stairs and railings

How many stairs can you have till you need railings? Outside stairs leading to front door

Thank you

I believe it’s anymore than two.

four stairs require a railing at least on one side

Correct. . .

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Thank you.

Chad, do not forget that a railing is or can be the same height as a hand rail and needs to meet the 1&1/4" to 2" diameter grip size.
Jeff is correct as usual on his 4 risers or more for hand rail requirements.

Marcel :slight_smile:

Chad that would depend on your local jurisdiction. You should check with the National Building Code or your local building department.

I just noticed, Chad is a “Northerner.”

Listen to Raymond :smiley:

A couple of points. As Raymond stated always check with the local building dept. as they may have adopted something different. Also be careful when talking about steps, people talk about steps and codes will talk about risers.
There is always 1 more riser than treads (steps).

To get to your question - the code doesn’t refer to the exterior in steps but states from finished floor or platform to finished grade in excess of 30" requires a guard rail. It’s with interior they mention any stairway with more than 3 risers (2 steps) will require a handrail.


Hi to all,
I hope this information can can be useful. Please feel free to add it to your database.

2006 International Residential Code for One and Two Family Dwellings
Part III – Building Planning and Construction
Chapter 3, Building Planning
Section R-311 Means of Egress
R 311.5 stairways
R 311.5.6 handrails

311.5.6 Handrails.
Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with *four *or more risers.
{Note: this applies to both interior and exterior stairways}

**R311.5.6.1 Height. **
Handrail height, measured vertically from the sloped plane adjoining the tread nosing, or finish surface of ramp slope, shall be not less than 34 inches (864 mm) and not more than 38 inches (965 mm).

**R311.5.6.2 Continuity. **
Handrails for stairways shall be continuous for the full length of the flight, from a point directly above the top riser of the flight to a point directly above the lowest riser of the flight. Handrail ends shall be returned or shall terminate in newel posts or safety terminals. Handrails adjacent to a wall shall have a space of not less than 1½ inch (38 mm) between the wall and the handrails.

  1. Handrails shall be permitted to be interrupted by an go and what he and what he and right and a newel post at the turn.
  2. The use of a volute, turnout, starting easing or starting newel shall be allowed over the lowest tread.

R311.5.6.3 Handrail grip size.
All required handrails shall be of one of the following types or provide equivalent graspability.

  1. Type I. Handrails with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of at least 1¼ inches (32 mm) and not greater than 2 inches (51 mm). If the handrail is not circular it shall have a perimeter dimension of at least 4 inches (102 mm) and not greater than 6¼ inches (160 mm) with a maximum cross section of dimension of 2¼ inches(57 mm).
  2. Type II. Handrails with a perimeter greater than 6¼ inches (160 mm) shall provide a graspable finger recess area on both sides of the profile. The finger recess shall begin within a distance of ¾ inch (19 mm) measured vertically from the tallest portion of the profile and achieve a depth of at least 5/16 inch (8 mm) within 7/8 inch (22 mm) below the widest portion of the profile. This required depth shall continue for at least 3/8 inch (10 mm) to a level that is not less than 1¾ inches (45 mm) below the tallest portion of the profile. The minimum width of the handrail above the recess shall be 1¼ inches (32 mm) to a maximum of 2¾inches (70 mm). Edges shall have a minimum radius of 0.01 inch (0.25 mm).

2006 International Property Maintenance Code
**Chapter 3, General Requirements **
Section 306, Handrails and Guardrails

306.1 General.
Every exteriorand interior flight of stairs having more than four risers shall have a handrail on one side of the stair and every open portion of a stair, landing, balcony, porch, deck, ramp or other walking surface which is more than 30 inches (762 mm) above the floor or grade below shall have guards. Handrails shall not be less than 30 inches (762 mm) high or more than 42 inches (1067 mm) high measured vertically above the nosing of the tread or above the finished floor of the landing or walking surfaces.
Guards shall not be less than 30 inches (762 mm) high above the floor of the landing, balcony, porch, deck, or ramp or other walking surface.
Exception: Guards shall not be required where exempted by the adopted building code.

How would you interpret this configuration?

Is that piece of trim below the threshold a riser?
Would that constitute inconsistent riser height?
Does it require a rail?


Yes the threshold would be considered a riser and would be inconsistent riser height. It has 4 risers so it should have a handrail on one side.

Pet peeve of mine is when someone answers a building question with: “I believe”. We are not dealing with a religious issue here. Your beliefs are not relevant. If you know the answer say so. If you don’t, then don’t answer. Leave it to someone who does.

Thanks my pet peeve is those member’s who do not go the top left control and fill in the information asked for .

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