Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
Email:, Blog: or

Aug 28 2017

QQ: Door Pull Clearance

Category: Accessibility,Push/Pull,Quick QuestionLori @ 11:51 am Comments (17)

I answered this question a couple of years ago as part of a longer post, but people continue to ask so here goes…

“How much clearance do the accessibility standards require behind a door pull?”

Although many manufacturers’ catalogs show some pulls with a symbol indicating that the pull meets the accessibility standards and some pulls without the symbol, the criteria for this seems to have been set by the hardware industry.  The accessibility standards do not currently include prescriptive requirements for the size, shape, or clearance for door pulls. 

The only clue I have found is in the ADA Guide that is being published online, chapter-by-chapter (information on Chapter 4 is here).  The guide states:  “Bars, pulls, and similar hardware should provide sufficient knuckle clearance (1½” minimum) to facilitate gripping.”

1 1/2 inches is much less than what is shown as acceptable in most manufacturers’ catalogs, but it is consistent with the clearance requirement for handrails and grab bars.  While a larger amount of clearance may be desirable for certain door-hardware applications, it is not required by the accessibility standards.  Many manufacturers show 2 1/4 or 2 1/2 inches of clearance for pulls used in “accessibility applications,” but I’m not sure where that figure came from.  Because of the lack of prescriptive information in the standards, code officials may relay on manufacturers’ catalogs for this information and may therefore believe that the larger amount of clearance is required.

If you have any experience with this, please share it in the reply box.

Previous Post: | Next Post:

17 Responses to “QQ: Door Pull Clearance”

  1. Thomas Howard says:

    I have had issues with restroom partition pull handles not meeting the 1 1/2″ requirement. Most of the partition manufacturers we work with do not offer a pull handle to meet the requirement as part of their standard hardware package. I’m not sure if anyone else has run into this, but I hope the manufacturers will begin offering taller pull handles as a standard option.

  2. Tony Calistro says:

    The 2-1/4″ clearance dimension may come from the stair rail requirement of 2-1/4″ between the wall and the edge of the handrail???

    • Lori says:

      Hi Tony –

      In the handrail section of A117.1 I found this:

      “505.5 Clearance. Clearance between handrail gripping surface and adjacent surfaces shall be 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) minimum.”

      Do you know of a section in a code or standard that states 2 1/4″ minimum?

      – Lori

      • Tony Calistro says:

        Here is what I’ve found:

        The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) however is not on the same page with their requirements. Originally created as part of their building code — NFPA 5000 — but now included in NFPA 101 — Life Safety Code, the NFPA requires a 2-1/4″ clearance between the wall and the handrail. This may result in a railing that will be passed by the building inspector but not accepted by the fire inspector. Note that as of Jan. 20, 2017, OSHA also requires a 2-1/4″ minimum clearance.

      • A.J. Vanhooser says:

        NFPA 101 requires 2-1/4″ clearance between new handrails and the wall. This could be where the 2-1/4″ is coming from. IBC only requires 1-1/2″. For stairs I’ve run into this issue before depending on which code is being enforced, but I’ve never encountered it for door pulls.

  3. Jim Elder says:

    What about a handicapped actuator. If there is no wall, am i compelled by the ADA requirements to install the actuator on a bollard and if so, what is the distance ?

  4. Todd Wyatt says:

    From the ADA Guidelines (see :

    Door and gate hardware must:
    allow one-hand operation
    not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist
    operate with 5 lbf maximum
    be located 34” to 48” above the floor or ground.

    Hardware that can be operated with a loose grip or closed fist, such as lever-shaped handles and U-shaped pulls, accommodates the greatest range of users. (Closed-fist operation, while advisable, is not mandated by the Standards). Round door knobs do not comply because they require twisting of the wrist.

    Latches and locks with small parts that must be manipulated can be difficult to use and will not comply if pinching is necessary. However, keys and access cards that are not part of the lockset are not required to comply (but those that do not require pinching or turning provide better access). Hardware that does not require simultaneous actions are better, but some types, such as handles with thumb latches are acceptable.

    Specify hardware that is usable with a closed fist of loose grip
    Bars, pulls, and similar hardware should provide sufficient knuckle clearance (1-1/2” minimum) to facilitate gripping
    Avoid hardware that requires hand or finger dexterity, fine motor movement, or simultaneous actions.

  5. Nolan Thrope says:

    Does 1 1/2″ preclude the use of Flush Cup Pulls in FRP doors?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Nolan –

      There isn’t anything specific in the accessibility standards on flush pulls, but I think there are some flush pulls that provide the recommended clearance of 1 1/2″.

      – Lori

  6. Karl Pfeffer says:

    The 2-1/4″ clearance for handrails comes from the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. ADA, ANSI and International building code all require minimum 1-1/2″ clearance for handrails.

  7. Tony Klagenberg says:

    I too have not found any code requirement for pull clearances and the manufacturer data only causes confusion. I have talked to hardware industry people who hold the on to the thought they must use a special pull for ADA applications. Maybe it is a good idea but it is not code driven.

  8. Daniel Davis says:

    Good stuff thanks for the info. The only issue I’ve ran into is with a back to back pull handle on a barn door. Where you need to allow enough room to the edge of the door without crushing fingers while opening and closing the door but also allowing enough clear width opening. Usually requires installing a stop in the frame and ordering your frame opening bigger than the desired CWO because you’ll usually loose 3-5″ when using B2B pull handles on a barn door.

  9. Jim Elder says:

    Lori. Thanks for the reply. I am reluctant to “conveniently” locate the actuators because folks tend to use the operator when they don’t need it. The door stays open too long and increases the workload on the hardware. But if one has to go just a bit out of their way, then its less likely to be used. My question relates to whether or not there a specific code requirements. Suppose I locate the actuator on a wall that is a bit away from the door making sure to add some open time to accommodate travel to the door?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Jim –

      The guidelines from BHMA A156.19 that are included in the article give you a pretty good range of where you can locate the actuators. They don’t necessarily have to be convenient enough that everyone uses them, but they should be within the area described in the standard.

      – Lori

  10. Stephen Murray CRL says:

    Just a thought on the pulls. In early years of the inception of ADA we were to understand that the pulls to ADA compliant required a closed fist be allowed so that one could open the door with closed fist behind the pull. This is about 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 inched. Look at for example, ND Series Levers, these have 2-1/2 inch clearance from surface of door to the backside of the lever.

Leave a Reply