Outdoor Handrails And Railing For Steps, Porch, Verandah, Balcony And More!


When it comes to all things handrails and railings for your outdoor spaces, you have some important choices to make.

Many types of materials exist that you can use as railings for stairs or walkways on exterior homes but each has its own advantages and disadvantages including maintenance requirements and aesthetics. It is important to consider what features you require before making a decision about what to put the time and money investment into.

Then of course there is the perennial DIY question. You have a choice to get a contractor in to install your choice of railing or you can do a DIY project if you feel you can manage it. Of course, there are pros and cons with both approaches and also influenced by what materials you choose to use – some are easier to DIY than others. For example, if you’re a woodworking genius but you decide to go with metal railings that need some welding, you may be a bit out of your depth, especially if you don’t even own a welder. This blog post is going to go over some of the key issues to help you make the best decisions.

Material Options

In terms of material options, the most common choice is metal railing – either piping or tubing. This is for good reason because there are many great advantages of using steel for outdoor metal railing. If you are USA-based, you even have the choice to use a metal conduit for the railing material. In Australia and New Zealand, unfortunately, all electrical conduit is PVC so that option is just not available. There are some great examples on the web of very nice-looking conduit deck railing projects. See the YouTube Video below for an example of what is possible. But of course, these days, you can also get PVC, WPC, and glass options or the more traditional wood approach as well.

A great conduit deck railing example

One of the important issues when it comes to railings is what the building codes are in your area. It is important to keep things to code, both for safety reasons and to maintain the compliance status of your property in terms of maintaining the value of your investment.

Building Code Considerations For Railings

Handrails For Outdoor Steps Australia: Important Considerations.

In Australia, all things outdoor stairs, be they metal stair handrail or wooden stair handrail must conform to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) in a set of minimum standards. 

You should check out the specification in detail to make sure you comply, but here is a quick summary of the main issues that the standard addresses:

  • A handrail is required on all stairs if the steps rise more than one meter.
  • Handrails are required based on the rise of the stairs, not the number of stairs. 
  • There is no requirement for a handrail when a fixed structure is less than 100mm from the stairway stile. 
  • Stairways must have a handrail on both sides if their width exceeds one metre. 
  • When it comes to handrail height, it must be at least 900 mm above the level of the step below, and at most 1100 mm above it.
  • There must be a handrail with a minimum height of one metre in areas where there is a risk of falling or strong winds.
  • The handrails should have smooth surfaces along their entire length without any obstructions that would cause a handhold to be broken.

Outdoor Handrail And Railing Design Ideas

There are so many styles, materials, and designs to choose from that narrowing down your decision can feel impossible.

There are many different options for your handrail and railing needs. Whether you’re looking to make a more traditional style or want something that is modern, there’s an option out there for you!

Here is a brief overview to get you thinking.

External Timber Handrails

External timber handrails are the most common type of railing that people install. They’re not as expensive to purchase and they don’t take much time to put up either.

When it comes to choosing what kind of timber you want to use for your railings, there are many different types. The most popular is treated pine because it’s cheaper than other options and more durable as well!

Many people choose not to paint their exterior wooden handrails because they’re looking for a natural look that will blend in with the environment around them. You do need to be careful about how long they last if not painted or stained because the weather will eventually deteriorate them and make them look less attractive over time.

Handrails For Stairs: Metal vs Wood vs Other

Metal railings are a more durable option and they also look quite nice, regardless if your stairs are metal, wooden, or composite.

Metal handrails offer protection against corrosion from rain, salt water, etc., but it may need more strict care than wood rails do because metal does not rot over time like natural materials do; they also typically come with additional accessories such as mounting brackets and end caps.

Metal rails have more stability because the posts will not shift over time like wooden railings do when exposed to moisture; plus, metal is very durable and lasts for years in outdoor environments.

If your stairs are made of metal, a metal handrail that matches it works the best.

However, metal is much heavier than wood or composite so it’s not as easy to install them yourself unless you have some experience with that sort of thing already.

Wrought Iron Handrail

If you’re looking for a more rustic feeling, wrought iron might be the best choice.

This option is popular among homeowners who are seeking that more period look. They are pretty affordable too. Even more affordable is wrought iron lookalike reproduced in PVC form.

