What Is Handrail Trim & Moulding?

October 3, 2022

By: The Finished Space

We’re all familiar with handrail moulding and trim. It’s the part of the staircase that you hold on to when you ascend or descend the staircase. However, when choosing hand railings for your home, there are many things to consider.

In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into handrail moulding, including its importance, history, and all the things you need to know before choosing hand railings for your home or project.

Stair Parts - Hand/Wall Rail

The Importance of Hand Railings

The primary purpose of a handrail is to provide safety, support, and stability and to prevent falls or injuries. Hand railings help people stabilize themselves as they walk up and down the stairs or give them something to grab onto in case of a fall. They can also be a physical barrier to stop a person from falling off the edge of the stairs.

Additionally, a hand rail can serve a stylistic purpose in a room, helping to tie a design together or accentuate a particular theme. For that reason, hand railings shouldn’t be an afterthought, but a design element that you incorporate into your room’s overall aesthetic.

The History of Handrail Moulding

Handrail moulding has been around for thousands of years. In fact, handrails appear across many countries and cultures in several early human civilizations. Stairs were even around when we still lived in caves and huts, and early humans used rocks and logs to create stairs.

We can see gorgeous staircases and handrails in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and early cathedrals and temples. Spiral staircases with iron wrought handles became incredibly popular during early medieval times. Historically, the hand railings were built into the design of the stairs. However, in the 15th century, wrought iron railings were created, making way for handrails to be added after the fact.

It’s difficult to trace the history of hand rail moulding because it’s been a part of our architecture for as long as humans have been building structures, illustrating how important hand railings are in our staircase designs.

An In-Depth Look At Handrail Options

Masonite - Winslow - Red Door in Entrance

You have several options to explore when it comes to hand railings. From different materials and shapes to cost and installation, there are many things you must consider before installing handrail moulding in your home.

Let’s take a look at some of those options:

Material Options for Hand Railings

Metals like aluminum, wrought iron, and steel are popular hand rail material choices for commercial buildings. However, the most popular material choice for residential properties is wood. Wooden hand railings are classic, easy to install, and incredibly versatile, making wood the perfect material option for most homeowners.

Cost of Handrail Moulding

For Blog Only - Coffered Ceiling Staircase

The cost of handrail moulding varies dramatically depending on the type of material, length of the handrail, and more. However, the average 25-foot hand rail will cost around $900 on average. Generally, expect to pay between $30-$70 per square foot for wooden hand railings.

Height Requirements for Hand Railings

For Blog Only - Emily Henderson - Batten Staircase

Emily Henderson

Staircases and hand railings must abide by building codes. The International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Building Code (IBC) both lay out guidelines for handrail requirements. However, your local municipality might have additional or different requirements, so always check your local building codes before committing to a height.

In general, handrail height requirements tend to be within 34-38 inches. Some additional measurement requirements include the railing distance from the wall (4.5 inches), hand clearing (1.5 inches), handrail distance to the opposite wall (31.5 inches), the distance between railings (27 inches), and more. Again, always check your local building codes for more guidance on height requirements.

How to Measure and Install Your Hand Rail

There are a couple of handrail moulding types, and the installation dramatically depends on the type of railing you have. For example, integrated handrails run on the top of spindles to form a part of the balustrade. There are also wall-mounted handrails that are placed on a wall.

Replacing wall-mounted hand railings is much more straightforward than replacing handrails that are integral to the existing balustrade. In most cases, integrated handrails will require some expert installation. However, you may be able to DIY wall-mounted handrails. Here’s how:

  1. Start by measuring from the nosing of the top landing down to the bottom of the stairs. Then, add two feet to your measurement.

  2. Locate the studs and mark them at the standard handrail height.

  3. Measure the length you need at the top of the staircase and along the wall.

  4. Cut the rail to the correct length (including 45-degree angles on the ends)

  5. Test your fit and attach your hand rail using brackets, wood glue, and nails.

Be sure to call in a professional if you aren’t comfortable installing your hand railings yourself.

Ongoing Maintenance and Upkeep for Your Hand Rail

Once installed, your hand railings shouldn’t need much upkeep or maintenance. Simply dusting and cleaning them like you would any other part of your home is all it takes to keep them looking good for years to come. Just be sure to use the appropriate cleaners and avoid anything too harsh.

Choose the Perfect Handrail Moulding for Your Home

Handrail moulding is an essential part of a home with stairs. Hand railings serve a functional purpose, and they can also play a significant role in the overall look and feel of your home’s design.

If you’re ready to install a new handrail in your home, you’ve come to the right place. At Metrie, we work with the world’s top designers to bring you high-quality and trendy moulding and finishing touches.

If you aren’t sure what style trim is right for your aesthetic, give Option {M} a try. It’s our design tool that helps pair you with the perfect finishing touches for your aesthetic.