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February 1, 2004
One out of three older adults falls each year. Many of them fall at home. Some of them die. There are many ways to prevent people from falling in your home. Installing handrails on stairs is one of them. The more handrails you have, the lower your risk of falling with be.
You don't have to be old to use a handrail. Children who are new to walking would be lost without them. So would teens who bound up the stairs, taking two steps at a time. Handrails are a good friend to those who have back or knee trouble. They have literally saved the lives of many older people who have poor balance.
Put handrails on every stairway you have. Be sure to put handrails on both sides of those stairways. Even one step needs a handrail. If you have a very wide stairway, put a single handrail in the center.
Choose a handrail that is rounded. These rails will fit your hand better than other designs. Make sure the rail isn't too big. The part you grab should be no more than 1½ inches around. A rail that is 1¼ inch around will be even easier to grab. Make sure your handrail is strong enough to hold you. It should be able to support 250 pounds at any point.
Don't skimp when installing a handrail. Extend the handrail about 12 inches beyond the top and the bottom step. This way, the handrail will support you as you get on and off the last step. Make sure the handrail is rounded off at the end. Or end the handrail at a post.
Does your staircase have a landing where it changes direction? Continue the handrail around the landing. That way, you'll have something to grab as long as you're on the stairs.
A handrail isn't going to work well unless you attach it securely to the wall. Screw the handrail right into the wall studs. Make sure the fittings are tight. Check them every so often to make sure they haven't become loose.
Mount your handrails about 34 inches from the floor. This is a good height for adults. Children may need a lower rail.
Handrails should be 1½ inches from the wall. This will give you the room you need to grab the rail. Plus, you won't bang your fingers into the wall. Protect your fingers from splinters by painting your handrails with a wood finish.
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