SAFE FLIGHT: Wood, metal and glass variants are the preferred and common type of handrail materials that are used at home and office.
For safety reasons we do many things to our houses — provide strong doors, strong windows and grills. Similarly it is just as important that we provide good handrails or banisters for our staircases and balconies.
The building regulations for staircases in public buildings stipulate banisters or handrails for protection in the flight of steps, when they are unbounded by a wall.
Regulations, however, do not apply in houses, but nevertheless, banisters are recommended for every step-staircase and for those that are going to be used by the elderly and children.
Staircase handrails obviously make staircases easier to use in any situation.
Staircases used by children should have a complementary banister at a lower height - approximately two feet (60cm) above the steps.
Choice of materials
The choice of materials and the shape of a banister exert a great influence on the overall look of a staircase and can help integrate it into a setting or on the contrary, make it stand out. The material for the banister must be pleasant to touch, and it must be remembered that thin or wide shapes can be difficult to grasp.
Most common materials are usually soft in nature and easily mouldable. Wood, metal and glass variants are the most preferred and common type of handrail materials. If glass is used, it must be treated to make it more secure.
It is advisable to put a wooden handrail on top of a glass banister to make it more comfortable to touch. On the other hand, metal handrails offer infinite design possibilities. Normally, a wooden handrail would cost Rs. 570 per running feet for teak wood and Rs. 300 for Padauk wood. For circular staircases, the handrail cost would nearly be triple the normal handrail cost, as the waste is heavy. Metal handrail would cost Rs. 450 /rft and stainless steel Rs. 625/rft.
An elegant curve can be traced with a slither for a stainless steel.
Or a metal cable can be stretched on a wooden frame as a safety feature.
Banisters can be fixed to the staircase in many ways. The most common ones are:
Setting them directly into the steps: In this method, usually the staircase is cast in RCC (most common material, wood and metal are the other options) then during the completion after the stone fixing, the banisters position is marked and cut out and then set in.
Suspended handrails: Handrails can be suspended from the ceiling or as a central constituent. The suspension material is usually a metal cable or a metal bracket from the ceiling or the centre-point.
A combination of a metal banister suspended from the ceiling with a wooden handrail can also be done.
Wall mounted: When there are bounding wall on both sides or even on one side, the handrail can be fixed directly into the wall. Care has to be taken to ensure gap between the wall and the railing for proper gripping.
Handrails do find their importance in places like balconies, open terraces, ramps and walkways for cordoning and space segregation.
For the physically challenged, it is important that handrails are provided at 3'0" and 2'6" levels.
M. MURALIArchitect based in Chennai