Handrail mitering

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Topic by ShawnAllen posted 03-08-2009 11:28 PM 9363 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ShawnAllen's profile


11 posts in 5101 days

03-08-2009 11:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: handrail hand rail handrail miter hand rail miter hand-rail miter

I have one of those almost-round handrails that I’d like to use for a short stair (round but flat along the bottom). ADA guidelines indicate the rail needs to follow the plane of each landing; so that means the rail starts horizontal on the lower landing, then follows the stairs, then goes horizontal again at the top of the stairs. In addition, I want to put returns on the ends so the rail dead-ends into the wall on both ends.

How the heck do I go about figuring the miters for this? The angle on the stairs I’m assuming should be a half-angle between the horizontal and angle for the stairs; then the return is a regular miter at 45 degrees?

And how can I make these miters strong enough to support an adult..?

View SteveB's profile


8 posts in 5079 days

03-09-2009 05:02 AM

You’re correct about the angles—half the rise/run of the stairs; 45 degrees for the return.

Make the individual handrails strong enough without the miters, then fasten them together. I’ve seen residential installations where the rails are just glued and nailed together. That’s strong enough, but ADA may have more stringent regulations. You can put some screws in from the bottom if you like.

The returns are purely cosmetic, other than keeping people from catching bag straps—and they still catch bag straps. Just glue and nail those.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

331 posts in 5418 days

03-09-2009 07:19 PM

On “strong enough”, the IBC says “200 lbs in any direction”, and last time I checked (which was pre the switchover) that was written into California’s code as well. Given that heavier people seem more prone to falling, I’d go stronger (the last stair rail I put in was detachable, using bed rail hooks, but I still tested it by standing on it and jumping up and down). I believe that most of the cast bronze or brass supports are strong enough by default, though I’d be wary of any of the plated ones. As Steve says, make sure each section is well supported independently.

For joining the sections, you might try to find someone who’s got a Domino to do an easy floating tenon joint in between the rails. Barring that, building a jig that’d let you dowel the joints with something big and beefy doesn’t seem too hard.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

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