I finished up installing flooring and stair treads and want to replace the stair railings. What used to be there is similar to the blue line shown below. The bottom open half had risers/guards about 7 inches wide, but it was one continous hand rail. Can I replace it the same, meaning one continous rail or does the upper half need to return back into the wall, then a new rail starts for the open section? If it is a new section/two separate sections, would it bolt against the wall facing the camera? Can the upper rail return into the lower hand rail so its all one connected piece? What is more common?

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  • Its your choice. It will be cheaper in sections Sep 1, 2023 at 23:36

2 Answers 2


Stair handrails should be continuous, without interruptions.

You could have a partial rail from the landing up to the wall to satisfy requirements for the left side and have one, continuous rail up the right side.

Otherwise the newel post would have to be brought in slightly on the left to allow for one continuous, uninterrupted railing.

Not only are handrails supportive devices but they are also navigational devices for visually impaired persons and certain guidelines must be followed.

Per ICC guidelines

R311.7.8.2 Continuity. Handrails for stairways shall be continuous for the full length of the flight, from a point directly above the top riser of the flight to a point directly above the lowest riser of the flight. Handrail ends shall be returned or shall terminate in newel posts or safety terminals. Handrails adjacent to a wall shall have a space of not less than 11/2 inches (38 mm) between the wall and the handrails.

Railing Interruptions excerpt:

The term “continuous” means not only that a single handrail must run from the top riser to the bottom riser, but it also indicates that users should be able to grasp the handrail and maintain their grasp without having to release the rail where it is supported.

Railing diagram with your exact scenario.

ICC Railing Interruption Diagram

  • 1
    This answers my question about requiring it to be continous or not, looks like it does have to be. I will modify my existing railing then as it does not meet some of the spacing requirements between the risers and the "triangle" that the treads and risers make.
    – Matt
    Sep 2, 2023 at 0:10

You can take it straight down to the last step, and use a newel post to end the railing. You will likely need balusters to support the railing along the open stairs. More common around here is a railing that hugs the wall then expands out, by making a 90-degree turn toward the open side, and another 90-degree turn heading down toward the bottom step. The railing on the "open" part is supported by balusters. It dead-ends into a newel post that is either on the last step, or on the floor below the last step, or half on/half off. So like this: _____|—— See photo. shaped railing

  • These types of handrails are dangerous. A handrail is to provide support going up and down and to act as a navigation device for people with vision disabilities. Think of how you'd follow that in the dark in a house fire or a blind person trying to navigate that. I would not want that in my house.
    – matt.
    Sep 2, 2023 at 0:00
  • 1
    This is exactly what I thought about doing, it looks like but I can see the functionality not being 100%.
    – Matt
    Sep 2, 2023 at 0:08

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