How to Build a Simple Handrail

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Introduction: How to Build a Simple Handrail

About: I own a online business that sells industrial pipe fittings (Kee Klamp), PVC (pipe and fittings), as well as unique projects made with these products.

Handrails are apart of our life. The government has made sure of that :-)
This is a simple hand rail that we built for our friend Bill to meet code. You might need something similar to meet a required building code or just for general safety purposes. I know there's a lot of discussion on this site about making things as cost effective as possible.. that's fine, just make sure it's safe. This handrail will exceed OSHA and BOCA requirements.

Please do not make this out of PVC ;-)

Step 1: Measure the Area

Before buying anything you need to do some measurements.

First we did a basic drawing of the area. This helps us keep our numbers straight. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.

Mark where you want the posts to go. This will serve as a reference point.

We will then make the following measurements:
1. The height of the steps
2. The depth of the steps
3. The distance between the edge of the step and the post markers (offset)

Write all this information down on your drawing.. when you finish you should have something like the attached picture.

Step 2: Do Your Calculations

Now that we have our step dimensions we need to make some calculations to determine how much pipe and what type of fittings (we are using Kee Klamp fittings) we will need to complete this job.
d
Lets start with the simple and work our way to the complex

1. Posts – The posts at the top and the bottom need to be the same height. BOCA and OSHA standards specify that the minimum height of the handrail must be 42”. For simplicity that’s the length we are going to specify

2. Handrail – Calculating the length of the hand rail is a bit more complicated.

First we need to determine the angle.

- To do that we take the distance from post to post. Add the step length plus the length from the post to the step.

Then we determine the height of the steps.

- Add the step height together.

Determine the Angle

- Now here were you might need a calculator. In order to get the angle with the height and the length use the following equation. Divide the Height by the Length. Then do an Inverse Tangent on that number. That number should be the bottom angle of your handrail.

Selecting Angle Fittings

- Now that you have the angle you can determine the type of fitting that you want to use. Kee Klamp fittings offer a number of angled fittings.

- For our project because of the angles we’re going to be using a Type-C50 fittings at the top and at the bottom. They allow you to create a handrail at just about any angle.

C50 - https://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/pipe-fittings/kee-klamp/c50-single-swivel-socket


Now we are ready to determine the length of our handrail pipe.

- First we determine the overall length using the classic formula you learned in geometry a2 + b2 = c2. We just square the height and the length. Add them together. And take the square root of that number. That will give us the overall length.

- Now we’re not done. Because the fittings have some length to them we need to to a little math. There’s a handy chart in the Kee Klamp catalog (and on our website- https://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/kits/stair-railing-kits ) which gives us the numbers we need to subtract. There is no figure for the C50 (they do have offsets for other popular angle fittings) so we just figured an 1" on each side.


I threw together a spread sheet to do these calculations.. I left my numbers in it and attached it so that you can see where I'm coming from.

Selecting Flanges

- There are many different types of flanges to mount your handrail. We chose to use a simple Type 62 flange. We then used Tapcon concrete anchors to secure these to cement.

62 Flange - https://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/pipe-fittings/kee-klamp/62-standard-railing-flange


One more piece:

Because we’re using a Type C50 fitting we’ll need a Type 84 malleable plug. This will finish off the top pipe and make sure no water get’s inside.

84 Malleable Plug - https://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/pipe-fittings/kee-klamp/84-malleable-plug


Selecting Pipe:

When installing a handrail make sure that you use Schedule 40 PIPE (not tube or fence post).

When selecting pipe you want to make sure that the steel is galvanized. This will ensure that you handrail will not rust. You might also think about having your pipe powder coated to protect it.

