Outside stairways, such as front door steps leading to an elevated porch, can become hazardous when exposed to inclement weather. For this reason, many insurers require handrails to be installed before issuing household liability insurance. To complicate matters, handrails often need to be retro fitted to weatherproof surfaces such as concrete or brick. Although it takes a little planning, with the right components and tools, attaching a handrail to a brick wall is a fairly straightforward project.
Check with your local building inspector for the approved handrail height in your area; this could be anywhere between 75 and 90 cm (30 and 36 inches) above the stair tread. Place a spirit level against the wall on the lowest step, centre the bubble and use a steel measuring tape and felt-tipped pen to mark the handrail height. Repeat this procedure on the highest step.
Stretch a chalk line between the two marks. Pull the line away from the wall and release it to snap a sloping chalk line on the wall.
Measure the desired length of your handrail with a steel measuring tape and add 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) for safety sake. Visit your local home improvement outlet and buy a suitable length of schedule 40 galvanised steel pipe with a nominal bore of 3.1 cm (1 1/4 inches), together with two suitable rubber pipe end caps. Also, pick up two ISO approved wall mounted handrail brackets with self tapping bolts to fit this pipe. Complete the purchase with half a dozen 9 mm (3/8 inch) lag shields, and lag bolts.
Check that everything fits correctly by dry fitting the handrail and brackets against the wall with the help of a friend. Position the mounting brackets 30 cm (12 inches) from the end of the pipe. With the pipe in place, centre the handrail bracket mounting flanges on the chalk line. Draw circles through the mounting holes onto the wall with a felt-tipped pen to mark the position of the lag bolts.
Drill six pilot holes for the mounting bracket lag shields in the centre of your marked circles; use a 4.5 mm (3/16 inch) masonry drill bit mounted in a hammer drill. Take care to hold the drill at a right angle to the wall while doing so. Once this is done, enlarge the holes with the recommended size masonry drill to match the diameter of your lag shields; drill to just over the length of the lag shields. Blow remaining grit and dust from the holes with an aerosol can of compressed air.
Insert the ribbed side of the lag shields into their holes and tap them home with a hammer until they are level with the surface of the brick. Place the mounting bracket against the wall, insert the lag bolts and washers and tighten each bolt firmly with a socket set.
Place the handrail into the recess on top of the mounting brackets. Check to see that the length of the pipe looks right. If necessary, cut the pipe to size with a hacksaw and clean up the ragged ends with a file.
Clamp the correct size pilot drill bit suited to the self-tapping bracket mounting bolts into the drill. Adjust the drill to the non-hammering setting. Have your assistant hold the handrail firmly in position. Place the drill bit into the first hole through the bottom of the mounting bracket and drill a hole through the bottom of the pipe. Insert one of the self-tapping mounting bolts that came with the bracket into the hole. Tighten firmly with a socket set. Repeat this procedure with the three remaining mounting bolts.
Insert the rubber end caps into the hand rail and tap them home with a rubber mallet to complete the installation.
Wear safety glasses and workman's gloves while installing a handrail. Although a galvanised handrail looks good and will maintain its shine for years without rusting, you may wish to finish the installation with a coat of paint. If so, prime the galvanised surface with a coat of zinc chromate self-etching primer before applying two or three coats of hard wearing enamel. Alternatively, you could have all the parts powder coated prior to installation.