GRP vs Steel Handrails – Which is Best for my Project?

When it comes to handrails and guardrails, there is a lot of confusion between the different types available and which material to use. Waux provide both GRP and steel handrails, for a variety of sectors and applications. This guide will help you to decide which style will best suit your project.  

GRP Handrails

Waux offer two types of GRP handrail within our TrekRAIL® range. The first is the well-known key clamp style with raised fittings. This type has to be assembled on site which can be time consuming, so for efficiency, Waux offer a pre-fabricated stanchion service. The second is a modular design with a continuous top grabrail. This type of handrail is most used on our bespoke access structures as we can prefabricate the handrail in units and this can be quickly bolted on site, without the need for assembling fittings which takes time. A modular design is ideal for straight runs of handrail, however, it is not practical if there is a curve. 

GRP handrails are perfect for industrial areas where aggressive environments may exist, such as chemical plants and water treatment facilities, or where there are areas of high voltage, such as near railway lines or power stations. Read about the further benefits of GRP in our article



(Left:) TrekRAIL® Key Clamp Style GRP Handrails   (Right:) TrekRAIL® Modular GRP Handrails                       


Steel Handrails

The most common material for key clamp style handrails is steel. This can be galvanised for heavy duty purposes.

Steel does not retain heat very well, so Waux offers a powder coating service to any RAL colour. This gives a chip-resistant surface that is not cold to touch.

However, some public areas need a smooth passage for the hand, so key clamp handrails are not suitable. The best solution for this is our DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliant handrails, as they have internal joints so no knuckles are present. Read more on the AfA scheme and DDA compliancy.                                                                                                           

Steel handrails should be used for any public sector projects where there will be a high number of users. This is because GRP handrails should technically be referred to as guardrails as they are not designed for heavy handling. In high heat, the outer coating can wear out over time, bringing the glass fibres to the surface. When these exposed fibres come into contact with skin, it causes irritation.

Furthermore, GRP has more flexibility than steel. Although this flex is recoverable, as proved with our load testing, it can cause public concern if the handrail starts to bend under the weight of a crowd.

Key Clamp Style Galvanised Steel Handrails                                                                                                                             DDA Compliant Steel Handrails (Powdercoated)



The situation with exposed fibres occurred at a site in Lymington, and the main contractor called on Waux for advice when the incorrect type of handrail had been installed by another supplier.

Paint can be used to overcoat the surface, which is how we solved the problem in this scenario. However, this will need to be repainted in the future, costing time and money. Why not save yourself the cost by researching and installing the correct type of handrails? Share this article with your colleagues!

Contact our team on 020 8057 8618 or email us [email protected] if you are looking to specify on an upcoming project. 




Commercial – Public Areas

DDA Compliant Steel

Construction – Service use only

GRP or Steel

Rail Passengerside

DDA Compliant Steel

Rail Trackside








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