Look at the picture below. Do you know what's missing?
HINT: Try to get a grasp on things.
ANSWER: It looks nice enough, doesn't it? New paint and all. But let's count the steps. I count 5, when you include the last step up to porch. So what is missing? How about a "graspable handrail"? A graspable handrail is recommended any time the number of step risers is 4 or more. So you might say they have it in the 2x4 handrail on the left, right? Not really. There is a very specific definition of a "graspable handrail". In fact it is so detailed it is best to show you a picture. Please see below.
The International Residential Code (IRC) rules are mostly in place now. The handgrip portion of the graspable handrail shall not be less than 1 1/4 inches or more than 2 inches in cross sectional dimension, or the shape shall provide an eqivalent gripping surface. The handgrip shall have a smooth surface with no sharp corners. Handrails projecting from the wall shall have a space of not less than 1 1/2 inches between the wall and the handrail. The handrail should be continuous and should return to the wall or the rail at the ends.
So the basic idea of a graspable handrail is something you can wrap your fingers around. That is why a 2x4 does not work. Think about the very young and the elderly. On any step system, but certainly on one with steep steps or with uneven step risers, they need a graspable handrail that is firmly mounted to help them up and down.
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