The 2006/2012 International Residential Code (IRC) contains railing guidelines similar to those found in the Florida Building Code Fifth Edition (2014, 2017).  Below are the written regulations along with images displaying the code as it applies to its appropriate context.

Helpful PDF also appears here:

2006 IRC R311.5.6 HANDRAILS (Height, Continuity, Grip Size)

R311.5.6  (Handrails)  F  Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers.

R311.5.6.1  F Handrail height, measured vertically from the sloped plane adjoining the tread nosing, or finish surface of ramp slope, shall be not less than 34 inches and not more than 38 inches.

R311.5.6.2  G 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.

H  Handrails adjacent to a wall shall have a space of not less than 1 1/2 inch between the wall and the handrails.


  1. G Handrails shall be permitted to be interrupted by a newel post at the turn.
  2. The use of a volute, turnout, starting easing or starting newel shall be allowed over the lowest tread.

R3115.6.3  (Handrail Grip) All required handrails shall be of one of the following types or provide equivalent graspability.

  1. Type I. Handrails with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of a t 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.
  2. Type II. Handrails with a perimeter greater than 6 1/4 inches shall provide a graspable finger recess area on both sides of the profile.  The finger recess shall begin within a distance of 3/4 inch measured vertically from the tallest portion of the profile and achieve a depth of at least 5/16 inch within 7/8 inch below the widest portion of the profile.  This required depth shall continue for at least 3/8 inch to a level that is not less than 1 3/4 inches below the tallest portion of the profile.  The minimum width of the handrail above the recess shall be 1 1/4 inches to a maximum of 2 3/4 inches.  Edges shall have a minimum radius of 0.01 inch.

R311.5.7 Illumination.  All stairs shall be provided with illumination in accordance with Section R303.6.

2006 IRC Section R312 GUARDS

R312.1 J Guards  Porches, balconies, ramps or raised floor surfaces located more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below shall have guards mot less than 36 inches in height. K Open sides of stairs with a total rise of more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below shall have guards not less than 34 inches in height measured vertically from the nosing of the treads.  Porches and decks which are enclosed with insect screening shall be equipped with guards where the walking surface is located more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below.

R312.2 L Guard Opening limitations.  Required guards on open sides of stairways, raised floor areas, balconies and porches shall have intermediate rails or ornamental closures which do not allow passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter.


  1. The triangular openings formed by the riser, tread and bottom rail of a guard at the open side of a stairway are permitted to be of such a size that a sphere 6 inches cannot pass through.
  2. Openings for required guards on the sides of stair treads shall not allow a sphere 4 3/8 inches to pass through.


Jan 30, 2018   3324    Codes & Standards    
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