Continuous Stair Handrails

I have had numerous problems with local building inspectors and building departments over the years about continuous stair handrailing. When I first started in construction the stair handrail was basically a guardrail to keep people from falling off the staircase. Then the building departments in some areas took it upon them selves to use the handrail for something to hold on to as you are walking up and down the stairs. Well now in some cites the building department will require a continuous handrail running the entire length of the stairway. This however is now a national building code but is not always enforced. This becomes confusing to your stair assembling carpenters that are told they need to do it in one city but not the next. This is not a good thing for the construction business in general. While working as a carpenter framing stairs for track homes doing my best to keep up with changes as they came along in the Unified Building Code. I found this really didn't mean a whole heck of a lot , as I went from city to city listening to local building inspectors interpretation of the U.B.C. To this day I can not tell you for sure what one city wants in the way of building a stair handrail system in your home. Now don't get me wrong. If you build your set of stairs as per plans you could be rebuilding them if the building inspector finds something wrong. Just recently I told the owner builder of a home I was framing not to forget and ask the inspector about the continuous stair handrail. Would he need to make it continuous and if so would if have to run past the last stair treads 12 inches at the top and bottom of the stairway. When I came back to build a handrail on the front and back porch I noticed the stair handrail was installed . There was two problems with the stair handrail. The first problem was the 37 inch tall stair guardrail which would have been fine 15 years ago but today in most cities you need a 42 minimum stair guardrail with a continuous gripable handrail. This was the first problem the next of course was that the inspector wanted a continuous gripable handrail. You might ask why didn't the owner builder take my advice and ask the building inspector. Why didn't the carpenter installing the stairs ask the owner or find out about the local building codes. I don't know why but I can tell you this much they had to remove the 37 inch handrail and could not reuse the stair balusters because they where to short. The new stair guardrail had to be 42 inches minimum. The moral to this story is it won't cost the building department any money to rebuild your stair handrail system. So ask the building inspector and if possible have the inspector sign the plans stating the facts involved (no continuous stair handrail) . Get it in writing from the building department as a good rule of thumb then you will have something to argue with the local building department when the situation arises.