When do you need to install a graspable secondary handrail on a residential deck?

Posted 3 June 2011 8:37 PM by [email protected]

A graspable secondary handrail is an important component to consider when planning a deck with stairs. So whether you're constructing a residential composite deck, lumber deck or a deck made from other decking material, you're typically required to install a graspable secondary handrail on one side of the deck's stair railing when there are four or more stair risers present.

Key Residential Stair Handrail Requirements (IRC - International Residential Code)

  1. Stairways having four or more risers, or rising more than 30 inches in height, whichever is less, must have at least one grab rail.
  2. Handrails with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of at least 1-1/4 inches and not greater than 2 inches. If the handrail is not circular it shall have a perimeter dimension of at least 4 inches and not greater than 6-1/4 inches with a maximum cross section of dimension of 2-1/4 inches.
  3. The grab rail must terminate at the newel post (top and bottom posts).
  4. Clear space between a handrail and a wall or other surface shall be a minimum of 1-1/2 inches.
  5. The height of handrails must be installed 34 inches - 38 inches from the upper surface of the handrail to the surface of the tread.

Deckorators Secondary Handrail

Graspable secondary handrails are required by more and more building codes / deck codes in areas across the country. Deckorators® features a secondary handrail system in its deck railing products lineups.

These attractive and highly versatile graspable handrails are ideal for meeting building codes when required. Made of heavy-gauge aluminum and durable PVC, the system includes a variety of different radius elbows and styles of returns to meet every possible installation. The railing is available in three colors (Textured black, Textured White and Weathered Brown) to complement a homes exterior.

As always, check your local building code or ask your building inspector to make sure you or your contractor installs a secondary handrail when required by law.


Check out the American Wood Council's "Design for Code Acceptance" document for complete details. Stair handrail requirements are outlined on page 18.