Get a Grip, Nashville!

Nashville Home Inspection – What’s Wrong With This Picture?  10-19-12

Look at the picture below.  Do you know what’s missing?

missing handrail

HINT:  Try to get a grasp on things.

ANSWER:  It looks nice enough, doesn’t it?  New paint and all.  But let’s count the steps.  I count 5, when you include the last step up to porch.  So what is missing?  How about a “graspable handrail”?  A graspable handrail is recommended any time the number of step risers is 4 or more.  So you might say they have it in the 2×4 handrail on the left, right?  Not really.  There is a very specific definition of a “graspable handrail”.  In fact it is so detailed it is best to show you a picture.  Please see below.

The International Residential Code (IRC) rules are mostly in place now.  The handgrip portion of the graspable handrail shall not be less than 1 1/4  inches or more than 2 inches in cross sectional dimension, or the shape shall provide an equivalent gripping surface.  The handgrip shall have a smooth surface with no sharp corners.  Handrails projecting from the wall shall have a space of not less than 1 1/2 inches between the wall and the handrail.  The handrail should be continuous and should return to the wall or the rail at the ends.  So the basic idea of a graspable handrail is something you can wrap your fingers around.  That is why a 2×4 does not work.  Think about the very young and the elderly.  On any step system, but certainly on one with steep steps or with uneven step risers, they need a graspable handrail that is firmly mounted to help them up and down.

To comment or ask questions about this article please email

Thank you,

Richard Acree


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