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When one thinks of handrails, the immediate picture which usually comes to mind is the flat smooth surface which sits on top of the vertical baluster bordering stairs and which is there for support and balance when walking up or down stairways. Stairs are a necessary part of our daily living, allowing us to ascend and descend to different levels in our physical environment. But despite their usefulness, stairs can be hazardous for a number of reasons, which is why handrails are a necessity for added safety and balance on stairways. Believe it or not, the chances of losing your footing and tripping, slipping or even falling seems to be equally possible, whether you are going up or coming down stairs, which is why it is always a good idea to have one hand firmly on the handrail at all times. We do not consciously think of safety when using stairs, but factors such as rushing, carrying heavy loads, slipping on a wet patch or an article left on the stairs, or simply not watching our footing could result in falls which could, in extreme cases, cause severe injury or even death. Handrails are not limited to stairways, and are equally useful in providing support in other areas where the risk of slipping or falling is high, such as in bathrooms and showers and on wheelchair ramps.
In South Africa, there are definite and clear rulings in place through SANS (South African National Standard) building regulations regarding balusters and stair rails. Many people seem to be unaware of certain requirements which should be followed where there are more than five risers on a staircase. Although they are often not implemented, these standards dictate the structure of stairways within any building as they are critical to the safety of the users of the building itself. Some of these regulations include :
It follows that handrail specialists should be aware of the regulations which are in place and will consequently fit handrails which conform to the standards required. Nonetheless, such rulings are largely overlooked by both the building industry and building inspectors and they appear not to be enforced, which poses a danger to all parties using the stairways. As a thought, just think of trying to use escalators (moving stairs) without that handrail to keep you steady!
It is possible to have handrails in a variety of designs, materials such as wood and various types of metal (brass, copper, steel, titanium, iron, etc), as well as different colours. You can buy standard and cheaper designs or go for a more bespoke and personal design to fit in with your décor, but you need to bear in mind that the handrails must be practical and easy to hold. A sailor-friend has a staircase with a wall-mounted taut white rope handrail against a sea-blue wall. He is recycling an old anchor rope to great effect! It is both extremely effective and strong as well as being visually appealing in an old mariner’s home, and gives him much pleasure whilst being practical and useful.
Although handrails may not always provide the most aesthetic choice in design, they are essential for the safety of stair users of all ages, as well as providing assistive support for the elderly and people recovering from surgery or illness by allowing them independent use of to bathrooms for personal care reasons. Handrails have been part of man’s life for as long as there have been inclines to be ascended or descended. Handrail specialists can easily be found through advertisements placed in House & Home and Architectural magazines, building publications and hardware catalogues, general home magazines, through visiting Home Expos and looking through the Yellow Pages. You can also find them virtually through internet searches by using sites such as Uptasker, which lists suppliers in geographical areas, making it easy to find a specialist close to your location. Extremely useful online ratings and customer reviews can also be found through this site, giving you a good idea of previous client experiences with any supplier. You are also provided with time-saving one-click links to supplier websites, where possible, thus enabling you to obtain online quotes to compare pricing. And don’t forget word-of-mouth referrals from friends and colleagues, which are always invaluable.
Even if you are going for the minimalist look with glass balustrades, you should still incorporate a solid and continuous handrail on one or both sides of your staircase for safety reasons. And on the practical side, if you have children using those stairs, you really don’t want sticky fingermarks all over your beautiful balustrade glass! It doesn’t matter what age you are, you have probably mis-stepped (no pun intended!) on your risers or even tripped and fallen on occasion. I am one of those people who can fall just as easily going up or down stairs, and it hurts! Be safe, and keep those within your walls upright by ensuring that you have handrails where they are needed. It’s a relatively small but extremely necessary feature in all buildings with more than one storey, and makes life so much easier to navigate.. For more tips and information, see Uptasker’s handrails specialist articles.
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