Handrails and Guards

Handrails run parallel to stairs to provide support for stair users. All stairways with three or more risers in houses must have a handrail from floor to floor, and on both sides if the stair is 1100 mm (43 in.) or wider.

For stairways with enclosing walls, attach the rail brackets to the wall with at least two screws penetrating at least 32 mm (11⁄4 in.) into solid framing members. Space the supports no more than 1.2 m (4 ft.) apart, with the first and last supports no more than 300 mm (12 in.) from the ends of the handrail.

For stairs that are open on one or both sides, handrails are usually supported by balusters and end at newel posts. Handrails should be between 800 and 965 mm (32 and 38 in.) above the tread at the leading edge line, with at least 50 mm (2 in.) clearance from the wall, and be built so that there is no obstruction that could break a handhold. The start and end point of handrails must not obstruct pedestrian traffic or create a hazard.

Guards surround openings to protect against falling and are required around openings at landings, decks and balconies that are more than 600 mm (24 in.) above the adjacent level, and alongside the open portions of stairways.

Guards for stairs in houses and houses with a secondary suite must be not less than 900 mm (36 in.) high measured vertically from the leading edge. Guards for exterior balconies or landings, porches or decks that are more than 600 mm (24 in.) but less than 1800 mm (71 in) above the ground must be at least 900 mm (36 in.) high. For decks and landings higher than 1800 mm (71 in.), guards must be at least 1070 mm (42 in.) high.

Young children can use horizontal features in a guard as a ladder, resulting in climbing and possible falling. Spacing between balusters for all guards must not permit a 100 mm (4 in.) sphere from passing through. Some ornamental features are permitted between guards but must meet limitations in their form so that they do not facilitate climbing.

Guards must be strong enough to provide protection from falls during normal usage. The specific loads that guards need to resist to meet this requirement should be verified at the permit approval stage.

Source : Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)