How to Install Hand Rail on Brick Steps

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Some brick stairways require protective metal railings.
Some brick stairways require protective metal railings. (Image: composition of brick wall image by Hao Wang from Fotolia.com)

Brick, concrete and other masonry products make up many supporting structures, including walkways and stairwells. On exterior surfaces, brick can add a rustic and classic look, but can also present potential dangers for those traversing the paths. Brick stairs tend to be rough, and may be uneven instead of flat. Installing a handrail on your brick or masonry stairs can help to ensure safety while maintaining your look.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil or marker
  • Calculator
  • Flanges
  • Drill with carbide masonry bit
  • Screws or anchors
  • Posts
  • Railing and fittings

Measure the height and length (front to back) of each step, and the distances between the edges of the steps and the locations where you intend to install the railing posts. It may help to make chalk marks on the brick at the intended installation points. Record all of these measurements.

Add all of the measurements for the step lengths, plus the distances between the top and bottom steps and the corresponding posts. As a separate calculation, add the step heights together. Divide the height calculation by the length calculation, then perform an inverse tangent (tan-1) on your calculator. The final number is the angle at which you need to install your handrail. Select your fittings and flanges based on this angle calculation.

Use your calculator to square both the height calculation and the length calculation. Add the two squares, then take the square root of that number. This provides you with the length you need for the rail.

Set the flange on the bottom step where you intend to install the railing. Use a marker to mark the brick surface where the holes for the screws will lay on the brick. Remove the flange, leaving only the marks behind.

Attach a carbide masonry bit to your drill; this will safely drill through the brick. Drill pilot holes for either brick screws or concrete anchors, as either of these securing pieces will hold to the brick.

Set the flange in place again. Insert the screws or anchors into the pilot holes, then drill them securely into place.

Insert the bottom post into the bottom flange and secure it into place with the provided screws, unless otherwise instructed by your railing manufacturer's instructions. Repeat the flange attachment process with your top flange and post. Use a cord or tape measure to ensure that the flanges line up.

Attach the fittings to the top of each post. Depending on your railing product, you may need a wrench or screwdriver to secure these in place. Insert the handrail between the two fittings and secure it into place. Test the railing with your weight to make sure it will hold.

Insert plugs into the railing post holes, if so instructed by your railing instructions. Hammer them into place with a mallet to prevent water from leaking into the posts.

Tips & Warnings

  • The height of the bottom and top posts for your handrail must be the same, and must be at least 42 inches tall, per federal safety regulations.
  • Remember that each railing and flange manufacturer provides instructions specific to its products. Follow these instructions carefully during installation.
  • Always wear protective goggles when drilling into brick, to protect yourself from flying debris.

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