess shall begin within a distance of 3/4" measured vertically from the tallest portion of the profile and achieve a depth of at least 5/16" within 7/8" below the widest portion of the profile. This required depth shall continue for at least 3/8" to a level that is not less than 1 3/4" below the tallest portion of the profile. The minimum width of the handrail above the recess shall be 1 1/4" to a maximum of 2 3/4". Edges shall have a minimum radius of .01".


  1. In my residence, we have a 34" wide staircase with walls on both sides down the full length. There is an existing handrail that we'd like to remove because it frequently gets in the way or is run into (especially annoying when carrying something up and down the stairs).

    Does Washington state code REQUIRE a handrail in this circumstance? Or are we safe to remove it?

  2. If the stair has fewer than four risers, then the a handrail is not required. Otherewise it is required.

    Nazim Nice

  3. is that it? if your stairs is less than 4 risers, no handrail is required, if its more than,, then it be required. Thanks for that., I've seen many stairs with less than 4 riser that has handrail and some of them doesn't look good. do you have some cds for this guidelines? i'd be very glad to buy.