Get Rail

The Vermont Fire and Building Safety Code requires that all stairs have a fully graspable rail – that is, one you can wrap your hand around all the way, if your hand is big enough. Laura needed to upgrade her basement stair rail in order to meet the Code and sell her house.


From the Code.

I measured and determined Laura needed a 12-foot rail. A 12-foot-long piece of wood is not an easy thing to maneuver, but eventually I brought a circular rail to her house (at one point driving with my rear hatch open and taping an orange cone to the end) and navigated it into her stairwell. I brought three brackets as well, aiming for roughly a four-foot spacing to prevent excessive deflection.

Laura’s existing rail was basically a 2×4 spaced out from the wall. All I needed to do was attach the new rail to the old one. I installed the upper bracket first, screwing it upright into the 2×6, and then the lower bracket. Next I held the rail in place and marked where it would meet the upper bracket. Taking the rail down, I measured the width of the flat bottom (1 inch wide), centered my marks, and pre-drilled holes. I put the rail back in place and screwed it to the bracket connector. Now that the upper bracket held the rail in place, it was easy to connect the lower bracket, and finally position and connect the middle bracket.


Centering bracket attachment points on the underside of the rail.

The whole affair took maybe 20 minutes, and I could have done it even faster with a second drill. I must have swapped the 7/64” drill bit with the Phillips head a dozen times. An easy and functional fix to comply with the law.


All done.

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