Handrails are important for safety on any stairway, even small ones, and measurements are critical for making sure that the handrails sit at a comfortable height. It is somewhat easier if an older railing is being replaced because the new one can be made at the same height, but you should still learn about how to install one from the beginning just in case yours isn’t up to code. Follow these instructions to take the correct measurements for your wall-mounted handrail.
Note: Specific areas will have building codes that dictate the appropriate height for a wall-mounted handrail. Make sure to check yours before beginning this project as our projections are only general estimations.
Step 1 - Measure the Height
For average height people, handrails should be 32 to 38 inches above the steps. Within that range, decide what will work best for the people who will be using it most often in your home.
Start measuring from the bottom, marking the wall at the appropriate height above every few steps to create a good visual aid. Make sure you measure against the wall from the same part on each tread. These marks will show the level where the top of the railing will be.
Your railing will continue along the wall even if there is a bend in the staircase, so make sure to mark after the bend as well if you have any.
Step 2 - Measure the Length
Measure the length that the railings need to be, from the top step to the bottom, along the diagonal. Again, if there are any changes in direction on your staircase, each segment will need a separate measurement and markings. Start at the top and measure to the first corner, making a straight line with your measuring tape through your height markers. Continue on with each different piece until you meet the bottom. You’ll want to make the rail long enough so that they can be grasped as people approach and held until everyone is safe on flat ground at the other end.
You can also use a laser level, if you have one available, to show your diagonal length line, and you can snap a chalk line for marking instead of going through manually with a pencil.
Step 3 - Measure for the Brackets
A wall-mounted handrail is held by brackets that are screwed into the wall, supported by studs or anchors. These are generally spaced about 48 inches apart on most residential handrails, so you’ll want to start marking for them at the top, placing a new mark at every correct increment on the way down. It would also be noted that in order to mark the proper height for your brackets, you will have to subtract the bracket and handrail height from your total measured height. These components are ordinarily about three inches apiece, so measure down from your height about six inches and make a mark for the base of your bracket.