When it comes regulations for residential stairs, there is a common misconception that the handrail needs to be continuous down the entire staircase. The aim of this article is to explain the BCA regulations in relation to handrail on a stair and clarify exactly what is required to comply with the codes.
The BCA Codes 2014 state that, for a residential building, a handrail needs to be continuous on each flight of stairs. However, it does not need to be continuous on the landing between flights. Flight means that part of a stair that has a continuous series of risers and treads, including risers of winders, not interrupted by a landing or floor.
Winders refer to treads within a straight flight that are used to change direction of the stair. A continuous handrail is required on a winder, except in cases where there is a newel post installed to provide a handhold. A newel post is an upright post that supports the handrail and staircase. See FIG 1.0 below for an illustrated explanation of flights, landings and winders. Also, FIG 1.1 explains some commonly used stair terminology.
FIG 1.0: Flights, landings and winders
Source: BCA 2014 Building Code of Australia
FIG 1.1: Stair Terminology
If a staircase needs to meet the AS1428 Australian disability access code, then the handrail does need to be continuous throughout the entire staircase, regardless of a landing being present. For more information on AS1428 and it’s requirements read our blog article on Complying with AS1428-Balustrade.
Other key points to note include;
A handrail is only required on one side of the flight or ramp, unless it needs to meet AS1428.
The handrail needs to extend the full length of the flight or ramp except where the handrail is part of the balustrade, in which case the handrail can terminate where the balustrade is allowed to terminate,e.g. a few threads from the bottom of the stairway.
A handrail is only required if the change in elevation is 1 metre or more.
These requirements do not apply to a stairway or ramp in a Class 10 building (non-habitable buildings, garages, sheds etc).
If a stairwell is bounded by two solid walls and does not incorporate a balustrade, a handrail is needed on at least one side of the stair.
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