How to Calculate Staircase Handrails

Written by raul avenir | 13/05/2017
How to Calculate Staircase Handrails
Every stairway should have a code-compliant handrail. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

A stairway, or staircase, is a part of most homes and can be a dangerous area, which is why handrails are required by local and national building codes to be constructed on every stairway. Handrails serve as a support and anchor that will prevent you from getting out of balance or falling while passing through a stairway. Calculating the measurements for and installing a handrail is a simple and straightforward task.

Measure the length from the nosing of the top landing to the floor at the bottom of the stairs to determine the length of rail that will be installed along the wall.

Measure 34 inches above the nosing of the stair treads at the top and bottom of the stairway, then mark the measurements on the wall with a pencil. Call a helper, and draw a straight line from the mark on the top tread to the mark on the bottom tread using the chalk and reel marking tool. The handrail must be between 34 inches and 38 inches above the nosing of the stair treads. The line will serve as guide to indicate the elevation of the handrail.

Locate the studs behind the drywall or plaster using a stud finder. Studs are typically placed 16 inches apart from centre to centre. Once you locate the first stud, the succeeding studs can be located by horizontally measuring 16 inches from the centre of the first stud. Intersect the vertical position of each stud with the diagonal line that you marked in Step 2 to know the spot where each handrail bracket will be mounted. Mark the intersection using a pencil.

Fasten the handrail brackets onto each spot on the wall where you marked the intersecting lines mentioned in Step 3, using a power drill and the screws supplied with the brackets. Screw the handrail in place, and clean any markings on the wall.

Things you need

  • Handrail
  • Chalk and reel marking tool
  • Handrail brackets
  • Power drill

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