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  4. Approved Document M what it is & how it applies to balustrades and handrails – A summary
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  3. SPECIFYING & DESIGNING Balustrades & Handrails
  4. Approved Document M what it is & how it applies to balustrades and handrails – A summary

Approved Document M what it is & how it applies to balustrades and handrails – A summary

What is Approved Document M?

Approved Document M is a building regulation document providing guidance about the ease of access to, and use of buildings, including facilities for disabled visitors or occupants, and the ability to move through a building easily, including to toilets and bathrooms.

Guidance on the use of ramps and steps is covered to provide ease of access, with information including safe degrees of pitch and dimensions when building a wheelchair accessible facility. The construction of accessible stairs and corridors is also addressed, including the safe height of stairs and the accessible width of both corridors and stairs.

There are three key ‘categories’ outlined in Document M:

Section 1: Category 1 – Visitable dwellings

Section 2: Category 2 – Accessible and adaptable dwellings

Section 3: Category 3 – Wheelchair user dwellings

Take Care!

People responsible for building work (e.g. agent, designer, builder or installer) must ensure that the work complies with all applicable requirements of the Building Regulations. The building owner may also be responsible for confirming that work complies with the Building Regulations. If building work does not comply with the Building Regulations, the building owner may be served with an enforcement notice.

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This article summarizes the details recommended in Document M that we feel are the critical parts relevant to balustrading.

In Summary

  1. Stair flights with three or more risers must have a handrail to one side of the stair. If the stair is wider than 1000mm, handrails must be provided to both sides.
  2. Handrails should be ‘grippable’, which is generally interpreted as meaning:
    1. Handrails should allow the entire hand to form a grip around them
      1. Profiles of handrails should be circular with a diameter of between 40-50mm or oval with a width of 50mm.
    2. Handrails should be slip-resistant
    3. Handrails should not be cold to touch
    4. There should be a clearance between the handrail and the adjacent wall surface of at least 50mm.
    5. There should be a clearance of at least 50mm between a support and underside of the handrail.
  3. Handrails should be installed between 850mm to 1000mm above the pitch line of the flight.
  4. The handrail should extend 300mm beyond the top and bottom stair nosings.
  5. Handrails should be installed at heights that are convenient for all users.
  6. Secondary handrails at 600mm height from the pitch line of the stairs should be in place for people of short stature.
  7. Handrails should not protrude more than 100mm into the width of the stair.
  8. Handrails should contrast visually with the background against which they are seen.
  9. A change of level within the entrance storey should be avoided. If steps on the entrance level cannot be avoided, these stairs must comply with the requirements of Document K – see this advice summarised on the link here.
  10. Communal stair balustrades and handrails should also meet the demands of building regulations Document K.

Information is given as a guide and is not intended to be exhaustive. It remains the reader’s responsibility to take specific independent advice and to comply with local legislation. 

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