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Using Hold Tight Handrail in garage

What to Consider When Buying a Handrail

what to consider when buying a handrail title graphic

Once you decide that adding a handrail to your garage or patio steps is beneficial for your mobility, your next step is to find the right one to purchase and install. When adding a handrail to a home, there are many things to consider. If you aren’t sure that adding a handrail to your home is a step you need to take, head over to our previous blog post to read about how important handrails are, even in places where there are only two or three steps.

Factors that might influence your decision about what handrail to get include the dimensions of the handrail, its adherence to ADA standards, and what material it is made from. You will also need to think about how easy the handrail is to install and how much weight or pressure it can stand.

Where do you turn to learn more about handrails? Read on to find out more about each of these essentials!

Handrail Dimensions

Handrail Length

One of the first things to think about when buying a handrail are its dimensions. Questions to answer include, “How long does the handrail need to be?” and “How wide does the handrail need to be?”

graphic showing handrail extending from the top riser to the bottom riser

According to the International Building Code of 2021, handrails for stairways in single-family dwellings need to extend from the top riser to the bottom riser. While the building codes don’t require handrails for stairways of less than four, if you are adding handrail to a short stairway, the same measurements apply. To know what length of handrail you will need, start measuring at the edge of the nosing of the top stair and measure in a straight line to the nosing of the bottom stair (see figure)

graphic showing extra 12 inches of handrail at bottom of stairs

Once you have your measurement, you may want to add extra length on either side (up to 12 inches) as an extra safety precaution. The extra length will ensure that you can grip the handrail before you put a foot on the stairs and continue holding it until you get your balance at the bottom of the stairs.

How does the Hold Tight Handrail Measure Up?

graphic showing 18 inch and 32 inch handrails

Our unique Hold Tight Handrails come in two lengths: 18 inches and 32 inches. Given the average height and depth of most stairs, you will need 11-12 inches of railing per stair. If you have one step leading from the garage into the house, the 18-inch model will serve you well. If you have two or three steps, opt for the 32-inch version. As we mentioned above, the bit of extra length will help you avoid falls by allowing you to grip the handrail even when you are not on the stairway.

Handrail Width (Grip)

graphic showing power grip vs pinch grip

Another important feature to consider when buying a handrail is the grip type. There are two types of grips: a pinch grip and a power grip. A pinch grip is when a person grasps something between their thumb and fingertips. This sort of grip is very useful for picking up small objects or when a person wants to apply very little force. Think of a small child picking up blueberries—the pinch grip is what they are perfecting when they use a thumb and forefinger to maneuver a hopefully un-squished berry into their mouth, which requires quite a bit of dexterity!  

However, as you can imagine, this kind of grip is not very useful for picking up heavy objects or grasping a railing to stop a fall. Instead, you want to be able to perform a power grip, which is when your palm comes in contact with the object and your thumb and fingers can wrap all the way around it. 

According to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, a power grip allows you to apply five times more force than a pinch grip. Additionally, in an article about stair safety, Daniel Johnson says, “following a misstep, a graspable handrail is the only way to stop a fall.” 

Pinch grip handrails are commonly used in residential homes, but they are more decorative than functional. As Daniel Johnson reminds us, “[when] falling forward down a stairway, the more common and dangerous type of fall, the hand tends to pull off the rail. In this instance the pinch grip is not adequate…The tips of the fingers and the thumb need to wrap around and underneath the rail so that maximum force can be applied.” 

When looking for a handrail, purchase one that allows you to wrap your whole hand around the railing in a power grip. International building codes require these types of handrails to be round or oval and to have a diameter between 1 ¼ inches and 2 inches. 

How does the Hold Tight Handrail Measure Up?

graphic showing dimensions of Hold Tight handrail

Our Hold Tight Handrails are designed to allow for a strong power grip. The round steel tubing that is used to create each railing has a diameter of 1 ¼ inch, which is in line with international standards and allows everyone, even those with smaller hands, to wrap their fingers and thumbs all the way around the railing.

ADA Compliance

Another important factor to consider when looking for a handrail is whether the handrail complies with ADA standards. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.” 

While ADA compliance is not necessary in a private home, using these guidelines will ensure that your home is as safe as possible for everyone, including those with disabilities. Even if someone does not have a documented disability, an aging adult with increasing mobility issues will benefit from these accommodations as well.

