+

A Hidden Hazard: Why Handrails Should “Return to the Wall”

A Hidden Hazard: Why Handrails Should “Return to the Wall”

woman with handbag caught on end of handrail and causing injury

As a home inspector in the WNC Asheville area, I see a wide variety of properties, and one safety detail that often goes overlooked is the proper installation of handrails. Specifically, whether the handrails "return to the wall" at the top and bottom of the stairs. While it might seem like a minor detail, handrail returns play a crucial role in preventing accidents and ensuring safe navigation for all residents.

The Hazards of Incomplete Handrails:

Imagine this scenario: you're rushing down the stairs, carrying groceries in one hand and reaching for your phone with the other. Suddenly, your bag catches on the protruding end of the handrail, causing you to stumble and potentially fall. This is a real possibility with handrails that don't return to the wall or terminate at a newel (a support pillar at the end of a banister.)

These protruding ends create a snag hazard for clothing, bags, canes, and even loose hair. This can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly, and individuals with mobility limitations who must rely on handrails for stability.

The Benefits of Handrail Returns: 

Beyond preventing snags, handrail returns offer several safety advantages:

  • Enhanced Support: A handrail that returns to the wall provides a continuous gripping surface, offering additional support for individuals who require both hands on the rail while navigating stairs.
  • Improved Accessibility: Properly returned handrails make it easier for people with limited mobility to safely use the stairs, promoting independence within the home.
  • Compliance with Building Codes: In many jurisdictions, handrail returns are now required by building codes.
  • Safety: Of course, safety is the most important benefit of handrail returns.

Addressing Common Misconceptions:

There's a misconception that handrail returns are purely aesthetic. While they can contribute to a polished look, their primary function is safety. Additionally, some homeowners might hesitate due to space limitations. However, handrail returns can be designed in various configurations, even in areas with minimal space.

 

A Final Note for Homeowners and Real Estate Professionals:

Whether you're a homeowner or landlord in Western North Carolina, or a real estate professional in the area, ensuring your properties have properly installed handrails with returns is crucial. It's a simple measure that significantly enhances safety and could potentially prevent a serious accident.

Taking Action:

If you're unsure about the existing handrails in your home or are considering renovations, consult with a licensed general contractor or other professional familiar with your local building codes. They can assess your specific situation and recommend the best solution to ensure your stairs are safe and accessible for everyone.

Certified & Licensed

  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo
  • Certified Logo