Stair Handrails and the minimum standards of the building codes.

I have done posts in the past about stairs, and how as a component of the home, they are perhaps one of the most difficult things to get right.

There is tread width, riser height, riser/tread ratios, consistency of riser height, nosings,  stair width, slope of treads and many other factors.

Side barriers and hand railings are more things to take into account.

On a recent new townhouse I found a hand rail that was not parallel to the run of stairs.  As in this next picture “A” and “B” should be equal.  Due to “perspective” they may actually even look parallel.

Stair handrails

Stair handrail that is not parallel to the run of the stairs


In this case the handrail at the top of the stairs, from a point at the stair nosing vertical to the handrail, measured over 41.”

At the bottom the height was 37.”

This meant that “A” and “B” could not be equal.

Current regulations require the handrail to be between 34” and 38” from the nosing vertical to the handrail.  Because the highest point of the handrail is more than 38,” it will need to be corrected, but the fact that it is not parallel would not, in itself, require repairs.  As long as one end is above 34″ and the other end is below 38,” the handrail would “technically meet current regulations.


Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector

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  1. So you’re one of those “nit-picky” home inspectors. I mention these things too, including missing returns, improper length, etc, especially on new construction. It’s a CYA safety thing.

  2. I love it when they through the nit-picky card. Last week a buyer asked my what are the purpose of soil vents as we pondered the toilet sink and shower all being vented inside the bathroom. When I said it could expose you to dangerous methane gas and adverse odors, the agent snapped and said you’re being nit-picky and using inflammatory language. The buyer told me later he was shocked and disappointed with his agent. Of course, I wasn’t surprised.

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