How Do You Determine a Good Handrail Height for a Deck?


Quick Answer

Determine the height of a deck railing by checking with local building authorities. Most follow the International Residential Code, which specifies a height of 34 to 38 inches from the top of the deck floor to the top of the rail for all handrails. Maintain the same height with stair railings, but measure from the nose of the stair tread to the top of the rail. The code requires handrails on all decks over 30 inches high.

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Full Answer

The code also addresses the handrail diameter to ensure that it is easy to grasp. Rails should be a minimum of 1 1/2 inches in diameter and maximum of 2 1/2 inches. The requirement eliminates using two-by-fours for railing. Large, decorative rails often meet the requirement by maintaining a groove for the fingers and thumb to grasp.

Deck rails must maintain structural integrity to protect those who use the deck. The code specifies a maximum distance of 6 feet between support posts on the flat deck and 5 1/2 feet on stairs. Railings must support at least 200 pounds of pressure from any direction. When there is a bottom rail, it must be within 4 inches of the deck surface to protect young children. Balusters require a maximum of a 4-inch spacing for the same reason.

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