Exterior stairs that have more than three steps needs to have a handrail. The handrail should be between 34 to 38 inches above the front edge of the stair tread. Exterior stairs and walk ways that are 30 inches above adjacent grade need to have a guardrail. The guardrail should be not less than 36 inches high and have intermediate rails that will not let a 4 inch sphere pass between them. The stair riser heights should be uniform with no more than 3/8th of an inch difference between rises. The rise should be no more 7 3/4″ and no less than 4″ and the run should be no less that 10″.
As a home owner your responsibility is to make sure your stairs and guardrail are in good repair and safe. You should test the strength of your handrail and guardrail by pulling on them. They should be able to withstand 200 pounds of a concentrated load applied along the top rail in any direction. If the stairs and rails are made of wood they should be checked yearly for rot and loose fasteners. Stairs and railing made from steel should be checked for rust and loose fasteners and make any repairs needed.
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