I realize that building codes tend to vary by jurisdiction, but I'm wondering, in general, do I need a hand railing and/or guardrail on this initial section of stairs as shown in orange? My hope is that because the section is less than 4 stairs, and under 30" I do not, but I'm not sure if because it's connected to a landing that is connected to other stairs, it requires a continuous railing to the end.

stair illustration

This is in an accessory building (workshop).

Thanks for your time.

  • 3
    Whether it's required by code or not, it seems like the thing to do. Nov 30, 2017 at 23:01
  • 4
    I'm looking for a proper building code. I do see some references to a handrail being required if there are three or more treads in a flight but I don't know how they tie to your jurisdiction. It looks like this is a substantial project, is a permit required by your jurisdiction? If so, calling one of the inspectors would be the fastest way to get a legal answer.
    – Aaron
    Dec 1, 2017 at 1:15
  • 2
    If I came around that corner holding the handrail, I'd expect it to continue. -Securely mounted too, because kids are going to hang on it. Dec 1, 2017 at 3:09
  • 1
    Thanks all, I understand now that I need to add the lower railing... I've been thinking of it from the perspective that I will be the only occupant 99% of the time, but others will certainly use the space, now or in the future. Adding the railing is the right thing to do. Thanks for your input!
    – JeremyLee
    Dec 1, 2017 at 14:28
  • You may wish to add a railing on the other side of the lower portion of stairs, as well. More than likely not required, but just a good idea IMO. Right-handed people may be more comfortable coming down the stairs holding a railing on their right.
    – mmathis
    Dec 1, 2017 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


I found this here from the International Residential Code of 2012.

R311.7.8 Handrails. Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers.

I believe you need a handrail since you have at least 4 risers it looks like it could be 5 but your picture cuts off the bottom of the stairs.

Also, the end of the handrail has to return toward a wall or terminate in a newel post or safety terminal.

This site also shows the information in a little more understandable format.

Nice job so far, good luck!


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