Your Ultimate Guide to Handrail Regulations in the UK

When it comes to designing your staircase and including a bespoke handrail, regulations have to be followed - whether this is in a residential home or a commercial setting. Handrails add a great aesthetic look to a building, but most importantly offer safety and assurance to the individuals going up and down the stairs.

The handrail regs can be confusing for some, the team at Arc Metal has been designing and installing handrails for over 4 decades, and we can support you through the process.


Is a Handrail a Legal Requirement on a Staircase?


Do you need a handrail on your staircase? In nearly all situations, the answer is yes. It's illegal to not have a handrail on stairs that include 3 steps or more. Handrail regulations in the UK are quite specific and have been put in place to prevent accidents from occurring. Whether you're redecorating your home or overseeing a commercial building, following the handrail regulations in the UK is vital for maintaining safety and compliance.

It's also important to note that the regulations specify that handrails must be securely fixed and able to withstand a certain amount of force without moving or breaking. This is an essential part of the handrail regulations, ensuring that if you were to stumble or fall, you'd have a sturdy support to grab.

UK Handrail Regulations


When it comes to residential properties, it's important to highlight that the UK handrail regulations have specific stipulations for these types of buildings. Under part K of the building regulations 2010, if your stairs are less than 1 metre wide, they should have a handrail on at least one side. If they're wider, both sides need handrails. However, the bottom two steps don't require a handrail.

The handrail height for stairs should be between 900mm and 1000mm, measured from the top of the pitch line or floor level. If the handrail is positioned away from the wall, it must sit at least 75 mm away so you can grip the rail properly. The handrail must also be round or oval in shape.

Regulations also apply to spindles; the gap between any spindles on a handrail should be small enough that a 100mm sphere can't pass through. This prevents people from getting stuck and further accidents occurring.

When designing a handrail for any building other than dwellings, the following regulations apply:


  • For stairs with full-height structural guarding, you're allowed to provide a second, lower handrail. Just make sure that the vertical height from the stair pitch line or the ramp surface to the top of this lower handrail is 600mm.
  • Handrails should be continuous across the flights and landings of a ramped or stepped flight.
  • They can't project into an access route, which might cause obstruction or inconvenience.
  • In terms of design, your handrail should contrast with its surroundings without being highly reflective.
  • Handrails don't protrude into an access route.
  • Finished in a way that reduces the risk of clothing being caught.
  • Slip-resistant surface and shouldn't be cold to touch.

Diagram taken from the 'HM Government Approved Document K on Building Regulations 2010', click here to view.

How to Measure the Correct Staircase Handrail Height


To start, you'll need to identify the pitch line of your stairs. This is an imaginary line running along the top of the treads, the horizontal part of the step where you place your foot. Once you have this line, the correct handrail height should be between 900mm and 1000mm above it.

This range ensures that the handrail is within easy reach for most people, providing the necessary support and stability when ascending or descending the stairs. It's important to get this measurement right, as it can have a significant impact on the safety and usability of the staircase.

Remember, these measurements apply to both residential and commercial properties. If you're fitting a new handrail, make sure you adhere to these guidelines. Not only will you be complying with UK regulations, but you'll also be creating a safer environment for everyone using the stairs.


Diagram taken from the 'HM Government Approved Document K on Building Regulations 2010', click here to view.

Other Building Regulations that Apply to Staircases


While handrail height is essential for safety, it's also important that you don't overlook other building regulations relating to treads and risers.

Treads are the flat parts of the staircase that you step on, while risers are the vertical parts between each tread. There are specific rules about their dimensions to guarantee people can safely ascend and descend the staircase.

Under part K of the building regulations 2010, the rise of the steps should be between 150mm and 220mm, while the going (or tread width) should be no less than 220mm. The total rise of the stairs (the height between floors) shouldn't exceed 2200mm.

Furthermore, the building regulations also mandate that headroom above the staircase should be at least 2m.


What is the rule of 18?


You may have heard of ‘the rule of 18’ when it comes to staircases and wondered what it actually means. This is where the sum of the rise and run equals 18 inches, guaranteeing steps are comfortable to use. This pivotal industry standard is essential when planning and constructing any stairway, ensuring the steps aren't too steep or too shallow. Fundamentally, it's the Goldilocks calculation for stairs, making them 'just right' for daily use.

A Variety of Designs to Choose from in Line with Regulations


There are a variety of designs you can choose from when it comes to designing your handrail: curved handrail, convex handrail, and plenty more. If you are wondering what type of handrail will suit your project best, click here.

Need more information?

To see how ARC could support your next project – simply call us, or use the form below.