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Building standards (RBQ) for stairs, railings and balconies

building standards for stairs, railings and balconies

For every construction project we undertake, we have to comply with certain building standards set by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ). We get a lot of questions on the subject, so here is a summary of the main standards for staircases, railings, guardrails and balconies.

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Standards for an interior residential staircase

Here is an overview of the requirements and dimensions to meet for the various components of an interior staircase. This applies to all types of staircases, whether made of wood, steel or another material.

  • Clearance height (distance between the treads and the ceiling): 1.95 m (76-¾ in.)
  • Height of the riser: between 14.6 and 20 cm (5-¾ in and 8 in.), the standard being 19 cm (7.5 in.)
  • Nosing: minimum 2.5 cm (1 in.)
  • Depth of each tread: minimum 23.5 cm (9-¼ in.)
  • Tread: depth 21.6 to 29.2 cm (8.5 in. to 11.5 in.), but usually between 25.4 and 30.5 cm (10 to 12 in.)
  • Width for a staircase: minimum of 86.4 (34 in.)
  • Distance between the stringers (supports): maximum of 120 cm (47-¼ in.)

If your staircase doesn’t meet these building standards, don’t hesitate to contact us to rectify the situation!

Standards for an exterior residential staircase

standards for exterior staircase

Standards for exterior residential staircases vary among municipalities, so we advise you to ask your local urban planning department. However, here are a few common general indications:

  • A handrail is required for a staircase with more than 3 risers.
  • The guardrail of a staircase must be at least 90 cm (35.4 in.) high.
  • The minimum width of the staircase is 86 cm (34 in.).
  • The depth of the treads must be between 23.5 cm and 35.5 cm (9.5 and 14 in.).

Regulations for handrails

Handrails (safety devices on which people lean when going up or down a staircase) are mandatory for any interior staircase with more than two risers and any exterior staircase with more than three risers.

Handrails must also:

  • Be located at a height of at least 91.5 cm (36 in.) from the nosing of the tread to above the railing.
  • Be located at least 3 cm (1-½ in.) from the wall.

Regulations for balconies, guardrails and balustrades

balconies, guardrails regulations

A guardrail (also called a railing or balustrade) is the assembly composed of glass panels or bars and posts that prevent people from falling into space. They are found along an interior staircase or mezzanine or around an outside balcony.

Here are a few important standards:


  • For a staircase, a guardrail must be at least 36 in. high from the floor to above the railing.
  • Along a mezzanine, a guardrail must be at least 91.5 cm (42 in.) high.
  • If the guardrail is composed of bars, they must be spaced a maximum of 10 cm (4 in.) apart.

For exterior balconies:

  • A guardrail is required for any balcony higher than 61 cm (2 ft.) off of the ground, and this guardrail must be at least 36 inches high. If the balcony is 1.83 m (6 feet) or more off of the ground, the guardrail must be at least 91.5 cm (42 in.) high.
  • If the guardrail is a railing of aluminum, wood or PVC bars, they must be spaced a maximum of 10 cm (4 in.) apart.

Note that the edges and corners of the glass panels in our guardrails and doors are polished so that they aren’t sharp and that frameless models are safer.


Rampes et balcons holds the mandatory Régie du bâtiment du Québec licence required for any company that installs staircases, railings and balconies. Before starting any work on the railings and handrails of your staircases and balconies, make sure that the contractor you are dealing with is on the list of RBQ licence holders.

For any question about building standards for staircases, railings or balconies, contact the experts at Rampes and Balcons!

Patrice Cloutier - Rampes et Balcons

Patrice Cloutier
Rampes et Balcons president

Patrice Cloutier is the founding president of the Rampes et Balcons company. His 20 years expertise in glass and aluminum railings makes him a trusted advisor to support you for your project.

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