stair rail - how far up can it start

Old 10-31-06, 07:48 AM
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Question stair rail - how far up can it start

I'm planning for installing a handrail for my newly-finished basement's stairs. I'm going to use a newel, rail, and balusters from Lowes. I've read that any staircase with more than 2 runners requires a hand rail. Mine has nine runners.

My question is where does the code require the starting newel at the bottom of the staircase to be installed? Would it follow the "more than two runner" rule and say that a starting newel must be installed no higher than just above the second runner?

Normally I would keep it simple and just install the starting newel at the bottom of the stairs. Despite that I've never been great at keeping it simple, I do have a logical reason for not wanting to do this. The bottom of the stairs ends in our basement with a wall directly in front of the the landing as you descend. The spacing is code-compliant, but I'm a bit of a space freak. I would like to start the newel a couple risers up to open up the space on that bottom landing a bit. Besides, I installed a wall rail on the other side of the same stairs so we'll have something to hold onto regardless of where the starting newel goes.

Old 10-31-06, 11:07 AM
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The easy answer is ask your local jurisidiction what is required in your area. Most codes I've seen require a guard rail for stair walk offs greater than 24" above the floor. Your handrail requirement is met by the wall handrail. So I would assume you can do what you want. When I did my basement, I put a wall up on the open side of the stairs. The wall stopped and left the last 3 steps open, from there the wall followed the height of the stringer. The inspectors had no problems with this. I wanted the space to make it easier to move sofas/mattresses down into the room.

In your case, I would worry it might look odd on a standard staircase to have the newel start on the 3rd step. It would probably look ok if your bottom 2 steps were longer than the rest and returned back to the wall.

good luck
Old 11-01-06, 07:45 PM
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You're trying to mix apples and oranges here.

Any set of stairs that has more thn 3 risers has to have a railing. (you were counting treads, not risers, but you stairs need a railing.)

The railing HAS to start at the nose of the bottom tread and continue to the top tread.

NO!! You CANNOT start the railing at the nose of the second or third tread. The railing has to start at the nose of the bottom tread.

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