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Stairs, steps and landings can be made of many materials including brick, masonry, wood, composite materials and more. Adding more function than form, these elements can add value to a home such as a backyard patio, steps to a basement or a deck. Gain our insights into the do’s and don’t of steps and landings.

Steps and Landing

Landings, stoops, and steps can be made of masonry, such as brick or concrete, metal or wood. All stoops/landings and steps with a total rise of more than 30 inches above the floor or grade area are required to have guard rails. The guardrail is required to have a minimum height of 36 inches for porches, balconies, or raised floor surfaces, and 34 inches for the open sides of the stairs. The area of the guardrail is required to have columnar spacing no greater than 4 inches.

Landings are required on each side of all egress or exit doors, except at an interior door where the direction of the door swing is not over a stairwell. A minimum of 3' x 3' landing is required on each side of the egress door. The floor or landing should not be more than 1-1/4" lower than the top of the threshold, if the door swings out over top of the landing. In cases where the door swings so that it is over top of the stairs, or at the landing at the exterior doorway, there should be no more than an 8-1/4" drop from the top of the threshold to the landing.

Stairways should not be less than 36 inches in width at all points above the permitted hand rail height and below the required head room height. The minimum width at and below the handrail height should not be less than 32 inches where the hand rail is installed on one side, and 28 inches where hand rails are installed on both sides of the stairway.

The maximum riser height should not exceed 8 inches, and the minimum tread width should be a 9 inches. The riser height is measured vertically between the leading edges of the adjacent treads. The tread depth is measured horizontally between the vertical planes of the foremost projection of the adjacent treads, and at the right angle of the tread’s leading edge. The walking surface of the treads and landings of all stairways should be sloped greater than one unit vertical in 48 inches (2% slope). The maximum riser height of any riser in a flight of stairs should not exceed the smallest height by more than 3/8 of an inch.

The minimum head room on all parts of the stairway should not be less than 6'8" measured vertically from the slope plane of the adjoining tread nosing, or from the floor surface of the landing and platform areas.

When inspecting the steps, look specifically for cracked, broken, rotted, chipped or loose sections. The treads should be level (within a 2% slope). Uneven sections are considered tripping hazards. If the steps and landing areas are of concrete masonry construction, look at the steps and foundation walls for cracked, broken, or chipped sections. If the steps and landing are of wood construction, there should be masonry pads and footings. Check the base of the wooden stringers for deterioration by probing the area with a screwdriver. If the screwdriver penetrates the wood easily, the stringer should be reinforced or replaced.

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