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The staircase to my basement has a metal handrail that I was able to pull out of the wall because the brackets take a single screw and those single screws were only 1/2" long.

I would like to replace the entire handrail with a new handrail and brackets. I am going to buy a simple wood handrail and these style brackets.

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The building code in my area states the top of the handrail must be between 865mm (34") and 965mm (38"). I have two toddlers and would like the handrail to be as low as possible so they can reach it.

There are several studs along the length of the wall where I will put the handrail so I'm assuming if I install it correctly I won't have the same problem as I did with my old handrail.

How do I ensure the handrail is 34" high? From where do I even measure? How can I be sure that the entire length of the handrail is the right slope and correct height? Is there a simple and straight forward way to install a handrail?

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I had suggested the tag "handrail" but could not create it because I have too few points. The tag doesn't already exist so maybe it is not needed. –  shufler Dec 5 '11 at 1:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The height is generally from the front of the tread straight up to the top of the handrail.

To get the brackets at the right height, you'll need to do some measuring and marking.

Measure the bracket top to bottom (if its height isn't already stated in the literature). You can allow for the thickness of the handrail by resting it on the stairs and measuring how high its top is above the front of the tread. Subtract those two numbers from the height you want the railing to be at to get the height for the bottom of the bracket if it were installed directly above the front of the tread.

Mark that height at the top and bottom steps and draw a line through them (if you can get a helper or two, you should have a nice straight piece of wood of just about the right length to hand; otherwise a straight-edge, the longer the better so that the line is in as few segments as possible). Your stair may not be perfectly even and regular, so you may want to measure the height above each tread and adjust the line accordingly if some of the measurements are out of the allowed range.

Finally, take your stud finder, locate the studs and install as many brackets as you need. The bottom of the bracket should be touching the line you've just drawn.

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Here's a brochure about my city's codes; there might be some information in it that you could use. –  Niall C. Dec 5 '11 at 2:36

The best way to deal with a low rail for toddlers is to add a second one. That way adults won't be surprised to find a rail at the low end of the range, and toddlers won't have to reach up. In theory you could remove the second rail when your children are taller. In my experience, parents of 8-year olds sometimes don't get around to removing inoffensive rails (it might even be a selling point for your house.)

Make sure you get the most heavy duty brackets you can. When replacing a stair rail recently, my teen told me approvingly "these are pretty tank" and that's what you want in a house with kids, where the rails will get hung on, tugged on, and generally used, compared to a childless house where I suppose graceful and sophisticated people just slide their hand along the top of the rail to look good :-). But seriously, while you're there finding studs and you have your screwdriver out and everything, install a second rail about halfway between the first one and the stair. The kids will love it.

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That's a fantastic idea about adding the second railing! I checked the code and in my area this is allowed, provided there is a handrail at the appropriate location as well. –  shufler Dec 5 '11 at 18:15
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I also picked up longer screws to make than come with the brackets so they go deeper into the studs. –  shufler Dec 5 '11 at 18:15

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