Which Handrail System Should I Be Using?

Nowadays, whatever purpose you are installing a balustrade system for, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a handrail system to go with it.

Different materials, different styles, different designs, different attachment methods and different places to locate the rail mean the options quickly multiply.

Handrails provide the finishing touch to a balustrade system and can have a major influence over the final look. So how should you go about navigating this sea of choice and make sure you pick the right solution to top off your project?

Here are our essential tips for choosing the perfect railing system for you.

Check the Building Codes and Regulations

Although handrails play a key role in the overall design of your balustrades, it is important to note that first and foremost they are a safety feature. This means that the installation of railings is governed by building regulations, which will form your first point of guidance on what you can and cannot install. Depending on where the balustrade system is and what it is being used for, regulations will provide guidance on suitable materials, installation methods, and specifications for the railing parts.

Factor in Location

Where the handrail is being installed will play a big factor in the choices you make, part of which will be covered by building regulations. For example, the handrail you use on a staircase has a different purpose to that installed around a patio or decked area – a staircase handrail is used practically to support people as they go up and down the flights, whereas decking railings are more likely to be purely decorative. This will influence things like the size of the rail, and a staircase handrail should fit into a person’s hand comfortably, whereas around a patio it could be much thicker.

Similarly, location will influence choice of materials. A wooden rail on an outdoor staircase is going to be prone to weathering and deterioration, risking users getting splinters when they run their hands over it. In such cases, you would be better off with a stainless steel handrail, which is smooth and weather resistant.

Consider Purpose

This was touched upon above considering the difference between a staircase and decking rail. This will also influence where you locate a handrail on the balustrade, and how to attach it. With a decking or patio handrail system, there is not so much of an emphasis on providing support for people as the walk. A handrail on top of the balustrade may therefore be most suitable, perhaps providing a platform to lean on.

On staircases, on the other hand, the handrail is very much there for support and safety. It must be at a height for all users to be able to grasp it, especially children, so being mounted on the side of the balustrade or on a supporting wall may be more suitable. On particularly steep staircases, handrails on both sides may be a good option.

Stay Consistent with Style

Once the practical considerations of safety, location and use have been dealt with, then you can focus on choosing the handrail system which finishes off your balustrade design perfectly. Much of this will come down to material choices – if you have a glass balustrade system on your staircase, for example, a stainless steel handrail is likely to be the best option. The two materials complement each other well, the transparent glass and reflective stainless steel helping to create bright, visually appealing effects.

The balance between style and practicalities can be a tricky one to get right. Often, highly ornate wooden or wrought iron balustrades restrict options as to where you can have the handrail – on top or, on a staircase, on a wall opposite, which reduces design options. With glass balustrades, stainless handrails can be placed either on top or attached to the side, offering greater flexibility while still achieving a great effect. This is why glass and stainless systems are so popular in commercial premises, and are increasingly being chosen for home interior design.