Exterior Stainless Steel Handrails For Outdoor Steps

If you have a steel exterior on your home and want to match the steps handrail with that material as well, an excellent option is a stainless steel choice for your handrails.

They are also a great option because they will resist rust, mold, and corrosion.

Black Star Railing

This is a great option for those who have historic homes. The black star railing design looks fantastic with an old-world style of houses.

The posts are capped off with beautiful decorative finials and the handrail features an ornate, embossed-looking finish as well to match that period look.

It’s also historically accurate because it was popular in Victorian times too!

Kit Options

If you want to avoid the task of installing your own railing from scratch (a big task!), there are many different outdoor stair kits that can be ordered for a variety of styles.

Deck Railing Kits

A Wrought Iron Railing Kit is great because it includes everything needed in order to install a beautiful wrought iron handrail with no additional materials required and has an easy installation process.

Another kit option is the Vinyl Option which features long-lasting material and installs quickly without much hassle on your part! This type of rail would work well on any exterior porch or deck where other wooden materials might not do as well due to weathering from rain and sun exposure.

Stair Handrail Kits

Stair railing kits provides a handrail to any set of stairs in order to ensure safety when someone is using your outdoor stairs. These kits are easy to install with all necessary hardware included, so it’s possible that installing this rail yourself will be easier than hiring someone else.

You will also find ready-made stair railing kits from local home improvement stores (such as Lowes or Menards in the USA or Bunnings in Australia/NZ) if you’re looking for a DIY approach with much of the hard work already done.

Contractor Installation

Let’s use a 10-foot piece of deck railing to base our averages on. The average cost is around $930.

Just the cost of materials alone can range between $150 to $6,000 for the same length. This large range reflects the large cost difference of your material options. The most costly are glass systems, while vinyl and composites are quite affordable. Your railing can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but the overall cost will reflect this decision.

Of course, labor varies but averages at about $300 for a 3 meter (10 foot) piece as well. 

DIY Approach

Here are a few YouTube videos so you can right down to some research on the options you have.

http://www.homebuildingandrepairs.com…​ Click on this link for a complete and updated list of our stair building, design and construction videos. Here’s a great idea on how to build one of the cheapest stair handrails or hand railing systems for an exterior stairway that I could think of. If there is one cheaper, I would love to see it.
How to install a Iron X handrail For more info go to our website at https://diyhandrail.com/
How to quickly construct an external stair rail to satisfy insurance requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions For Handrails

Several different designs and lines are available for metal stair railings so that you can achieve the desired look. Based on the systems available, metal railing typically costs between $120 and $320 per meter ($40 to $100 per foot).

This YouTube video from Harmony Railing does a good job of explaining the overall process.

Handrails are required to be 865mm in height above the floor or the nosing of a staircase. On landings that pose a high fall risk, guardrails need to be at least 1000mm tall. To clarify, the nosing is the edge of a tread.

Two steps. Any stair with greater than two risers must have railings between 34 and 38 inches above the stair treads. A riser constitutes the vertical part of a staircase, while a tread contains the top of a step. A minimum of two risers translates to two steps.

Your local government’s building regulations will ultimately determine the fine details, but according to the International Building Code, International Residential Code and the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, exterior stairs that exit or enter a building must have handrails. Any stair with greater than two risers must have railings between 34 and 38 inches above the stair treads.

This term means that a handrail runs from the top to bottom riser in a continuous single handrail. This allows someone to grasp the rail without having to let go at any time where it is supported by vertical peices.

Most building codes specify that you need a rail whenever there are more than one step – technically refered to as ‘risers’.

A handrail should always be on the open side of steps or porch. If steps have open sides on either side, you need to have a rail on both sides.

The height of a handrail should be a minumum of 34 inches and a maximum of 38 inches vertically from the front edge of a stair to the top of the rail.

Additional Online Resources

Please Note: The following snippets are auto-generated from an A.I. algorithm in the hope that you may find some of it useful in your further investigation of the issue or discover options you may like to chase up further. You will almost certainly find that some of it is not sufficiently related, and therefore, not useful. Please excuse the machine, it is trying its best. Sometimes it finds really useful things too.

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