Last edited 23 Apr 2016




[edit] Introduction

Railings are used on stairs, balconies, galleries, decks, ramps, walkways and so on as a means of providing separation, support and safety.

Railings can be made from a very wide range of materials:

[edit] Balustrade


Railings differ from balusters which are made of stone, wood or metal, which are usually rounded or vase-shaped and support a rail or coping in a balustrade. They are common in classical forms of architecture. The balusters of a stairway together with handrail is known by the term banister.

[edit] Guard rails

Guard rails tend to be a restrictive form of railing, and aim to create the protective limitation of a boundary as opposed to handrails which aim to provide support. Many public spaces are fitted with guardrails as a means of preventing access and maintaining safety.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require that, for construction work, railings must have a minimum height of 950 mm and any gap between top and any intermediate rail should not exceed 470 mm.

Approved Document K of the Building Regulations requires that in a building that may be used by young children:

  • The spaces between railings should be close enough together to prevent a 100 mm sphere from passing through.
  • Horizontal rails should be avoided to prevent climbing.

See also Guarding.

[edit] Handrails

Approved document K defines a handrail as ’..a rail, at hand height or a little higher, for people to hold for support.’This can be useful for example when ascending or descending stairs or ramps.

Approved Document K requires that:

  • The top of the handrail should be positioned 900-1000 mm from the pitch line or floor.
  • The handrail may form the top of a guarding as long as the heights are matched.
  • A handrail should be provided on both sides of stairs that are 1 m wide or wider.
  • If stairs are more than 2m wide, then they should be divided into flights of no less than 1,000mm.
  • Handrails should be 50-75 mm away from the wall to which they are attached.
  • Circular handrails should be 32-50 mm in diameter.
  • Non-circular handrails should be 50 mm wide and 39 mm deep, usually with rounded edges.

In addition to this, for buildings other than dwellings:

  • Where there is a full guarding, and a second (lower) handrail, it should be 600 mm above the pitch line of the steps of ramp surface.
  • Handrails should not project into an access route.
  • Handrails should contrast visually without being highly reflective.
  • Handrails should be slip-resistant and not liable to become too hot or cold to the touch.
  • Handrails should continue, at least 300mm beyond the top and bottom of the stairs and should be finished in a way that reduces the risk of clothing being caught.

Handrails for ramps:

In dwellings and common access areas in buildings that contain flats:

NB According to Approved Document K, Protection from falling, collision and impact, 'guarding' is ‘…a barrier that denies pedestrians or vehicles access to another area, for example the floor below’.

[edit] Find out more

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[edit] External references