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How tall should a stair railing be?

11 November 2020

Balustrades add an important safety barrier to staircases, particularly if you have young children running up and down them. In our experience, we’ve found that even professionals can find the regulations here in the UK a little confusing and, as a result, think they need either a higher or lower railing than is necessary. This blog is here to clear things up.

Approved Document K of the Building Regulations has the most up to date information on railing/barrier heights and can be found specifically under the section named Protection from Falling.

The whole document can be viewed here but the main elements are summarised in the table below:

Building Category


LocationMinimum height
Single family dwellingsStairs, landings, ramps, edges of internal floors900mm
External balconies including Juliet balconies and edges of roof1100mm
Factories and warehouses (light traffic)Stairs and ramps900mm
Landings and edges of floors1100mm
Residential, institutional, educational, office and public buildings, retailAll locations900mm for flights, otherwise 1100 mm
AssemblyWithin 530mm in front of fixed seating800mm
All other locations900mm for flights, otherwise 1100 mm
Glazing in all buildingsAt opening windows except those in loft extensions800mm
At glazing to changes to level to provide containmentBelow 800mm

Scotland has its own interpretation which can be seen in link below but follows the same guidance as that of England and Wales.

To summarise:

  1. All staircase handrails for both domestic and non domestic properties need to be a minimum of 900mm high
  2. In domestic dwellings, internal balustrade need to be a minimum of 900mm high
  3. In domestic dwellings, external railings need to be a minimum of 1100mm
  4. In non domestic situations, balustrading other than on the staircase needs to be a minimum of 1100mm high whether internal or external

Consider all aspects

The above guidance gives the minimum heights that the handrails need to be but there are situations where we would recommend that you set your handrails higher than the minimum specified. Such an example would be in situations where the balustrade is a barrier to a large void area – in these situations we often advise to increase the railing height to 1000mm in order just to give that extra sense of presence. Also although a 900mm high handrail would feel relatively comfortable to some on who is 5’2” tall, it may not feel as comfortable to some one who is 6’2” for example and therefore it is important to consider all different aspects when deciding on your final balustrade heights.

100 mm sphere rule

In addition to the height of the balustrade, don’t forget that in the UK staircases must also be designed to ensure that a 100 mm sphere cannot pass through any area. This is to stop very small children falling through gaps or getting themselves stuck. This may affect the finished design of a staircase, for example meaning we have to install more spindles per tread then you will find in some traditional designs and fitting riser bars across open risers.

Get in touch

Hopefully this helps to clear up any confusion. If you’re ordering a staircase or balcony from us, you can be confident that the finished design will not only look the part and fit perfectly, but will be fully compliant with the relevant regulations here in the UK.

Visit our gallery to take a look at some great examples then submit a quote request and we’ll help to create the perfect solution for you.

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