Planning to Age in Place? Check Your Handrails.

I was reading this article in the New York Times about aging in place: Planning to Age in Place? Find a Contractor Now

As our population ages, many are moving into homes that are more accessible with fewer stairs to climb.While you’re at it, don’t overlook your handrails.

NFPA-vs-ICC-handrail-bracket-2However, if the choice is to “age in place”, then certain adjustments need to be made to accommodate the challenges we all face. The most common upgrades include bathroom grab bars and higher toilets, curbless showers, widened doorways and added lighting. While you’re at it, don’t forget the handrails.

Aging in place means you have chosen to stay in your existing home. You will likely need to continue to navigate stairs.

Stair falls are a key component of injuries in the home.

First: use the handrail.

Second: Make sure the handrail is graspable and properly mounted.

Current building codes have handrail requirements which serve to improve graspability and make for a safer home. This is fine for new construction, but older homes often have railings which met the code at the time of construction but would not meet the current requirements. Additionally, the requirements of the ADA do not apply to residential construction but are excellent guidelines when improving a home’s accessibility.

The Americans With Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADASAD) note the following requirements for handrail:

  • Size: Between 1-1/4″ and 2″ diameter
  • Minimum clearance between wall and handrail of 1-1/2″

Improved graspability is the key in providing a safe handrail.

Additionally, the handrail and attachments must be able to meet load requirements. At a minimum, the handrail must be able to hold up under the weight of the user. By code, it should meet a 200 lb concentrated load or a 50 lb/ft uniform load.

Most handrail brackets found at your local hardware store will not meet this load or the clearance requirements. Take the time to find handrail brackets that will.

Need help? Contact Wagner.


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