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STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
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BEST CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES GUIDE
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BUILDING NOISE DIAGNOSIS & CURE
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CARPETING, SELECTION & INSTALLATION
DECK & PORCH CONSTRUCTION
ELDERLY & VETERANS HOME SAFETY
FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
HOME INSPECTION SAFETY HAZARDS
LIGHTING, EXTERIOR GUIDE
LIGHTING, INTERIOR GUIDE
MOBILE HOME INSPECTIONS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
NOISE CONTROL for FLOORS
ROT RESISTANT LUMBER
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
SAFETY: Elderly & Veterans Home Safety
SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
SOUND CONTROL in buildings
Splits in Structural Wood Beams
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
WOOD FLOOR DAMAGE
Stair baluster safety & code specifications: this article describes procedures for performing safety inspections of the balusters used on indoor or outdoor stairs, railings, landings. A stair inspection checklist provided in this document outlines information to collect during a field investigation of the condition of an interior or exterior stairway for safety defects.
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Having investigated cases of severe injury related to falls and railing collapses we developed this field data collection checklist. We also include references to key documents on building codes and stair and railing safety. Also see Deck & Porch Railings.
For details about balusters (vertical spindles in railing construction) see details at Railings for a discussion of safety barriers along stairs, and Guards (railings on landings and open hallways, porches, screened porches, balconies that are more than 30" above floors or grade).
As our photo shows, Chloe Mei, a toddler (in this case very carefully held and supervised) could easily fall through widely separated open landing balusters or open balusters on a stairway.
We often see guards and railings enclosed using horizontal members or mesh or link fencing materials. Because a toddler can easily climb these materials, they are not safe for guard or railing enclosures and should not be used.
We also often see decks and porches more than 30" above ground level with no rail whatsoever, perhaps relying on the placement of plants or furniture to discourage people from stepping too close to the edge.
Where building code enforcement was absent or lax we found a deck eight feet above ground with no railings at all. A local inspector opined that because the deck was not attached to the house (it abutted the house) it was exempt from building code enforcement.
Our opinion was that code exemption did not do much to reduce the falling hazard and that guards and railings should be provided regardless.
Look closely at stair and guard rail balusters for loose, split, broken, or damaged balusters. Someone tried an over-sized common nail to "repair" this loose baluster at its connection to the stair tread.
The result is a dangerous child hazard as this baluster could easily be pushed out of place.
Balusters for Guards & Railings
Stairway handrail & stair balusters & guard details are in this sketch.
Balusters (vertical posts comprising the barrier in guards and railings)
Hand-railing heights are given:
Sketch courtesy Carson Dunlop Associates.
How to Fix Too-Wide Stair Baluster Spacing
Reader Question: Methods for reducing the space between stair balusters that are too far apart
We have an apartment complex in Oregon, and the insurance company is requiring that we tighten up the metal posts on the railings.
The railings on the premises currently have vertical balusters that are more than 4 inches apart. Baluster spacing of 4 inches increase the protection for small children sliding through. It is recommended to replaced the railing with vertical balusters that are no more than 4 inches apart to reduce the risk of small children falling. Is there an easy fix for this? - Tami 7/23/12
Reply: Suggestions for tightening up baluster spacing at a stair railing:
The ensuing panic requires an adult to sort out and remove the foot - as happened with my Godson Joshua Waterman years ago. His mom called me in hysterics that his foot was stuck in the balusters at their home and he couldn't get it out. I drove like a madman across town but just as I arrived in the driveway Josh turned his foot the proper direction and extracted himself from the trap without any adult assistance.
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A complete guide to building decks, porches, & exterior stairs can be found at Related Topics above. Key articles include:
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