Stair Railing Height

No matter how you call it, stair rails, guardrails, or handrails — some standards must be met when it comes to its height. This height requirement is put forth to ensure the safety of people or workers using these stairs.

The I-Codes in the United States are strict about how high a guardrail or stair railing should be. If there is more than one step on any given ramp, then you need to have an appropriate handrail to keep people from falling off of it and hurting themselves. The height can vary depending on what country they’re located in though: for example, if someone falls down 30 inches (or 48 centimeters) while inside Canada’s borders, we’ll want them to use some kind of protective barriers like a safety gate or something else that will prevent injury but not get their hopes up by creating barriers all around us at every turn!

The requirements for handrail height depend on the code bodies in your country. In Canada, it would be based on the National Building Code (NBC). The table below provides an overview of each body and its respective railing heights:

The U.S., has two sets of rules to choose from- either Americans With Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design or Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations; while Canadians have only one set found under the National Building Code.

ResidentialCommercial General Where children are primary users (recommended, not required) General Stair Rail SystemResidentialCommercial
Handrail  Height34″ to 38″34″ to 38″28″ with a minimum of 9″ clearance between the child and adult handrail 30″ to 38″36″ to 38″ — may also serve as guard 34″ and 42″ 34″ and 42″
Guard Height36″ minimum 42″ minimumnot specified 42″ — plus or minus 3″ 36 to 38″36″ minimum 42″ minimum

International Building Code® (IBC®) Standards

For stairs to be IBC-compliant in height:

1014.2 – Handrail height must not be less than 34 inches (854 mm) or more than 38 inches (965 mm).

1015.3 – Guardrail height must not be less than 42 inches (1,067 mm) in height.

IBC Stair Railing Height



OSHA Standards

OSHA stair requirements suggest that:

1910.23(e)(2) A stair railing shall be of construction similar to a standard railing, but the vertical height shall be not more than 34 inches nor less than 30 inches from an upper surface of top rail to the surface of tread in line with the face of the riser at the forward edge of the tread.

OSHA Stair Railing Height

What’s the difference between the IBC and OSHA stair standards?