Hardwood Railings:
Residential Building Codes
Canadian Requirements

Not complying with the Hardwood Railings, Residential Building Codes can cost you alot of money....I know! Having sold hardwood stairs & railings for 25 years, I have seen alot. Customers that have repeatedly installed railings, torn them out and started over again, all because they won't take the time to find out what the regulations were BEFORE they started.

Regulations are there for a good reason.. accidents do happen. If the spacing on spindles is too large, a child can fall. Old installations where you had a bottom rail, offers a stepping stool for the more aggressive child to climb your wood handrailing, thus even the construction technique is now considered in building code documents.

Off shore production of spindles and railing has introduced extreme price pressure on the market and tempted a few manufactures to introduce "extra skinny" railing and spindles... thus the regulators have stepped up to the market with rules about size.. ie. oak and maple spindles in Canada MUST have no part of the spindle less then 3/4" and over all square must be 1 5/16"... likewise with everyother part of the system.. so scan this info below, and most important check with your local building department FIRST!

Remember .....why wouldn't you want to make it safe for all your kids, parents and grandchildren!!

... Check Locally Now!!

Spindle Spacing:
Code Requirements
Spindle Spacing: A 4" ball must not be able to pass through the hole between the individual spindles. This comes from crib regulations, where we want to be careful that a child's head could not get caught.
Spindle Sizes:  (measured as the smallest diameter anywhere down the length of the spindle)
Oak and Maple Spindles: minimum 3/4" Turned Diameter
Yellow Poplar Spindles: minimum 7/8" Turned Diameter
White Pine & Hemlock Spindles minimum 31/32" Turned Diameter
Cantilievered Pickets: Fir, Spruce, Pine, Hardwoods etc. minimum 1 9/32" Square
Oak, Maple minimum 1 3/4"Turned Diameter
Base must be 2 3/4" x 2 3/4"
Hemlock, White Pine &
Yellow Poplar
minimum 2" Turned Diameter
Base must be 3 1/4" x 3 1/4"
Lumber must be clear, staight grain material
Post in a Volute: minimum 2" Turned Diameter
Base must be 2 3/4" x 2 3/4"
Attachment Method: Currently there are no drawings available in the building code manual for attaching interior newel posts, but the most accepted method is to cut a half lap joint in the end of the newel..... drop it through the floor and bolt it to the side of your floor joints. Generally, metal plates and threaded rods are not highly recommended by any of the building inspectors that we talk to.
Oak & Maple Minimum size: 1 5/8" x 2 5/8"
Bottom Rail:
Oak & Maple Minimum size: 1 5/8" x 2 5/8" if NOT supported
3/4" x 2 5/8" if continuously supported
(ie. mounted on the down slope of a stringer)
General Comments:
Where you know your home is going to require a final inspection from the Building Controls Department, a wise step, would be to get all your products and installation methods preapproved by this department. Due to a recent lawsuit involving the office of the Ontario Building Code, inspectors today, are particularly cautious when it comes to railings. It costs less if you only have to do it once!

Any railing installations that are not standard (ie. as per code), must have an engineer's stamp of approval for the local building controls office to pass.

For those of you that are "only" rennovating, you still need a building permit. If you decide to bypass this obligation, remember the door you are leaving open, if someone has an accident, involving a railing that is NOT constructed to todays code. You will be liable!

We ALWAYS recommend that you build to current code. MAKE it STRONG! MAKE it SAFE!

This information comes from Table 3.1.2 Supplementary Guidelines to the Ontario Building Code 1997 SG-7.... published June 24, 1999 (update)




4 Reasons why YOU should worry about the Building Code:

1. Safety is #1

2. If you need an inspection to obtain an occupancy permit, it must be to code.

3. Insurance companies have been known to force compliance before issuing a new insurance policy.

4. Sale of your home can be blocked until conditions of building code have been met.

We have had clients experience all of the above.... so do it right the first time.