ADA Requirements: Handrail Locations

According to international building codes, handrails are not needed for stairways consisting of three or fewer steps. However, ADA requirements state that any stairway needs to be accompanied by a handrail. By adding a handrail to your garage or patio steps, you are ensuring that your home is ADA-compliant.

ADA Requirements: Handrail Dimensions

As stated above, international building codes require round handrails to be between 1 ¼ inch and 2 inches in diameter. Handrails of these dimensions allow for a person to grasp the handrail in a power grip. However, international building codes also allow for the possibility of pinch-grip handrails, provided they meet certain requirements for diameter.
graphic showing 1 ¼ inch and 2 inches diameter

ADA standards require that handrails allow for a power grip; pinch-grip handrails are never ADA-compliant. This means that, in order for your handrail to be ADA-compliant, it must be a round handrail with a diameter of 1 ¼ inch to 2 inches.

ADA standards also require that handrails are continuous and not obstructed by any projections. Handrails should be smooth, with no jagged edges, and should not rotate in their fittings. 

ADA Requirements: Extensions

Lastly, while international building codes do not require handrail extensions beyond the stairs themselves, if you are looking for a handrail to be ADA-compliant, it will need to extend 12 inches beyond the top stair and about 9 inches beyond the bottom stair. 

How does the Hold Tight Handrail Measure Up?

A Hold Tight Handrail is not only a good choice because it is in line with international building codes; Hold Tight Handrails are also ADA-compliant in terms of dimension and length. Adding a Hold Tight Handrail to your garage or patio steps makes your home that much safer and more accessible.

Handrail Material

Wood, Aluminum, or Steel?

Handrails are generally made from metal or wood. Steel and aluminum are the most commonly used metals, and these materials are preferred in commercial and/or outdoor settings. Wood is more often used inside private dwellings, as many homeowners prefer the look and style of wood over metal inside their homes.

graphic showing metal railing outdoors

However, when looking for a handrail for your garage or patio steps, you will probably want to opt for a metal railing. Wood requires more upkeep, and it can break down faster, while steel and aluminum will hold up to the elements. The fact that you don’t have to apply sealants to a metal handrail as you would to a wooden one gives you one less thing to worry about. You will also not need to be concerned about the possibility of the handrail splintering or cracking, as you might with wood.


graphic: Steel and aluminum are both good options for outdoor handrails

Steel and aluminum are both good options for outdoor handrails; both metals have a similar appearance, and both are extremely durable. Both are easy to clean, as well. However, there are some subtle differences.

Steel can withstand cold temperatures of up to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it a good choice for outdoor handrails in most places in the United States. Even in the northern states, most places will not see extended periods of cold that dip below -40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Aluminum can also withstand extremely cold temperatures; in fact, according to Fortress Building Products, it gets stronger as it gets colder. However, this means that “aluminum also has a greater linear expansion/contraction factor, [so it] expands a bit more when warm and shrinks a bit more in the cold. Therefore, an aluminum railing will end up a bit looser on its mounts during cold months than it was when it was installed.”

You might also hear that aluminum is less likely to rust, which is a consideration when purchasing an outdoor handrail. However, MMC Fencing and Railing explains that aluminum is less likely to rust “due to its protective powder coating.” When this same coating is applied to steel, rust is not an issue for a steel railing either.

Another aspect of durability is the strength of the metal itself. International building codes require that handrails must be able to resist a concentrated load of 200 pounds. Both aluminum and steel provide this stability.


Finally, you will want to consider the cost of the material you are looking at for this handrail. Steel is generally more expensive than aluminum, in part because aluminum is lighter than steel, which means that shipping does not cost as much. 

Also, according to Sherwood Lumber, aluminum “carries up to 90% of the weight that steel can carry for the same rail thickness…That means you need fewer posts, fewer posts with high traffic, and fewer posts overall. As a result, it will save you time and money.”

However, homeowners looking to purchase a handrail for garage or patio steps are generally not concerned about the number of posts or even about shipping costs, as the handrail will be less than 3 feet long. In this case, because steel is stronger, it is the better choice for a smaller handrail.

How does the Hold Tight Handrail Measure Up?

