Last edited 16 Sep 2020




[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.

A survey carried out by stair part specialist Jackson Woodturners revealed that only 15% of the public know the correct name for a balustrade.

NB See SCOSS Alert Dec 2019, Glass balustrades may pose a serious risk to safety.

[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:

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] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External references

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