I don’t need a handrail…do I?
Handrails are everywhere
If there is a staircase in your home, there is likely a handrail to accompany it, which helps prevent slips and falls on the stairs. Many public settings also make use of stairways, and these stairs are also supplemented with handrails. People often use these safety features to help them keep their balance or to give them a bit of leverage as they huff and puff to the top of a particularly long flight of stairs.
The creation, installation, and upkeep of these handrails are governed by specific building codes, but railings often go unnoticed unless a person finds themselves clutching one to keep from taking a tumble. Unsung heroes, these handrails—most of us take these safety features for granted until we find ourselves in need of them. Luckily for all of us who have ever missed a step and grabbed a railing for support, the International Code Council requires that handrails accompany all flights of stairs of four or more steps in both homes and businesses.
What about places where there are fewer stairs? There are public places where only one or two steps are needed to help people get from one place to another. Many homes also include places where only a few steps are needed. For instance, houses often have a step or two leading from the garage into the house or from a patio onto a porch. According to international codes, no handrail is needed in these areas. This is because many people can navigate those kinds of steps without problem, which means it is up to individual business owners or homeowners to install handrails and other safety devices if they decide they are necessary. However, these areas can present significant hazards for some people, especially young children and those who have difficulty with mobility.
That’s not me!
You might think, “I don’t have difficulty with mobility! Sure, I’m not as young as I once was, but I get around well—I take the dog for a walk every evening and I play on the floor with my grandkids. Surely I don’t need a handrail for one or two steps!”
It is common and understandable to want to avoid thinking of ourselves as people who need additional support for everyday tasks.
No one likes to think about aging and the toll it takes on our activities, but according to Nimali Jayasinghe, Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, the truth is that, “starting at the age of 40, all of us lose about 10% to 15% of [our] muscle mass. The likelihood of falling increases steadily across a person’s lifespan, starting from the age of 40 and progressing through the ages of 50, 60, 70 and 80.”
While 40 might seem young to begin thinking about falling and the need for extra handrails or grab bars in the home, it is better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to safety. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they need professional-grade handrails until an accident happens.
Falling can happen in many places for many reasons, but, unsurprisingly, stairs present the largest hazard for falling. According to the Census Bureau, about half of homes in the United States contain stairs, but only 17.3% of homes include handrails along stairways or in other areas of the home. Unfortunately, this means that roughly 40 million homeowners in the U.S. are navigating stairways without handrails every day.
Stairway accidents are more common than people realize, and they must be taken seriously. According to a 2017 study about stair-related injuries, more than one million people are injured in stair-related falls each year.
The most common injuries include sprains, strains, and fractures, but falls down the stairs can also cause broken bones and even head or neck injuries.
In extreme cases, falls can even be fatal—the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reports that over 12,000 people die from stair-related falls in the United States each year.
Maybe that is me…
What should a person do when they realize that, although they have a fair amount of agility, they are over 40 and their risk of falling is going up each year? If that description fits you, you may need to consider ways to add safety features to your home, especially if you are over 65.
A Profile of Older Americans published in 2021 states that, “40% of adults age 65 and older reported trouble with mobility (walking or climbing stairs).” This means that 2 in 5 adults who are over the age of 65 admit that they are at an increased risk for falling, especially when navigating stairs. There may be others who are not part of this number who either don’t realize that their mobility has decreased or who aren’t ready to admit to themselves that they can’t get around as easily as they used to.
The fact that 40% of adults 65 and older have difficulty with walking or climbing stairs is especially significant because of the number of people in the United States who are over 65. According to a report about America’s older adults, “Between 2012 and 2017, the number of households headed by someone 65 or older jumped from 27 million to 31 million and [that number] will continue to grow.”
In fact, in 2011, the oldest baby boomers turned 65, and by 2030 (just seven years from now!), all baby boomers will be older than age 65. As baby boomers still comprise the nation’s largest generation, this means that millions of people—almost an entire generation—are in need of additional safety and accessibility features in their homes, especially if they plan to age in place for at least a few more years.
Aging in place
Many baby boomers have not made specific plans to “age in place.” However, as stated in a report from MHP Salud, aging in place just refers, “to a person making a conscious decision to stay in the inhabitation of their choice for as long as they can with the comforts that are important for them.” If a person plans to live in their own home as long as they can by making small changes to the house to make it more accessible, then that person is planning to age in place.
MHP Salud offers one caution, though: “While an individual may feel most comfortable at home, there are a variety of environmental hazards that may limit their ability to move around safely. Homes or units with a number of stairs may be difficult to navigate, particularly as endurance diminishes.” This is especially true of stairs that lack handrails. Obviously, stairs that include four or more steps are required to have handrails, but think about your garage or patio: do you have a stairway made up of one or two steps that may present a problem in the coming years? A stairway like this could use an extra handrail to make it safer and more accessible.
Fortunately, with our unique handrails, adding this particular safety feature to a garage or patio doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.
So, what’s next?
There are many ways to avoid accidents on the stairs, even short stairways made up of one or two steps. Some of these include clearing the stairs of objects or clutter and taking stairs slowly. One can also add non-slip stair treads to the stairs themselves.
What if this is no longer enough, though, or someone already keeps the steps clear and navigates them at a slow pace? Installing a handrail is the best, most common-sense way to make any stairway a little safer, even a short one of three steps or fewer.
One of the main places to consider adding a handrail is in the garage. Many homes have one or two wooden or concrete steps that lead from the garage into the house. Older building codes used to require that garage floors be lower so that combustible materials and gas vapors would not leak into the house. (This requirement changed in 2018, so newly constructed houses may have a garage floor level with the house, which eliminates the need for steps.)
