Photo provided courtesy of Warren Prasek

When is a rail required? The Building Code of Australia aim to ensure safety, and in relation to stairs or ramps, require the installation of a continuous balustrade or barrier where they are alongside of a drop of more than 1 metre.

How tall does it need to be? The balustrade or barrier must be at least 1 metre above the level of the walkway, or at least 865mm above the nosing of the stair. It should be designed so that a person cannot fall over it nor allow a child to crawl through it.

How strong is it required to be? Your rail should be structurally able to withstand a point load of 0.6kN and an evenly distributed load of 0.4kn applied inward, outward or downward on the handrail.

What timber should I use? For outdoor rails that are exposed to the weather, the timber should be durable Class1 or Class2 timber species such as blackbutt, spotted gum, ironbark, jarrah, merbau or kwila with any sapwood present (or preservative treated softwood) treated to H3 standard.  Ideally, the timber should be free of any major strength reducing features and be straight. Find your Balustrade or Railing in the DIY Bargain Bin Balustrades, Railings, Steel Post, Poles, Tubing and Accessories section.

What else do I need to know? If the railing is outside, use quality Class 3 corrosion resistant metal connectors such as nails and screws.Fill any nail holes with exterior grade wood filler and apply two top coats of exterior paint or stain to protect your timber. You can find a selection of DIY Bargain Bin Hardware, Nails, Screws, Bolts and Nuts as well as DIY Bargain Bin Paint / Oils / Stains / Varnishes / Painting Supplies by clicking on these sections.

Need more information? Read and understand the  Australian Building Inspection Services guidelines, from which this summary has been taken to fully understand your responsibilities in building an indoor or outdoor timber rail.


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