Handrails can be an important safety feature for any pool or spa. When made of the right materials and properly installed, handrails can help people enter and exit a pool or spa.

To be safe — and to meet American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements — handrails should be installed at pool stairs, ramped entries and transfer walls.

Handrails come in a variety of styles. Three- or four-bend handrails are curved in a loop, with one end of the rail attached to the decking and the looped end extending over the water. These are useful along short lengths of steps. Two-bend handrails have two installation points, one at either end of the railing. These are best for long entries, like ramps and steps.

In order to meet ADA requirements, a ramped entry must include at least two handrails, with a width of 33 to 38 inches between them. A handrail extension is required at the top of the landing but not the bottom. The height should be 34 to 38 inches, and the diameter of the handrail should be between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inches. Handrails are not required below the stationary water level. Exceptions to this rule include sloped entries to wave action pools, leisure rivers, sand bottom pools or pools where there is only one access area. In addition, sloped entries into wading pool do not require handrails.

Like other pool equipment, it’s important to clean and care for handrails properly. In properly balanced water, the metals should not corrode or rust. However, when chemicals or pH is off, the metals can be damaged. Remove the handrails from their installation points and clean with a phosphoric acid gel, like naval jelly, and a plastic scouring pad. Rinse well and apply a protective layer of car wax. For seasonal pools, this is a particularly important step during the opening and closing process.