Ramp handraill extension requirements - Florida railing code 505.10.1Building Access Ramps Railing Codes:
Requirements for handrails & guardrails along access ramps

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Building access ramp railing & guardrail specifications & codes:

This document provides building code specifications, sketches, photographs, and examples of defects used in inspecting the handrails and guardrails required along indoor or outdoor building access ramps.

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Building Code Specs for Hand Railings on Access Ramps

Unsafe ramp railing (C) Daniel FriedmanRequirements for Guardrailings & Handrailings at Access Ramps

Definitions: What's the difference between a ramp handrailing and a ramp guardrail?

Our photo at left shows an incomplete and thus unsafe access ramp: the guardrailing is only along one side of the elevated ramp or walkway and no graspable handrail was provided at all.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Add railings on your ramp: if the ramp crosses above a ditch, ravine, or is more than three feet from the ground at its highest point, a railing is likely to be required by local and national building codes.

Even for ramps that are just a few inches above the ground, railings improve ramp safety by providing additional visual clues about the ramp's slope as well as providing a grasping surface in case of a fall.

Our photo (left) shows the author's daughter (at left, ca. 1979) with a friend, demonstrating that this building access ramp was unsafe: a railing was provided only on one side despite the drop off, and the railing that the carpenters installed was both open (a child hazard), and used a horizontal mid-height member, easily climbed-on by a child (another child hazard).



A Comparison of Building Codes Specifying Hand Railing Requirements for Access Ramps

Ramp handraill extension requirements - Florida railing code 505.10.1Railings in stair codes and specifications refer to the safety barrier along ramps as well as at steps or stairs, landings, and balconies.

Also see GUARDRAILS on BALCONIES, DECKS, LANDINGS for details about safety railings on landings and open hallways, porches, screened porches, balconies - horizontal walking surfaces.

Sample excerpts of sources which a building code compliance inspector would be expected to cite in support of requiring a properly-designed, properly-secured guard rail include but are not limited to the citations below.

International Building Code 2000 (BOCA, ICBO, SBCCI)

1003. Handrail grasp ability. Handrails with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of at least 1.25 inches (32 mm) and not greater than 2 inches (51 mm) or shall provide equivalent grasp ability. If the handrail is not circular, it shall have a perimeter dimension of at least 4 inches (102 mm) and not greater than 6.25 inches (159 mm) with a maximum cross-section dimension of 2.25 inches (57 mm). Edges shall have a minimum radius of 0.125 inch (3.2 mm).

100333.11.4 Continuity. Handrail-gripping surfaces shall be continuous, without interruption by newel posts or other obstructions.

Open guardrail Guadlajara (C) Daniel Friedmasn 2012

Our photo (above left) illustrates a high ramp crossing over a busy highway in Guadalajara, Mexico. The guardrail is continuous, probably has adequate strength, but lacks child-safe enclosing balusters.

1607.7 Loads on Handrails, guards, grab bars and vehicle barriers

1607.7.1.1 Concentrated Load. Handrail assemblies and guards shall be able to resist a single concentrated load of 200 pounds (0.89kN), applied in any direction at any point along the top, and have attachment devices and supporting structure to transfer this loading to appropriate structural elements of the building.

1607.7.1.2 Components. Intermediate rails (all those except the handrail), balusters and panel fillers shall be designed to withstand a horizontally applied normal load of 50 pounds (0.22 kN) on an area not to exceed one square foot (305mm2) including openings and space between rails.

Hard to grasp handrail along an access ramp (C) Daniel Friedman 2013

Is this access ramp handrailing (photo at left) actually graspable? Not very. All of the model building codes contain descriptions of graspable and non-graspable handrailings by dimension, shape, profile, support, obstructions and other parameters.


BOCA National Property Maintenance Code 1993: 

PM-305.5 Stairs and railings: all interior stairs and railings shall be maintained in sound condition and good repair.

Commentary: Handrails, treads and risers must be structurally sound, firmly attached to the structure, and properly maintained to perform their intended function safely. During an inspection the code official should inspect all stringers, risers, treads, and handrails.

PM-305.6 Handrails and guards: Every handrail and guard shall be firmly fastened and capable of supporting normally imposed loads and shall be maintained in good condition.

Commentary: This section provides for the safety and maintenance of handrails and guards. See Section PM-702.9 for additional requirements.

PM-702.9 Stairways, handrails and guards: Every exterior and interior flight of stairs having more than four risers, and every open portion of a stair, landing or balcony which is more than 30 inches (762mm) high, nor more than 42 inches (1067mm) high, measured vertically above the nosing of the tread or above the finished floor of the landing or walking surfaces. Guards shall be not less than 30 inches (762mm) high above the floor of the landing or balcony.

Commentary: Handrails are required on all stairs more than four risers in height. Handrails cannot be less than 30 inches nor more than 42 inches above the nosing of the treads (see Figure PM-702.9).

Guards are required on the open side of stairs and on landings and balconies which are more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below.

The guard must be at least 30 inches above the floor of the landing or balcony. Guards are to contain intermediate rails, balusters or other construction to reduce the chance of an adult or child from falling through the guard.

If the guard is missing some intermediate rails or balustrades, it is recommended that the guard be repaired to its original condition if it will provide protection equivalent to the protection it provided when originally constructed.

Florida Handrail & Guardrail Requirements & Codes for Access Ramps

Handrails shall be provided along both sides of a ramp run with a rise greater than 6 inches (152 mm) and shall conform to the requirements in Sections 1012. If handrails are not continuous, they shall extend at least 18 inches (305 mm) beyond the top and bottom of the ramp segment and shall be parallel with the floor or ground surface.

Ends of handrails shall be either rounded or returned smoothly to floor, wall or post. Handrails shall not rotate within their fittings. Top of the handrail gripping surface shall be not less than 34 inches (864 mm) nor more than 38 inches (965 mm) above the ramp surface. - Florida Building Code 1010.8 Handrails

1. Handrails are not required when the total ramp run rise is 6 inches (152 mm) or less and the horizontal projection is 72 inches or less, except where required to be accessible.
2. Aisles in Group A occupancies (see Section 1025).
3. NA
4. Handrails are not required on curb ramps
. - Florida Building Code 1010.8 Handrails

Guards shall be provided where required by Section 1013 and shall be constructed in accordance with Section 1013. - Florida Building Code 1010.10 Guards

505.10.1 Top and Bottom Extension at Ramps. Ramp handrails shall extend horizontally above the landing for 12 inches (305 mm) minimum beyond the top and bottom of ramp runs. Extensions shall return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or shall be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent ramp run. - Florida Building Code 505.10.1

Access Ramp Standards and Codes


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