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The Myth of the ADA Loop and Other Handrail Code Misconceptions

It is a common and almost pervasive misunderstanding that in order for free-standing handrails to comply with the ADA standards for accessibility, they must return to the post or support in a loop. In reality, the ADA does not specifically require a loop, and various local rules will determine the installation at the discretion of the inspector in most cases. 

The myth of the ADA loop (or “D-loop”) and other handrail code misconceptions can make installing a handrail seem frustrating. Fortunately, these myths can be quickly dispelled, and you can feel comfortable installing accessible handrails where you need them.

Note that building codes and the ADA are a local jurisdiction. Municipalities dictate their own handrail code using the IBC and IRC as guidance. Some areas will adjust the codes to make them more lenient or restrictive depending on their individual needs.

The Myth of the ADA Loop

Handrail Extension Requirements

The purpose of a horizontal extension at the end of a handrail is to provide adequate support to transfer between a sloped and a flat surface. The ADA prescribes the extension. It does NOT contain any requirement as to how the extension is supported. Creating a loop is one method, and likely the most recognized, but there is a multitude of acceptable configurations.

If a loop is necessary, the notion that it must resemble a “D” is a myth. In reality, the lower portion can slope back to the post at any angle.

Horizontal Extension Requirements on Ramps

On ramps, handrails must extend horizontally for a minimum of 12 inches beyond both the top and bottom of the ramp run. These extensions must return to a wall, guard, or landing surface. They are not required to return in a loop. The lower portion of the loop is simply there to support the 12″ horizontal extension.

Additionally, the extension can be set at any angle to the sloped railing and can include bends, as long as it is a minimum of 12” and horizontal. This is usually done if continuing in the same direction of the railing will extend into open space and become an obstruction.

Horizontal Extension Requirements on Stairs

The ADA requires extensions on stairways however the requirements differ between the top and bottom.

At the top of a stairway, the handrail must extend horizontally above the landing for a minimum of 12 inches. The measurement begins directly above the first riser nosing. This extension must return to a wall, guard, or landing surface.

At the bottom of a stairway, handrails must extend along the same slope of the stairs, the equivalent of one additional tread depth from the last riser nosing. The extension must then return to a wall, guard, or landing surface or can be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent flight of stairs. Free-standing handrails on an open stairway can return in a loop but code also permits that it terminates to a post.

Get Your Code Requirements In Line

If a handrail ADA loop is required or preferred, the easiest way is to utilize Promenaid handrails to create the desired configuration. Promenaid handrails can return to the wall, guard, or landing surface with ease. They can also create continuous handrails, making connecting the handrails from adjacent ramps or stairs quick and simple.

Using its proprietary Sprocketlock™ technology, any desired angle and turn can be created in seconds with the twist of an Allen Key, resulting in a rock-solid, code-compliant ADA loop in minutes. 

Design Your ADA Compliant Handrail with Promenaid

Whether you need to turn corners, change elevation, or create a continuous handrail, Promenaid gives you the flexibility to design a custom handrail. Our Sprocketlock™ connectors make adding bends and angled sections easy. When you’re ready to design your ADA-compliant handrail, contact us today!

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