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California Building Code Excerpt

Section 11B-505 Handrails

Code excerpt regarding technical requirements for handrails: general, where required, continuity, height, clearance, gripping surface, cross section, surfaces, fittings, and handrail extensions.

11B-505 Handrails

11B-505.1 General. Handrails provided along walking surfaces complying with Section 11B-403, required at ramps complying with Section 11B-405, and required at stairs complying with Section 11B-504 shall comply with Section 11B-505.

Advisory 11B-505.1 General. Handrails are not required on walking surfaces with running slopes less than 1:20. However, handrails are required to comply with Section 11B-505 when they are provided on walking surfaces with running slopes less than 1:20 (see Section 11B-403.6). Sections 11B-505.2, 11B-505.3, and 11B-505.10 do not apply to handrails provided on walking surfaces with running slopes less than 1:20 as these sections only reference requirements for ramps and stairs.

11B-505.2 Where required. Handrails shall be provided on both sides of stairs and ramps.

Exceptions:

  1. In assembly areas, handrails shall not be required on both sides of aisle ramps where a handrail is provided at either side or within the aisle width.
  2. Curb ramps do not require handrails.
  3. At door landings, handrails are not required when the ramp run is less than 6 inches (152 mm) in rise or 72 inches (1829 mm) in length.

11B-505.2.1 Orientation. The orientation of at least one handrail shall be in the direction of the stair run, perpendicular to the direction of the stair nosing, and shall not reduce the minimum required width of the stair.

11B-505.3 Continuity. Handrails shall be continuous within the full length of each stair flight or ramp run. Inside handrails on switchback or dogleg stairs and ramps shall be continuous between flights or runs.

Exception: In assembly areas, ramp handrails adjacent to seating or within the aisle width shall not be required to be continuous in aisles serving seating.

11B-505.4 Height. Top of gripping surfaces of handrails shall be 34 inches (864 mm) minimum and 38 inches (965&bnsp;mm) maximum vertically above walking surfaces, stair nosings, and ramp surfaces. Handrails shall be at a consistent height above walking surfaces, stair nosings, and ramp surfaces.

Advisory 11B-505.4 Height. The requirements for stair and ramp handrails in this chapter are for adults. When children are the principal users in a building or facility (e.g., elementary schools), a second set of handrails at an appropriate height can assist them and aid in preventing accidents. A maximum height of 28 inches (710 mm) measured to the top of the gripping surface from the ramp surface or stair nosing is recommended for handrails designed for children. Sufficient vertical clearance between upper and lower handrails, 9 inches (230 mm) minimum, should be provided to help prevent entrapment.

Figure 11B-505.4 Handrail Height
Figure 11B-505.4 Handrail Height

11B-505.5 Clearance. Clearance between handrail gripping surfaces and adjacent surfaces shall be 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) minimum. Handrails may be located in a recess if the recess is 3 inches (76 mm) maximum deep and 18 inches (457 mm) minimum clear above the top of the handrail.

Figure 11B-505.5 Handrail Clearance
Figure 11B-505.5 Handrail Clearance

11B-505.6 Gripping surface. Handrail gripping surfaces shall be continuous along their length and shall not be obstructed along their tops or sides. The bottoms of handrail gripping surfaces shall not be obstructed for more than 20 percent of their length. Where provided, horizontal projections shall occur 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) minimum below the bottom of the handrail gripping surface.

Exceptions:

  1. Where handrails are provided along walking surfaces with slopes not steeper than 1:20, the bottoms of handrail gripping surfaces shall be permitted to be obstructed along their entire length where they are integral to crash rails or bumper guards.
  2. The distance between horizontal projections and the bottom of the gripping surface shall be permitted to be reduced by 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) for each 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) of additional handrail perimeter dimension that exceeds 4 inches (102 mm).

Advisory 11B-505.6 Gripping surface. People with disabilities, older people, and others benefit from continuous gripping surfaces that permit users to reach the fingers outward or downward to grasp the handrail, particularly as the user senses a loss of equilibrium or begins to fall.

Figure 11B-505.6 Handrail Projections Below Gripping Surface
Figure 11B-505.6 Handrail Projections Below Gripping Surface

11B-505.7 Cross section. Handrail gripping surfaces shall have a cross section complying with Section 11B-505.7.1 or 11B-505.7.2.

11B-505.7.1 Circular cross section. Handrail gripping surfaces with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of 1 1/4 inches (32 mm) minimum and 2 inches (51 mm) maximum.

11B-505.7.2 Non-circular cross sections. Handrail gripping surfaces with a non-circular cross section shall have a perimeter dimension of 4 inches (102 mm) minimum and 6 1/4 inches (159 mm) maximum, and a cross-section dimension of 2 1/4 inches (57 mm) maximum.

Figure 11B-505.7.2 Handrail Non-Circular Cross Section
Figure 11B-505.7.2 Handrail Non-Circular Cross Section

11B-505.8 Surfaces. Handrail gripping surfaces and any surfaces adjacent to them shall be free of sharp or abrasive elements and shall have rounded edges.

11B-505.9 Fittings. Handrails shall not rotate within their fittings.

11B-505.10 Handrail extensions. Handrail gripping surfaces shall extend beyond and in the same direction of stair flights and ramp runs in accordance with Section 11B-505.10.

Exceptions:

  1. Extensions shall not be required for continuous handrails at the inside turn of switchback or dogleg stairs and ramps
  2. In assembly areas, extensions shall not be required for ramp handrails in aisles serving seating where the handrails are discontinuous to provide access to seating and to permit crossovers within aisles.
  3. In alterations, where the extension of the handrail in the direction of stair flight or ramp run would create a hazard, the extension of the handrail may be turned 90 degrees from the direction of stair flight or ramp run.

In the following sections, and particularly in the associated figures, note that the horizontal dimension for handrail extension is measured to the start of the handrail return, not the extreme end of the handrail. This is because horizontal returns (such as to a wall) reduce the minimum clearance between the handrail and the wall to less than 1 1/2″, while vertical returns (such as to the floor) create an obstruction within 1 1/2″ of the bottom of the handrail. Thus, the return must occur beyond the minimum distance required for the type and location of handrail extension.

11B-505.10.1 Top and bottom extension at ramps. Ramp handrails shall extend horizontally above the landing for 12 inches (305 mm) minimum beyond the top and bottom of ramp runs. Extensions shall return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or shall be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent ramp run.

Figure 11B-505.10.1 Top and Bottom Handrail Extension at Ramps
Figure 11B-505.10.1 Top and Bottom Handrail Extension at Ramps

11B-505.10.2 Top extension at stairs. At the top of a stair flight, handrails shall extend horizontally above the landing for 12 inches (305 mm) minimum beginning directly above the first riser nosing. Extensions shall return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or shall be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight.

Figure 11B-505.10.2 Top Handrail Extension at Stairs
Figure 11B-505.10.2 Top Handrail Extension at Stairs

11B-505.10.3 Bottom extension at stairs. At the bottom of a stair flight, handrails shall extend at the slope of the stair flight for a horizontal distance equal to one tread depth beyond the last riser nosing. The horizontal extension of a handrail shall be 12 inches (305 mm) long minimum and a height equal to that of the sloping portion of the handrail as measured above the stair nosings. Extension shall return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or shall be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight.

Figure 11B-505.10.3 Bottom Handrail Extension at Stairs
Figure 11B-505.10.3 Bottom Handrail Extension at Stairs