The Legal Height of a Residential Stair Railing

Updated July 19, 2017

There are international and state-based regulations for legal requirements of a stair railing height. Before installing or replacing a hand rail in your home, familiarise yourself with the legal codes associated with residential building regulations.

International Residential Code (IRC)

The International Residential Code is a comprehensive building code that outlines minimum regulations for or one- and two-family dwellings of three stories or less. According to Section R311.5.6.1, handrails must be no less than 34 inches and no more than 38 inches, above the nosing of the tread.

State Building Code

The requirements for handrail height range from state to state. Since local codes vary, contact your local building department for information regarding regulations that apply to your area.


If you want to be sure and be "legal" in your area, check with the local building inspector.

Remember to take the height measurement from the end of the stair tread.

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About the Author

Belle Palladino began writing professionally in 2010. Her interests include: architecture, architectural theory, art history, and cooking. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from Boston University and a Master of Architecture from Louisiana State University.