Stair rail configuration help

redknife

Chris
Corporate Member
I am looking for advice on how to configure a continuous handrail on the inside of a "U-shaped" stairway.
We are coming toward the end of a basement gut and remodel. Elder guests stay downstairs. They and I could use something to grab around the corner. Below are pics of the present state. The midline separating wall is 2 x 4 with 1/2 drywall. One step in the landing. Should I be thinking gooseneck quarter turns, or ....
I know there are several trim and stair experts on the forum. thanks!
 

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bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
A gap at the transitions isn't so bad as long as it isn't too wide and the adjoining handrail is within easy reach of a person on the steps.
I've made some handrail recently and it isn't a small job for my shop. Lots of long lengths.
One thing I did learn is that a handrail needs to be about 6" or less in circumference for safe and comfortable holding. This is an easy test because a dollar bill is a perfect gauge. If the dollar bill wraps around the handrail and overlaps, you're good. On specialty rails, I think there's a maximum width of the top part. My mother's 1950s house has a handrail on one set of stairs that's the same thing as the balustrade rail. A big wide thing that isn't at all good for a good solid grip.

Consider making your own handrail using router bits with guide bearings. That way you can match the profile if you want for custom made curved pieces. What I did below was only good for straight runs since it was on a shaper with one bit being a fixed three wing cutter.

Below is one easing joint that I did. Its held up well. I used gorilla glue because titebond has more of a tendency to cold flow.

1 handrail - 1.jpg


1 handrail - 2.jpg
 

redknife

Chris
Corporate Member
Thanks, Bob and Joe. With the 180 degree turn around the wall, it seemed like there’d have to be two upturns in close proximity which would be clunky. I could leave a gap, but I personally have trouble with the step on the landing without something to grab. The outside wall has the half wall configuration so I can’t readily use the outside path for a rail. Maybe I just have to move ahead, mark heights, and mock up some turns.
 

Oka

Oka
Corporate Member
Also Building code in most states now require they 12" beyond if possible.- Ask your local city/county for a reference drawing, they usually have one .

Another thing, when doing railing you can use a flapper wheel on a 4 Inch grinder to free hand the corners and transitions.

I normally use 60 or 80 for hogging in and 120 to smooth out sanding scratches before final sanding.
 

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bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
For commercial and institutional buildings intended for general public occupation, the handrail standards are often strictly enforced. Detached residential single family dwellings, not so much, at least around here. I've never been in a home that had handrails like those found in shopping malls, hospitals, or government buildings.
 

Oka

Oka
Corporate Member
Hmmm, Out on the west coast this is strictly enforced. One other thing to think about, alot of the mortgage companies are disclosing anything that is not code complaint. Welcome to the new world order
 

Charles Lent

Charley
Corporate Member
There are sources of ready made compliant stair railing parts. I found a local lumber yard that had all I needed to assemble a railing railing with a U turn and drop in my previous home. You can put together a kit of ready made sections to accomplish just about anything needed. A quick internet search brought this up, so it might be of help.


Charley
 

redknife

Chris
Corporate Member
Regarding code, I’m up to speed as the work will be inspected. For thread reference, IRC 2018 chapter 3 link: Welcome | ICC premiumACCESS scroll to section 311.7 if interested. Your local enforcement and/or code version may vary.
I’ll look at those parts again, Charley. I have been mentally stuck on the tight 180 with elevation change.

addendum: the link Charley sent had a 180 with a drop on the homepage. I hadn’t seen that anywhere. That might do the trick.
 
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redknife

Chris
Corporate Member
Dave, thanks for the rendering. The elevation change from the mid landing step needs to be accounted for. Either the short cross piece would have to be slanted or there would have to be a short vertical section. Another way to express that is that the (walking path distance)/(rail distance) is essentially 1 for the straight run portions. At the 180 including one step, the (walking path distance)/(rail distance) is >> 1.
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
Either I'm missing something or you have the handrail on the inside on the lower section and the outside on the upper. That causes a big transition if you are trying to keep a hand on the handrail. I think it would be a big benefit to just move the handrail to the inside on the upper portion. Even if they are not connected, it would be easy to transition that way. I would start with that change and then decide if they really need to be connected.

It's totally different but the way the handrails work on a staircase I framed and finished in my entry is they transition into a newel post. The lower section meets the post at a lower elevation than the upper. To do the same thing for your situation with no newel (because they are not open stairs) you would have to have a vertical section of handrail. That seems like a lot of transitions to cut since you are also turning 90 degrees.

But if you get the handrails on the same side of the staircase, you may not need to connect them and if you do, you will be closer to a solution.
 

Charles Lent

Charley
Corporate Member
Chris,

I wish I had a photo of the handrail that I assembled in my former house (in NY), but I was able to buy the ready made rail pieces and assemble the railing myself using only very basic hand and hand held power tools. It likely took me much longer than a professional stair and railing installer, but I did it, and I didn't need to buy any second pieces to replace something that I cut wrong. My railing ran horizontal for about 8' and then made a U turn with a drop to follow the stairs down one flight. The horizontal length and turn had spindles, and the rail ends had oval pieces that attached to the walls.

Ask around locally to see if there is a lumber yard near you that carries pre-made railing parts. Being able to go there and look at what is available, and hold it in your hands, is far better than trying to buy things like this mail order. It's easier to return and exchange pieces if you decide to go another way too. My railing was inspected after my renovation was completed, and the inspector complemented me on the railing. When he asked who the installer was, he was shocked when I told him that I had installed it. He didn't believe me, at first.

Charley
 

redknife

Chris
Corporate Member
Jim- You are right about the distance between the two rails. I might try your stepped approach. Until I get done installing new rails and returns, it might not be much extra work to wrap around for a continuous rail. I'll have to decide.
Charley, I'll use my local lumber yard, Caudell Lumber. They use L.J. Smith stair systems. Should handle my needs.
 

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