Seven Things Railings Should Do for You

Railings, be them hand or guard rails, are essential components in home and business settings. From protecting you from accidents to adding that hint of style to your home spaces, they serve many purposes. Outlined below are seven essential things that railings should do for you:

1: Offer Support and Stability

The most basic and fundamental thing a railing can do for you is provide you with protective support. Handrails help reinforce safety while mounting steep surfaces and offer stability during poor weather conditions such as rain, wind, sleet, and snow.

Handrails are mandatory under the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) and ICC (International Code Council) and consequently have specific safety requirements. For example, handrails must be at a height of 34 to 36 inches above their corresponding steps and have a diameter of two inches.

2: Protect Children and Pets

Railings are put into place to prevent accidental trips and falls, which is a vital safety precaution, especially for families with small children and pets. Deck railings–a guard rail that offers protection from falling off decks and balconies–are useful at preventing serious injuries and shielding harm from wandering kids and pets.

3: Provide Comfort

Knowing that there is a protective barrier implemented in your living or working space helps eliminate any anxiety or discomfort. For those with visual impairments, horizontal railings and all other types of railings help guide them across steep surfaces with ease, reducing the risk of injury and providing sufficient accommodation.

As an adult, knowing that your children and loved ones are protected with deck railings during outdoor gathering offers peace of mind. 

4: Decorate Your Space

Adding railings doesn’t just serve as a safety precaution but also a means of styling up a space. Glass, metal, and aluminium railings offer a modern railing look which can help increase the value of a home, whereas wooden railing help offer a more natural, rustic look to a building against a metal rail. Deck railings and balcony railings can also provide an attractive, aesthetic look to your backyard. If you’re looking to sell a home or building, consider installing a modular railing system to raise the value of the property and to attract potential buyers.

5: Protect Your Belongings

Having railings on your patio or balcony can offer a secure place for your items. Many people place objects such as barbeque grills, pots of flowers, chairs, and tables on their patios and decks. Having a deck railing provides fencing to counter objects flying away from brisky climates.

6: Be An Easy Surface to Clean

When it comes to taking care of railings, this job should be fairly low-maintenance. Metallic materials like aluminum, iron, and steel are easy to take care of: just a quick wipe-down every once in a while. However, in commercial buildings, railings should be cleaned and disinfected more often to account for the frequent human contact they experience on a daily basis. You can view our cleaning guide for recommendations on how to maintain your aluminium railing.

7: Be Affordable

Although some railings like aluminum railings are more costly than others, railings should be something you’d want to invest in–after all, who wants a safety protocol to be cheaply made? Generally, most railings are affordable and are worth every penny in the long run.

Building to Code: Handrail vs. Guardrail

Handrails and guardrails are both terms used to describe a fence or barrier used for guarding or support. Although the two may seem similar, they have their distinct differences.


Handrails, also commonly known as banisters, are primarily applied to things such as stairs and ramps. These railings are used for grip, support, and stability while ascending and descending steep surfaces. According to the ADA, this type of railing is required on stairs that include a minimum of four or more steps, it must be at least 1.25 inches, but no more than 2 inches in diameter, be a distance of 1.5 inches from the wall, and include no sharp corners. Handrails should also be able to withstand a force of 200 lbs.

One of the most important qualities of a handrail is its durability. Ensuring that railing is sturdy and durable is vital to the safety of users to protect them from hazardous injuries. A person should be able to firmly grasp their hand around the railing with ease and not fall.

The most common material for handrails is the classic wood due to its ability to be fashioned into any shape and color.  Wooden handrails are found more in residential buildings than commercial buildings as commercial buildings tend to be more modernized in their designs. However, more residential buildings are seeing the benefits of having aluminium railing so many new homes are being built or renovated with Green Oxen’s Epulum railing system.


Guardrails, on the other hand, are structures positioned in place under the open spaces that lie beneath handrails for the purpose of averting unintentional falls. Unlike handrails, they are not mandatory unless the slope of the elevation has a 30-inch drop within the bounds of 36 inches.

In commercial buildings, guardrails are not to be less than 42 inches in height. However, in residential buildings, the requirement is shorter than that of commercial buildings–the lowest being 36 inches in height. The opening gaps on the guardrail must be positioned in a manner which prevents a sphere with a diameter of 4-inches from passing through. For pool areas, the railings should be 48 inches in height.

Although guardrails, like handrails, are predominantly made of wood, many other materials are used. Glass guardrails are becoming more popular and contrary to many peoples beliefs, glass is a durable material that provides a more modernized look. Other materials for guardrails include steel, iron, wire, and aluminum.

The Building Officials and Code Administration (BOCA) National Codes set forth the minimum requirements for all aspects of building design and construction including mechanical systems, property maintenance, fire prevention and energy conservation.

While there are some local codes and ordinances that contain wording relating to “the ladder effect,” there is no wording relating to this in any of the current international codes. The original wording read: “Required guards shall not be constructed with horizontal rails or other ornamental pattern that results in a ladder effect” and appeared in BOCA’s National Building Code in 1993-2000. Upon extensive research and discussion performed by the International Code Council, the wording was removed in 2001 on the grounds that the “ladder effect” is based on perception and not reality. No hard evidence was presented to indicate there was an epidemic of injuries sustained by young children related to climbing and the ICC defines a guard as being in place to prevent accidental falls – climbing is not an accident.

Several local jurisdictions, including Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburg and Washington D.C. apply the “ladder effect” code within their jurisdiction, however, there is discrepancy between the data analysis provided by proponents for climbing restrictions and the railing industry.

Upon further research conducted in 2007, the following conclusions can be drawn:

  • A child is built to climb and loves to do so.
  • Climbing is involved in the child’s physical, psychological and social development.
  • Climbing is part of physical education at school.
  • Difficult barrier present greater challenges to determined children.

Studies also agree that it is probably impossible and most likely undesirable to render any environment completely “safe” from children’s climbing.

The incident rate is approximately 2.5 per 100,000 children between 18 months and 4 years of age. With such low incidence rate, it does not warrant the creation of code language, so no “ladder effect” wording is present in the current International Residential Code or the International Building Code – however – this is still jurisdictional in some areas and architects, fabricators, contractors, home builders and home owners need to confirm local codes as they relate to the railing products they choose to install.