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Stair rail options

Stair rail options

If you are experiencing difficulty using your stairs and considering rails or alternative equipment then an individual assessment with an occupational therapist is strongly recommended, your safety on your stairs is paramount. There may be individual factors which determine which stair rails, or alternative equipment, best suits your needs. The information provided here is not an alternative to an individual assessment.


Stair rails

Getting up or down steps and stairs may be made easier by installing grab rails and / or stair rails. Many people find having a handrail on both sides of the stairs provides extra support so if you only have a rail, or banister, on one side you could consider installing a stair rail at the same height on the other side of the staircase. The additional rail should extend an additional length of 300mm at beginning and end of the staircase.

A range of rails are available. Systems are available complete with fittings and infills for banisters but the rails themselves can also be obtained on their own and fitted by a competent individual with the necessary tools. For help finding local competent traders, such as carpenters, who meet relevant standards you could visit trustatrader.com


Mopstick rails
As a general rule mop stick rails with angled brackets (pictured) are easy to grip. It is recommended that the rail should have a diameter of between 4-4.5 cm but individual preferences may vary (guidelines based on Part M of the Building Regulation 2004 and British Standard 8300, 2001). Check that the user finds the proposed rail comfortable to hold especially if they have weak or painful hands. There needs to be sufficient room between the rail and the wall to allow the person to secure a strong handgrip. It is recommended that there should be a space of about 4-6.5 cm between the wall and the rail. The ends of a rail should be smooth to avoid injury if they are bumped into. Ideally they should curve into the wall where they finish as this helps prevent the user snagging any loose clothing on the rail.

Photo 1 shows a stair rail end cap which adds visual appeal to a plain rail but could be painful to bump into. Photo 2 show a plain curved end cap which could help minimize injury. Photos 3 and 4 show fittings that can curve or join the end of a stair rail into a wall minimizing the risk of injury and limiting the chance of a users clothing snagging on the rail.

Any changes in direction along the rail should ideally be smooth , without any gaps. Many manufacturers offer curves and elbow pieces (photo 5) which can be attached to their rails to achieve this.

Coloured rails selected to contrast with the wall colour can be useful for people who have a visual impairment.

Rails are only as strong as the wall to which they are fixed and the fixings that are used. Many modern properties have internal walls that do not provide suitable anchorage for rails. These walls may need adapting so that a rail can be fitted. Vertical stair rail supports can be used to attach the stair rail to the stairs themselves. For more information on fitting stair and grab rails click here >>>

As rails and rail fittings are widely available in DIY stores this site only lists stair rails with features which make them easier to use. Read how Caroline was helped by a stair rail or click on the picture below to see stair rails.


Additional, or alternative, suggestions to stair rails

Additional, or alternative, suggestions to stair rails include:

Newel rails which are designed to turn through 90 degrees around the newel post (the upright post/s of the stair banister). Thus if you experience particular difficulty at turns in your stairs then newel rails may assist you by providing a continuous grip as you turn. Read how Peggy, was helped by newel rails or click on the picture below to view newel rails.


Half steps are designed to split the height of each step on your stairs, they can be fixed permanently to your staircase or portable versions which attach to a walking stick are available. A carpenter should be able to fit permanent half steps to your stairs, these can even be carpeted to match your existing stairs. Portable halfsteps (pictured) are not currently available from UK suppliers, but can still be ordered from companies based in the US.



Stair rails which project from the wall and move with you. These are manual devices designed to assist you to walk up and down stairs. You hold the bar and move it progressively up / down whilst your ascending or descending. Click on the picture below to see moveable rails.



Diagram showing the possible location of stair rails and stair rail supports on a sample staircase:

An assessment with an occupational therapist is strongly recommended as your safety on your stairs is paramount. There may be individual factors which determine which stair rails, or alternative equipment, best suits your needs.

All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
Conflict of interest statement

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