Stairs – missing handrails

We saw this staircase on a survey. Typical of its age – probably dating to the mid to late ‘60s. It looks good (to some eyes), is airy and open, but doesn’t comply with building regulations. The lack of a handrail and balustrade is the concern here.

Building regulations require a handrail and balustrade in dwellings where there is a drop of more than 600mm. The handrail should be at 900mm height. If there are openings in the balustrade then a 100mm sphere must not be able to pass through them and the whole unit should not be easy for children to climb. A handrail is required on both sides if the width exceeds 1000mm. For ease of use by disabled and mobility impaired users we would recommend a handrail on both sides whatever the width of the stair. Open risers like these are acceptable if each tread overlaps by minimum of 16mm.

The Building Regulations are not retrospective and enforcement action is not really very likely if an occupier takes the handrail off, but it is likely to come up as a problem at resale when the house is surveyed. The risk here is that an occupier or a visitor can fall off the stairs causing injury – in particular at the quarter landing. Stair design is detailed in approved document K of the Building Regulations.

The information in this article is for guidance only. There is no substitute for advice specific to your situation. If this is an old post, the law may have changed since it was written.

(Originally published by Steven Way, 14 March 2011)