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Exterior stairway construction details & suggestions for safe stairways: this document provides building photographs, and examples of defects found in inspecting indoor or outdoor stairs, railings, landings, treads, and related conditions for safety and proper construction. We include references to articles cataloging the causes of stair slips, trips, and falls and to building code specification details for proper stair, landing, balcony and railing construction.
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While in general the building code specifications for exterior stairs, landings, and railings are the same as for indoor star is, we often see special trip hazards at exterior stairs and walks, conditions that do not occur indoors, and details which may escape some building inspectors.
When we encounter steps and a deck such as the version shown in our photo (above left) we are confident that the construction was done without the benefit of building permits and code approvals, is unsafe, and may harbor other hidden structural or safety hazards.
And some stair design requirements, such as stair treads that will not hold water, naturally pertain principally to outdoor stairways. We add some more subtle warnings about outdoor stairs and stair construction, and tips or tricks of carpentry and masonry to avoid problems with stairs.
Construction Requirements for Safe Outdoor Steps, Stairs, Railings, Newell Posts
Exterior Stairs - Incomplete, Unsafe, Missing Guardrails
The exterior stair shown above appears to have been installed as a fire-exit way, but lacks a guardrail around the stair top balcony. It is exactly during an emergency that a frightened user is more likely to fall at this location.
Safety & design questions for sloped, pitched, & narrow exterior masonry steps
My mother is elderly and is moving from her home to a co-op building. Her unit is on the first floor and her patio is served by an outdoor staircase made of flagstone steps. There is a steep incline to the steps, and they seem to be too narrow for the incline. We have asked the board of the co-op if we can widen each step from their current width of 23 1/2 inches to 30 inches.
The board is opposing our request to widen the steps on aesthetic grounds, and not considering my mother's safety.
They are allowing us to rebuild the staircase, as it was poorly built to begin with.
Is there a way to determine what the proper width of each flagstone should be (side to side) based on the incline of the staircase? What I would like to do if possible is to show the board from a mathematical standpoint what the proper width of the steps (from side to side) should be in relation to the steepness of the incline.
If I can't appeal to them on ethical or moral grounds, maybe I can convince them that it's the proper thing to do based on the incline to create a safe staircase for my mother.
I have attached some photos below for reference, however they really don't show how steep the steps actually are when you try to climb them especially when they're wet or icy or have snow on them.
A wider step from side to side would definitely make one feel more confident negotiating the steps up and down.
I appreciate any technical input or knowledge you can provide that would help me with my request to the board.
Thank you. P.O. 11/10/2012
Recommended stairway width for an exterior stair
From your photos, two of which we include above, I see a trip hazard where someone routes a garden hose across a stair tread - the hose can easily wind up in the walking path and is a serious trip hazard for anyone, young or elderly.
In a companion article STAIR DIMENSIONS, WIDTH, HEIGHT you can read standard stair measurements. There you'll find that the stairs you describe are more narrow in width than recommended.
You will want to involve the local building code officials in the jurisdiction where your mom's stairs are located. But we point out that in general, the minimum recommended stair width is between 34" and 36" Across the width of the tread.
The stairs you describe are a less than the minimum recommended width, and in my OPINION we should do all feasible to make stairs safe and navigable particularly where their users are known to include people at extra risk of falling injuries.
Recommended pitch for drainage on exterior stairs
In a second companion article STEP TREAD DIMENSIONS you will see that although it makes perfect sense to provide a slight slope to exterior stair treads so that they will drain, the slope must be very slight, not more than 1 inch of rise in 48" of run. The "incline" of the stairway - a consideration in your original question - does not determine the recommended stairway width. But indeed if the steps are too pitched (say for aggressive drainage) that excessive pitch is itself a trip and fall hazard.
Other things to check for exterior stair & walkway safety
Continue reading at STAIR DIMENSIONS, WIDTH, HEIGHT or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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