Most of us, though, live in houses that require us to step down into the garage. A person may not think they need a handrail in those places, as they did not need one when they moved into the home, and they are right in thinking that their home is still in line with building codes if they do not include one, as mentioned above.
However, 4 out of 10 people ages 65 and older may face the possibility of tripping and falling on the stairs. Additionally, according to Garage Living, “a third of all garage injuries are caused by slips and falls, and many of these accidents involve the stairs.” In places where one has a handrail to grab onto, a stumble may not be such a problem. However, those short stairways that previously did not need a handrail become more dangerous for homeowners with each passing year.
Installing a handrail
You’ve become convinced that a handrail would absolutely be a good addition to your garage steps. Why take chances, right? Even if a person will not find themselves gripping it tightly as a sole support for many years, the old adage rings true in this case: an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, both in terms of safety and cost. (Trust us—a trip to the emergency room is much more expensive, damaging, and time-consuming than purchasing a handrail and taking the time to install it!)
You head off to the internet to decide what kind of handrail is best for your home. You start googling different handrails and contractors and quickly realize that mounting a handrail in the garage or on a patio is more difficult than it first seems. Adding a handrail to an indoor staircase can be done with relative ease; a homeowner, handyman, or contractor can find the studs in the wall and anchor the handrail to those studs. Ta-da! You have reduced the likelihood that you or a loved one will slip and fall on your stairs.
In the garage or on a patio, however, there is usually no adjacent wall to anchor the handrail. This means that one will need some sort of free-standing handrail and someone who is able and available to drill into the concrete floor of the garage or cement slab of the patio. This process can be both costly and time-consuming, and you may have to wait a long time for a contractor to have availability.
What handrail should I buy? Hold Tight Handrails are the best solution!
There are several things to consider when purchasing a handrail to install, especially when focusing on adding one to the garage or patio. As mentioned above, one of the most important things to consider is where and/or how to mount the handrail.
Hold Tight Handrails are an excellent choice for garage stairs for many reasons, but especially because installing our handrails does not require drilling into concrete. This is because our patent-pending design is unique; the handrail is drilled either into the door jamb or the wall rather than the floor.
At first, a person might be concerned that this sort of mount would not be as sturdy as something drilled into the floor. However, the screws that are used to attach the railing are at least three inches long, ensuring that the handrail won’t move once mounted. Additionally, the Hold Tight Handrail screws into the wall from two different angles because of its unique angled bracket, which provides the railing with extra strength. In fact, we’ve tested the strength of the handrail, and our door-jamb mounted handrail can safely hold up to 400 pounds!
The fact that you will not need to hire a contractor to drill into the concrete of the garage floor or patio significantly reduces the cost of the installation and (likely) means that you will not have to hire any outside help. See our Installation Guide for more information about how to install both our wall-mounted and jamb-mounted models.
While adding a handrail to a home may not be the most glamorous update to make, it may be one of the most important. By doing so, you will be joining the millions of homeowners who are remodeling for accessibility rather than upkeep or cosmetics. In fact, according to a report from 2019, “among owners reporting remodeling activity in 2017, 10 percent of those aged 65–79…undertook at least one home project intended to improve accessibility.” That number has undoubtedly increased in the last five years, especially as entities like the CDC now recommends that homeowners add more railings to their homes to make houses safer and to reduce the likelihood of falls.
You can make sure your home is as safe as possible by adding a handrail to your garage steps.
- A person begins losing muscle mass at age 40, and those over the age of 65 are at an increased risk for falling.
- Falls happen most often on the stairs. Falls down the stairs are serious; they can be both costly and dangerous.
- Handrails can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling on the stairs, and aging in place is possible with the addition of simple things like handrails in the home.
- Garage and patio steps are some of the best places to consider adding handrails. These are places that often include short stairways of 1-3 steps that may not already have handrails.
- Hold Tight Handrails are the best option for garage or patio steps because they don’t require drilling into the concrete floor. They are easily and safely mounted to the wall or door jamb in a matter of minutes.
Administration for Community Living. (2021). 2020 Profile of older Americans. Retrieved from https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/aging%20and%20Disability%20In%20America/2020Profileolderamericans.final_.pdf
Aging in place: A resource for healthcare centers. (2020). MPH Salud. Retrieved from https://mhpsalud.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Aging-In-Place.pdf
Blazewick, D.H., Chounthirath, T., Hodges, N.L., Collins, C.L., Smith, G.A. (2018). Stair-related injuries treated in United States emergency departments. American Journal of Emergency Medicine 36(4), 608-614. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2017.09.034
Basic National Building Code. (1996). Garages (BOCA Standard No. 315).
Do you really need garage steps into the house? (Truth or myth?) (2022, December 22). Garage Made Simple. Retrieved June 21 from https://garagemadesimple.com/garage-steps-into-the-house/
Facts about falls. (2021). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 21 from https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html.
Hold tight handrails. (2023). https://holdtighthandrails.com/
Housing America's older adults. (2019). Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Retrieved from https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/reports/files/Harvard_JCHS_Housing_Americas_Older_Adults_2019.pdf
International Building Code. (2021). Handrails (ICC Standard No. 1011.11)
Jayasinghe, N. (2011). Addressing falls prevention among older adults, part I: Understanding why falls happen. Hospital for Special Surgery. Retrieved June 21 from https://www.hss.edu/conditions_addressing-falls-prevention-older-adults-understanding.asp
Keep everyone safe with these garage safety tips. (2023). Garage Living. https://www.garageliving.com/blog/keep-everyone-safe-with-these-garage-safety-tips-2Vespa, J., Engelberg, J. & He, W. (2020). Old housing, new needs: Are U.S. homes ready for an aging population? Current Population Reports. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p23-217.pdf