- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 01 Feb 2018
Railings can be made from a very wide range of materials:
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.
 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 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.
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.
- 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 on one or both sides should be provided for ramps less than 1 m wide.
- Ramps wider than 1 m should have handrails on both sides.
- Handrails are not needed for ramps 600 mm or less in height.
- Handrails should be positioned 900-1000 mm above the surface of the ramp.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Access control in buildings.
- Approved Document K.
- Health and safety.
- Hoarding for construction sites.
- Newel post.
- Work at height regulations.
- Wrought iron spindles for external stairs
 External references
Featured articles and news
Do you understand the different types of stone and which ones you should use where?
An ECA briefing for members about the commercial implications of leaving the EU.
A crucial moment on any project - and fraught with danger.
The performance gap from a Northern Ireland perspective.
Book review: Buildings of protestant nonconformity.
Design and testing for health and wellbeing - free download from BRE.
Retention in construction contracts.
Campaign for the reform of cash retentions.
The key points for the construction industry and BSRIA's response.
How to make roads safer: the debate continues.
What does the Northern Powerhouse mean for us?
The different types of bond in construction contracts.