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Designing stainless steel handrails and balustrades


Stainless steel is a popular material for handrail and balustrade systems. Due to its corrosion resistance, stainless steel handrails and balustrades retain their appearance with only minimum maintenance and without the need for chemical coatings of any kind. A range of finishes is available, from grey matt to a polished mirror surface. Where additional grip is required, an embossed pattern is available.

Austenitic stainless steel grade 304, (1.4301), is usually specified for interior applications in domestic or commercial buildings. Grade 316, (1.4401), has greater corrosion resistance and is typically used for exterior applications, or where there is a higher than normal risk of corrosion, (e.g. chemical plants and swimming pools).

Design issues

Building Regulations Approved Document K sets out the statutory requirements for handrails and balustrades.

Design loads and limiting deflections are given in BS 6399-1 and BS 6180.

An SCI design leaflet gives the design procedure for checking buckling strength, moment capacity and deflections in stainless steel circular and oval hollow sections. A design example and design tables are also given. The procedure is based on the comprehensive SCI design guide for structural stainless steel, SCI 291 Structural Design of Stainless Steel

Section availability

Stainless steel tubing is available in a wide variety of sizes and can usually be supplied to meet the architect’s requirements. There is not a standard family of section sizes, as the dimensions vary from one supplier to the next. Catalogues giving exact product details are available from suppliers of tubular sections. Information on availability of sections can be found¬†here.

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