Functional Vs. Decorative Handrail: Basics You Should Know

Functional Vs. Decorative Handrail: Basics You Should Know

Key Takeaways:

  • Functional handrails are required by law in some circumstances.
  • Functional handrails are manufactured to FDOT/MUTCD standards and are made of aluminum, steel, or stainless steel.
  • Decorative handrails are installed for aesthetic reasons.
  • Wrought iron handrails are strong and durable but require more maintenance than other materials.
  • Wood handrails are classic and easy to work with but may not be as durable as other options.
  • The suitable handrail for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.
  • Florida Roadway Guardrail & Signs, Inc has been installing handrails for residential and commercial customers in Sebastian, FL, and the surrounding areas.

When it comes to handrails, there are two main types: functional and decorative. Functional handrails meet the requirements set by governing bodies such as FDOT and MUTCD. They are necessary for safety reasons and must be installed in specific locations. Decorative handrails, on the other hand, are not regulated and can be installed anywhere you like. So, which type of handrail is right for you? Florida Roadway Guardrail & Signs, Inc will discuss the basics of both types of handrails so you can make an informed decision. We will also explore some of the most popular handrail materials, such as aluminum, steel, and stainless steel.

What is a Handrail?

A handrail is a rail designed to be grasped by the hand to provide stability or support. Handrails are commonly used in stairways, escalators, and walkways. Still, they can also be found in other places such as parks, playgrounds, and public transport vehicles.

Functional Vs. Decorative Handrails

Functional handrails serve the primary purpose of providing safety, stability, or support. Decorative handrails, on the other hand, are primarily designed for aesthetic purposes.

A functional handrail complies with ADA regulations. It should preferably be circular with a diameter of 1-¼ to 2 inches. If the rail is non-spherical, the allowed cross-section dimension is up to 2-¼ inches, and the circumference must measure between 4 and 6-¼ inches.

Decorative rails are non-functional types that do not comply with ADA guidelines. They are allowed in private areas only. If the perimeter of these handrails exceeds 6-¼ inches, they should have a graspable finger recess on either side. The handrail above the recess must be 1-½ inches to 2-¾ inches wide.

Functional Vs. Decorative Handrails

Benefits of Functional Handrails

Functional handrails offer several benefits, the most important of which is safety. Handrails can help to prevent falls and injuries by providing a stable surface to grip onto. Additionally, they can help people with mobility impairments to move around more easily.

Benefits of Decorative Handrails

Decorative handrails offer several advantages, the most important of which is aesthetics. They add elegance to any space and can be used to complement the overall design of a room or building. They can also create a focal point in a space or highlight certain features.

Handrails Vs. Railing

Although they may seem similar, handrails and railings are two distinct staircase components. Handrails are the staircase portion that people grab for support as they travel up and down. It is also called a banister.

A handrail is a safety feature that must be able to support the user and provide a reliable guide along the stairway. A handrail uses a variety of materials. It might be connected to the wall, extend from the side of the railing, or sit on top of a staircase’s open sides (vertical posts). Also, read our blog on the signs of the right rooftop railing system.

A railing is a barrier that saves people from falling off the staircase. If someone falls or pushes on a railing, it must be sturdy enough to take the impact without breaking apart. Rails may be made of various materials and can be designed in various styles depending on their form.

Types of Material for Handrails & Railings

You can find railings made from various materials like glass, aluminum, and stainless steel. These are often used to add style and safety to staircases in sporting venues, hospitals, convention centers, and office buildings.

The material you’ll want to use for your stair handrails and railings depends on the staircase’s environment and the look you’re going for. Metals, such as steel and aluminum, are popular for business and industrial environments and modern settings, where wood is more traditional. When the view from the balcony is necessary, glass is frequently utilized.

1. Steel

Many prefer steel for their stair handrails and railings, especially commercial egress stairs and industrial staircases. Steel is also the most robust material for stair stringers. Although steel is not susceptible to rust, it can be affected by acidic ingredients. It’s essential to keep stainless and galvanized metals clean. Stainless steel is commonly coated with zinc to prevent corrosive elements from harming the steel beneath. To enable stainless steel to resist corrosion, it is treated with chromium, nickel, nitrogen, and molybdenum.

2. Aluminum

Aluminum is a natural element lighter in weight than other metals, such as steel. Aluminum has a silver appearance and is very reflective. Additionally, aluminum does not corrode like other metals.

3. Wrought Iron

This malleable material, often used to create a highly decorative effect, was in high demand during the mid-1800s. Wrought iron is no longer produced on a large scale but is still used to restore and replicate historic craftsmanship. Most items that appear like wrought iron and are referred to as such today are low-carbon mild steel.

4. Wood

Wood is the traditional material used for railing, giving your staircase a unique look. Conventional woods like red oak are easy to work with, while harder woods like white oak add more durability and water resistance. If you’re willing to explore beyond ordinary wood varieties, mahogany, ash, cypress, and cherry make beautiful handrails.

5. Glass

While glass may not appear to be a very safe material for staircase design, it is, in fact, far more sturdy than it seems. Clear, semi-transparent, tinted, frosted, and etched are just some of the numerous types of glass available.

Which type of handrail is right for you?

So, which one is right for you? The type of handrail right for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you need a handrail for safety reasons, then you will need to install a functional handrail. You can install a decorative handrail to add aesthetic appeal to your home or business.

Need a Handrail System in Sebastian, FL? No Problem!

Request a free quote to start your handrail system installation project with Florida Roadway Guardrail & Signs, Inc serving Sebastian, FL. We have over 20 years of experience installing handrails across Florida in residential and commercial settings. Plus, our handrails are tailored per your specifications with various materials, including aluminum, steel, or stainless steel. They’re built to meet all safety standards and will last for years. What are you waiting for?

Contact us today!