Hold Tight Handrails are made from powder-coated steel. Steel railings are the strongest option, so they are the best choice for preventing falls on garage steps. Because of the powder coating, homeowners do not need to worry about rust, and because our unique design does not require multiple posts for mounting the handrail, steel is a cost-effective option for this type of handrail.  

graphic: Hold Tight Handrail can hold up to 400 pounds

Additionally, our handrails are made in the United States; they are manufactured in Minnesota, which also cuts down on shipping costs. Our clients are always very pleased with the quality of our products. Mary Scott recently wrote in a review, “The quality is awesome. No rough spots or seams,” and Patty Drasin says they are “sturdy, reliable and feel good to the touch.” The unique Hold Tight Handrail can also hold up to 400 pounds, which is twice as much as required by international building codes. 

Mary Scott recently wrote in a review, “The quality is awesome. No rough spots or seams,”  Patty Drasin says they are “sturdy, reliable and feel good to the touch.”


One final thing to consider when deciding on a handrail to add to your home is the installation. How much will it cost to install? How easy is it to install? 

Adding a handrail to garage or patio steps is a helpful and sometimes necessary step to make a home more accessible and safer. However, installing the handrail can sometimes be costly and time-consuming. According to This Old House, a home improvement website, installing a metal handrail in a garage or on a patio is a project that requires moderate skill, will take about 2-3 weeks to complete, and will cost about $1500.

graphic: things to consider when adding other handrails

Someone doing this project themselves will also need specialized tools like a coring drill, a masonry drill, and cement to set the posts into the newly drilled holes. People who are not comfortable with this level of DIY project will need to find a contractor who has the availability to take on the work. As we all know, many contractors are booked out for weeks or even months! While the timeline may not matter for some cosmetic projects, when it comes to safety, sooner is always better.

How does the Hold Tight Handrail Measure Up?

graphic showing wall mounted vs door jamb mounted handrails

In this case, Hold Tight Handrails are the perfect solution. Our unique, patent-pending designs do not require special equipment or tools, and they do not require drilling into concrete. Instead, our handrails are designed to be mounted to the wall or door jamb. They can also be mounted to posts or railings for patios.

Each railing is accompanied by 5 stainless steel screws that are 3 inches long. These screws are drilled into the wall or door jamb from two different angles to ensure the handrail is as secure as possible. You will need a drill and two bits, along with a tape measure and pencil to install the handrail. These are things most homeowners have on hand already, and we include the specific screws you will need to adhere the handrail to the wall. See our Installation Guide for more information about how to install both our wall-mounted and jamb-mounted models.

These handrails can be installed in minutes, making your garage or patio safer and more accessible the very day you receive your handrail. They can also be mounted at whatever height best suits the user, allowing you to either customize your handrail and make sure that it complies with ADA recommendations.

Key Takeaways

  • When adding a handrail to the home, consider 4 main factors: the dimensions of the handrail, its adherence to ADA standards, the material of the handrail, and the installation process.
  • To meet ADA standards and provide maximum safety, handrails should be round or oval and between 1 ¼ inches and 2 inches in diameter. They should extend beyond the top and bottom of the stairs to supply extra gripping room.
  • A handrail made of powder-coated steel or aluminum is the best choice for a short, outdoor handrail.
  • Installing a metal handrail can be costly and time-consuming. Hold Tight Handrails provide an easy, cost-effective option.
  • Hold Tight Handrails are the best choice for your garage or patio steps: they are made from powder-coated steel tubing 1 ¼ inch in diameter and can be purchased in two lengths to fit the needs of your home. Best of all, they are uniquely designed to be mounted to the wall or door jamb, making it possible for you to install them yourself without special tools.


Works Cited

ADA National Network. (2023, July).  What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? 

Division of Occupational Safety and Health. (n.d.) Grip, don’t pinch. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. 

Fortress Building Products. (2017, June 16). Steel vs. aluminum railings: Choosing the metal that works best for your home. 

Hold tight handrails. (2023).

International Building Code. (2021). Handrails (ICC Standard No. 1014)

Johnson, D. & Pauls, J. (2010). Systemic stair step geometry defects, increased injuries, and public health plus regulatory responses. Contemporary Ergonomics and Human Factors. 

McCullough, M. (2023). How to install a metal railing. This Old House. 

MMC Fencing and Railing. (2019, June 13). ADA compliant handrails.

Sherwood Lumber. (2022, January 2). Aluminum vs. steel railings. Aluminum Vs Steel Railings – Sherwood Lumber

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