Handrail and ramp buying guide

Handrail and ramp buying guide

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Choosing a handrail or a stair ramp is not just a simple aesthetic choice! It is important to study the support, especially for the staircase or balcony handrail. Consider the materials such as rope, wood, stainless steel, or aluminum, even if it is for a terrace.

Important features

  • Material
  • Design
  • Installation
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What is a handrail?

The handrail and stair ramp are essential to ensure the safetyof people when traveling in areas at risk of falls - stairs, balconies etc.

They offer assisted mobility for children, adults and people with reduced mobility. They are most often fixed to the wall most often and prevent any risk of accidents.

They are mainly composed of wood or metal, but the overall tendency is to get a mix of materials.

Ramps and handrails are 90 cm high and must be impassable. Ready to install kits are available on the current market, but it is always possible to build your own handrail.

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What are the characteristics of a ramp?

Before purchasing an elemented designed to guarantee your safety, it is crucial to first study the premise's configuration and the area to beprotected. Consideration should also be given to standards that, if the handrail is intended for a public place, are far more demanding - read up on the applicable laws and standards before the day of your acquisition. Finally, to ensure the product's longevity, don't forget to consider the fixing - inside or outside. There are three factors to choose from: grip, visibility and continuity.


Try to avoid those over the top, original designs, which very uncomfortable to use and which do not allow the the greatest easy of mobility. It therefore tends to be a rather rounded shape.


This factor is fundamental for the visually impaired who can not distinctly make out the whole structure. It should also be noted that the choice of the material and the color must be consistent with the home's decor.


It is necessary that the grip be continous, with the least breaks possible, for the same reason: to promote the ease of movement.

Which material to choose for the structure?

In order to choose the structure's material, we mentioned a few different factors to consider. Indeed, for a ramp or handrail positioned outdoors, you will need take into account the region's climatic conditions and opt for a weather resistant and non-slipmaterial.

If the handrail is going inside with children, avoid the horizontal "tube" decorations (also known as "guard rails"), which children can climb easily over! Just as you will have to make sure that these dear little ones can not fit between the bars to make hello! In addition, be sure to leave only a space of up to 11 cm in between each bar.

If that's done, you do not have to resort to a fullglass or plexiglass filling which is much more tedious!

For a 100% wood structure, do not forget that it is a material that requires maintenance and can be impacted by shock, wear and tear over time. It is therefore necessary to protect it with a product such varnish, paint or stain, adapted to the specific surface.

For fans of metal, especially iron, which is often made of patterns, make sure to protect the support with a rustproof paint and to respect a passage between the decorative elements of 25 x 11 x 11 cm.

Handrails are also made of rope or steel cable for more modernity.

For those who desire a wooden or rope handrail, there is nothing simpler: the ramp is sold separately and is cut to the required size, elbows (for wooden ramps) are applied in the corners and end pieces, or even a ball, can cap it off. The wall fixings are essentially sime plates.

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Where to fix a handrail?

This is an essential question as depending on the surface on which it is being fixed, it might be necessary to adapt it in order to guarantee that the rail cannot be torn off.  

The ramp or handrail is fixed to the wall via plates. Keeping a space of 5 cm between the wall and the ramp is recommended to facilitate grip and avoid damaging the supporting wall.

Depending on your handrail or railing's material types (concrete, wood, metal), you will have to choose an anchoring or sealing fixation. Most often this information is provided on the relevant package's leaflet.

Another element that will guarantee the proper fixation is the space between the fixing posts.

It is also wise to note that the type of filling (or protective device), which is often more of an aesthetic choice (in other words, the handrail's face) also contributes to the rigidity and fixation of the ensemble.

Fixing it to the wall is not always possible. Indeed, when facing a dead space (stud-free zone between the floor and the first step of the staircase, a type of landing), care must be taken not to fix the assembly too close to the edge to avoid overloading the surface.

Installation instructions

Here are some tips for installing your stair ramp in the best possible conditions.

1. Take precise measurements and allow for a height of 90 cm.

2. Determine the method of attaching your ramp for:

  • A stair stringer (wooden or metal part on which the steps are fixed). To fix the ramp, the space between the other elements (sills or panels) and the step must not exceed 18 cm;

  • A staircase without treads (freestanding), the height between the decoration (low bar or panel) and the step nose must not exceed 5 cm.

  • Fix your support, pull a rope between the first step, at 90 cm height, and the last step to calculate the structure's angle;

  • Attached the selected handrail supports and then install the handrail.

More Information

For anyone renovating or building your dream home, follow the links below for accessories, advice from our editors and more helpful guides to ensure your house is comfortable and well-maintained:

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Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

After years of DIY, renovation and designing, I decided to turn my passion into a career. Starting in 2006, in the South-West, I helped people with renovation or construction projects. My expertise and curiosity led me to look further into innovative ideas for myself and my clients. Indeed, to live your passion is also to transform the space you live in and the objects you use daily. My family love my creations and ideas that I bring into their lives! My favourite thing to do: use colour to brighten up interior space. But also tips to hide away clutter. Your home is just never big enough, is it? It is therefore a great pleasure to share my tips with you, so that you also can take as much pleasure as I do when starting up your next project!

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