My Least Favorite Wall Mounting Brackets

wall mounting bracketI came across this wall mounting brackets recently. I have yet to figure out why the extension block between the bracket and the handrail exists. This was an exit stair in a hotel in San Francisco.

My initial thought: it has to meet the requirements for clearance between the underside of the handrail and the bracket arm. But, in a worst-case scenario, that clearance should be at least 1-1/2″. The block itself is more than 1-1/2″. So I remain at a loss. My understanding is that California doesn’t use NFPA 101. There must be some California fire code rule that I’m not yet aware of. If you have any thoughts, post a comment.

So I remain at a loss. My understanding is that California doesn’t use NFPA 101. There must be some California fire code rule that I’m not yet aware of. If you have any thoughts, post a comment.

brass handrail bracketThese particular wall mounting brackets are everywhere. They are inexpensive and sold at most home centers. But, they don’t meet structural or clearance requirements. I can see how they would be popular in renovations. But fail to understand how they make their way into new construction. I once posted a question to that effect to a code inspector discussion group. Never got an answer.

The ADA and building codes are pretty clear about the minimum requirements for handrail. Wall mount handrail brackets are key to meeting those codes.

Handrail Bracket Clearance: Required clearance between a handrail and other building elements continues to confound and confuse. Here’s a quick review of where present codes now stand.

The 1992 Americans With Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) stated that there was to be an absolute dimension of 1-1/2″ between a handrail and a wall. This was actually a “grab bar” dimension which was part of an old version of ANSI A117.1. Its purpose was to avoid someone from getting caught between the wall and the handrail. ANSI changed the notation to 1-1/2″ minimum in 1990.

The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design now requires a 1-1/2″ minimum, as does the ICC, IRC, and ANSI A117.1.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) however is not on the same page with their requirements. Originally created as part of their building code — NFPA 5000 — but now included in NFPA 101 — Life Safety Code, the NFPA requires a 2-1/4″ clearance between the wall and the handrail. This may result in a railing that will be passed by the building inspector but not accepted by the fire inspector. Note that as of Jan. 20, 2017, OSHA also requires a 2-1/4″ minimum clearance.

Codes also generally require that there be a 1-1/2″ clearance between the underside of the handrail and any obstruction — including the horizontal bracket arm. There is an allowance however for variations in the handrail size — for every 1/2″ of additional perimeter dimension over 4″, you may subtract 1/8″ from the clearance requirement. For example:

Subtract from 1-1/2″ Requirement
Clearance From
Underside of Railing

As always, we strongly recommend that you confirm all code issues with your local officials prior to specifying.

Without-slip-fitI came across this wall mounting bracket in San Francisco as well. It’s at the airport. This gapping happens when you have long handrail runs and don’t allow for building expansion. As the structure settles and shifts, the stresses cause the internal splices to fail. Generally, they are only held in place with epoxy. Our line of Slip-Fit brackets provides a solution.

View all of our Wagner handrail brackets

1 comment

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