Tom often gets requests to build custom metal handrails from both residential builders and commercial companies. His various projects will be posted to this site as they are completed. I thought it might be handy to review a few steps to consider as you begin a handrail fabrication project.
Tom’s years spent as a building inspector for our city comes in handy when tackling projects such as building and installing a custom metal handrail. A handrail is required if there are four or more stairs. Commercial and residential codes differ from there on.
Commercial code requires that the builder must extend the handrail a foot beyond both the top and bottom landings of the stairs. The handrail should continue it’s slop with the stairs in relation to the bottom stair. At the top of the stair landing the handrail should bend and level out so as to parallel the top landing. Both top and bottom handrail should extend at least a foot.
If there is a drop off the side of the stair at any point that is thirty inches or more, a guardrail should be built as well. Commercial code dictates that guardrail should be forty two inches minimum. The guardrails should also be fixed so that the guardrail bars are fixed so that a four inch sphere can not pass through any part of the guardrail. This safety rule prevents kids from putting their heads through the guardrail and having the misfortune of getting stuck. Residential guardrail is measured at a thirty six inch minimum.
The first step in designing and building a handrail is to measure the rise and run of the stairs. This will give you the slope of the stairway. An angle meter can also be used. Tom usually measures the front of the bottom tread and the front of the very last tread, or landing of the top. This gives him a starting point for where the bends on the handrails will be located.
When measuring the rise of the stair note that they are all with in 3/8″ of each other. After measuring a few stairs, take an average of the rise. Tom takes his measurements of the rise and run of the staircase and chalks them out on his shop floor. He then uses that as a pattern to shape the metal handrail.
It is also important to consider the architecture of the house or building when constructing a metal handrail. Square handrail often looks nice, but code likes round handrail because it tends to be more graspable. Code also specifies that handrail should be at least an inch and a quarter in diameter with a maximum of two and a quarter. The height should also be between thirty four and thirty eight inches.
Metal handrail was 1 1/2″ tubing with a wall thickness of .109. Tubing was fabricated using Shop Outfitter’s Universal Fabricator. The Universal Fabricator bends up to 1 1/4″ pipe or 1 1/2″ tubing. Dies are also available for square tubing up to 1 1/2″.