The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related state legislation have made accessibility a front-page issue. Businesses that are open to the public may be subject to hefty civil penalties if their owners don't make efforts to ensure those with mobility issues can access these buildings.
Many older buildings may not be adequately equipped for ADA access, especially when it comes to handrail requirements. Installing some simple steel or aluminum handrails can be a quick and easy way to improve your business's accessibility without compromising function; however, choosing among the wide variety of handrail-ready products on the market can be a challenge. Read on to learn more about some of the key differences between steel and aluminum, as well as hot rolled and cold rolled steel, to help you decide which of these products is best-suited for your new handrails.
What are the differences between steel and aluminum in the accessibility context?
Although there are a number of significant differences between steel and aluminum in the general construction context, accessibility concerns and requirements can bring with them additional considerations.
For example, when constructing a handrail for a door that needs to be pushed inward, you'll want to ensure this rail is light enough to allow the door to operate (and to be pushed by those without much upper body strength). On the other hand, constructing a handrail designed to support a great deal of weight without buckling or bending (such as a stair rail) can require an entirely different set of factors, most notably strength.
In general, aluminum is a far more lightweight building material, making it ideal for applications where weight matters. Steel is denser and can support quite a bit of weight itself, making it better suited to construction where strength is the key.
Aluminum is also more finicky than steel when it comes to rust prevention, and a single nick in a painted aluminum handrail may be enough to set off the peeling process even just a year or two after the rail has been installed. If your rail is likely to see some severe outdoor weather conditions (like rain, sleet, or snow), steel is often the better choice.
Is hot rolled or cold rolled steel a better option for handrails?
Even once you've narrowed your options down and have decided that steel presents a better base material for your building's handrails, you may find yourself stymied when selecting between hot rolled and cold rolled steel.
Hot rolled steel is produced at high temperatures; during this process, the heated steel is passed through a series of rollers to flatten it and form it into shapes. Rolling steel also helps ensure it is a uniform thickness throughout its final form, which can be important in maintaining durability and strength.
Cold rolled steel is produced at around room temperature using the same rolling system. Because the cold rolling process doesn't utilize high enough temperatures to make the steel malleable, the number of shapes and sizes of cold rolled steel can be more limited. However, one of the most popular cold rolled shapes, a cylinder, is perfect when it comes to constructing utilitarian and sleek-looking handrails. In addition, cold rolled steel is far less likely to have slight distortions or differences in measurement of the final product.
Ultimately, your choice between hot rolled and cold rolled steel will come down to price and visual preference. Hot rolled steel costs less to produce and can be purchased at a fairly low per-piece cost compared to cold rolled steel. However, cold rolled steel is much easier to fit to exact specifications, making it ideal for public-facing applications. Whichever material you choose, you should be able to have useful and aesthetically-pleasing handrails for your business in a very short turnaround time. For more information, contact a business such as A & C Metals - Sawing.