Taking Stock

Here are the parts and required tools

We’ve got three pieces of Schedule 40 1-1/2" galvanized steel pipe. This you can get at a local pipe store (note you can't get this at Home Depot)
2 x 42”
1 x 28" (this is particular to our project)

We’ve got the following fittings:
2 Type 62-8 flanges - https://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/pipe-fittings/kee-klamp/62-standard-railing-flange

2 Type c50-88 swivel fittings - https://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/pipe-fittings/kee-klamp/c50-single-swivel-socket

2 Type 84-7 malleable plug - https://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/pipe-fittings/kee-klamp/84-malleable-plug


For hardware we have:
4 Concrete anchors - ConcreteFastners.com

For Tools we have:
Drill
Concrete Drill Bit
Allen Wrench.
Level (not required)
Sharpie
Rubber Mallet (or hammer and cloth)

Step 3: Place/Secure Bottom Flange

Because we’re not experts we built this from one end to the other. This isn’t the most efficient way to do it, but it will ensure that rail is firm and doesn’t have any slop in it from mis-measurement.

Place the flange so that you can see your mark in the middle of the circle.
Mark the two hole locations with the marker.
Remove Flange
Drill your holes
Put flange in place.
Screw in Concrete anchors.

We needed to use a rachet on the screws to get them seated all the way.

Step 4: Attach Post and Rail

Building up from the bottom we now attched the post.

After securing the post to base flange we connected the C50-88 and then we attached the handrail. We let the handrail hang down for the next step.

Step 5: Attach Top Post

At this point you can basically assemble the rest of the handrail (without the flange secured). This will give you the opportunity to line up the top base flange. Walk around the railing, make sure everything looks lined up. If everything looks good. Mark the holes fo the top base flange and secure it to the ground.

After securing the top base flange, then insert the top post.
Attach the top C50 swivel fitting to the top post and then to the handrail.

Step 6: Insert Plugs

To keep water from getting into the pipe and to give the railing a finished look insert the plugs and pound them in with a mallet (or hammer with a cloth over the plug)

Warning.. once these plugs go in, they are not coming out easy.

Step 7: Your Done!

Overall this is a really simple project. The savings is going to be the cost you save in having someone else install one of these things if you need to meet code.

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    29 Discussions

    0
    swiker
    swiker

    3 years ago

    We have a lot of steps from our driveway to the front door. There are 5 steps, then a 5' landing, then 10 more steps to get to the top. I looked through all the parts on the Simplified Building website and there are two top rail pieces I can't find. The parts where the landing starts and then ends. You guys have a piece called Slope Down Tee that should work. If you only had a Slope Up Tee.

    Does this all makes sense or would a sketch help to make it clearer?

    Thank you,
    Steve

    0
    simplifiedbuilding
    simplifiedbuilding

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hi, Steve! We'd be glad to help you find the fittings you need to assemble your railing. A sketch of your design may help us point you in the right direction, could you send an email to projects@simplifiedbuilding.com with a copy of your sketch?

    Have a fantastic day,

    Ethan

    0
    swiker
    swiker

    Reply 7 weeks ago

    I am truly sorry for not getting back to you. I just logged in from being away all this time. We just used fencing parts and it came out 100% perfect (my father used to work with fencing). Again, I am sorry.

    Steve

    0
    simplifiedbuilding
    simplifiedbuilding

    13 years ago on Step 3

    PLEASE NOTE: As many have observed, as it turns out this rail is not as secure that it needs to be. We are going to replace the tapcons with some heavy duty concrete toggle bolts. We'll update our project when we finish.

    0
    CFox648
    CFox648

    Reply 8 months ago

    Where did you purchase your toggle bolts?

    0
    Dapostrophe
    Dapostrophe

    1 year ago

    I live in a retirement community. I worry when neighbors walk down my long stone steps. There are about a dozen, about 3 ft wide. I would like to install a rail, but it would go in the ground, not into the stone. Any suggestions?

    0
    atikuli
    atikuli

    Question 1 year ago on Step 2

    I need to find this pipe so plz hep me

    IMG_20181017_142239.jpg
    0
    atikuli
    atikuli

    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    I stay kuchai lama. I want to know where can get the pipe??

    0
    Wyle_E
    Wyle_E

    7 years ago on Step 2

    Those Kee Klamps are awesome for more complex projects, but they're shockingly expensive. For something this simple, how about three lengths of threaded pipe, two close nipples and four elbows? Two elbows and a close nipple can make any angle, so you don't need the trig.

    0
    kjemielity
    kjemielity

    8 years ago on Introduction

    having set custom rail for 25 years, i have to agree, tapcons in-line with the posts are not the strongest option.we usually drill 3 inches deep in concrete9hammer drill or core drill,depending on eval of base material,and use hydraulic cement to anchor.if hole,post and cement properly prepared, develops awesome holding power.currently rails need to withstand 200 lbs of force in any direction.nice looking rail,btw....aluminum?

    0
    simplifiedbuilding
    simplifiedbuilding

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah we drill out holes with a hammer drill and set the railing bases with concrete anchors. These railing have been up for 5 years with no problems!

    The railing material is actually galvanized steel.

    Here are a several versions of the railing that are now available in kits on our web site:

    http://www.simplifiedbuilding.com/store/kits/handrail-kits.html

    0
    radiorental
    radiorental

    13 years ago

    nice couple of question, the joints in your first pic are not the same as the hinged joint in the instructions/final pic - whats up with that? Second, are you 100% sure those bolt you drove in to the concrete are up to code? I dont know code for crap but my gut feel is it will not hold if someone fell up against it. I would imagine code requires the post to be set in concrete - not bolted. At the very least I would recommend you turning those bottom brackets around 90 so the bear the load a little better, any side load on the rail will wedge them up fairly easily.

    0
    spinach_dip
    spinach_dip

    Reply 13 years ago

    Tapcons are good and strong, but yea, I'd buy the longest ones I could manage. I'd also turn the flanges around 90°, like you said. Even I, with a welder, suitable scrounged pipe behind the barn already, and access to a bandsaw would use those bottom flanges before resorting to chipping out a round hole big enough for the pipe to fit and using quick setting cement. I've got several thousands of pounds of gear on my garage wall shelving that's attached via Tapcons. Although, yea, it is mostly a shear load.

    0
    Myself
    Myself

    Reply 13 years ago

    If the flanges will let the pipe protrude through the bottom, why not get a core drill and sink the pipes into the step a few inches? That would just leave the flanges and anchors preventing them from pulling out vertically, while a sideways force would do nothing until the pipe buckled. The pipe looks heavily galvanized, but I wonder if additional waterproofing would be appropriate for the below-grade sections. Goop 'em up with tar or something first?

    0
    D.STKN
    D.STKN

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I agree that the integrity of the whole project itself would be compromised if the post weren't coredrilled and concreted. It simply makes total sense to me for a long lasting solid handrail as a whole.

    0
    CementTruck
    CementTruck

    Reply 13 years ago

    Radiorental has a good idea. Although this handrail was not meant for skateboarders grinding on it, it probably should be able to hold a heavy load. After attaching the posts to the concrete, try putting the swivel fittings on the top of the posts, and have the handrail slide through the "loops" of the swivel fittings. This way the weight bears down on the posts, instead of on the swivel fitting joints. You would need a slightly longer handrail, and you could still cap the handrail ends with the caps you used on the post. All in all, the only thing different in the parts list would be the length of the handrail. Just a thought.

    0
    simplifiedbuilding
    simplifiedbuilding

    Reply 13 years ago

    That's an intersting thought..I think I can visualize it. Next time I have to do a handrail configuration I'll think about that design.

    0
    radiorental
    radiorental

    Reply 13 years ago

    my bad, its a different rail in the first - anyway, still curious about those bottom bracket being up to much abuse. I recommend shaking the beejesus out of it and if with starts to show any sign of loosening I would rethink the way you've attached them to the concrete. The very last thing you want is someone sueing you becuase it gave way.