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Stair & entrance landing & platforms: building stairway codes specify the size and placement requirements for safe, accessible stairway landings & platforms. This document provides building code specifications, sketches, photographs, and examples of defects used in inspecting the platforms or landings used with indoor or outdoor stairs for building entrances, decks, porches, or interior building stairs.
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Photo & Code Guide to Stair & Entry Platform & Landing Codes, Design Requirements & Slip, Trip & Fall Hazards
Model & Example Building Code Specifications for Stairway Landings
Stairway platform & landing requirements & codes are summarized here. For a complete list of articles on stairs, railings, and ramps, their inspection, trip hazards, and good design, see STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS - INSPECTIONS, CODES. Or see these detailed articles on specifications for proper dimensions for stairs, railings, platforms
Summary of Recommended Stairway Landing Platform Length (run or dimension in direction of travel) & Landing Platform Width
The minimum recommended stair landing length is 36" (or a length and width sufficiently greater than the swing of the door if a wider door is present). This stairway landing or platform dimension is often also expressed as "a minimum of 36-inches in the direction of travel. But note that not all model building codes explicitly require the 36" dimension and instead commonly state that in the direction of travel the landing dimension shall be no less than the width of the stairway.
This means that where codes like the IBC require a public access stairway (occupancy of more than 50) to be at least 44-inches wide, the platforms will have to be 44-inches in the direction of travel as well; the same IBC permits a 36-inch wide stairway for occupancies of 50 or less, thus permitting the stairway length of 36 inches in the direction of travel. - IBC 1009.4 Stairway Landings.
The UBC describes landing specifications as:
Building Code Citations for Stairway Platforms & Landings
Some different stair landing code or standard examples include:
And though it should go without saying, the recommended stairway landing or platform width is equal to the stairway width. The platform or walking surface can be wider, of course, such as occurs when stairs end at a balcony, deck, or walkway.
Landing requirements for access ramps are discussed separately at RAMPS, ACCESS
Is No Stair Top Landing Required if Door Opens Away?
We often find older one and two family homes at which a door opens directly onto a stairway without a top landing platform. Some opine that if the door swings into a room, away from that top step, the hazard is reduced and a landing is not required. In fact a landing on both sides of a door is recommended for practical reasons and is required by some codes: Here is how the Florida Building Code describes landings at doors:
International Building Code 2000 (BOCA, ICBO, SBCCI)
1003.3.3.4 Stairway landings. There shall be a floor or landing at the top and bottom of each stairway. The width of landings shall not be less than the width of stairways they serve. Every landing shall have a minimum dimension measured in the direction of travel equal to the width of the stairway. Such dimension need not exceed 48 inches (1219 mm) where the stairway has a straight run.
As you can see in our photo at left, a door is opening out over a stairwell and no landing is provided.
Because the ergonomics of a person placing their hand on a doorknob and opening the door tends to guide where they put their foot in stepping out and down, the absence of a landing here is a serious trip and fall hazard that is prohibited by building codes and by good construction practice.
Model Building Code Stairways & Landings Specifications - E.G. California Building Code
The minimum recommended stair landing length is 36" (or a length and width sufficiently greater than the swing of the door if a wider door is present.
Notice that a stair top landing is not required if the door at the top of the stair opens away from the stairwell.
Sketch courtesy Carson Dunlop Associates.
Stairwell width and stair landing platform requirements are summarized by this sketch.
The minimum recommended stair width is between 34" and 36" ACROSS.
In these sketches required handrails have been omitted for clarity.
Stair Landings are required at top and bottom (with exceptions at top of interior stairs or in garage if door swings in, away from the stairs)
Examples of Stair Platform or Landing Defects
Sketch courtesy Carson Dunlop Associates.
Technical editing, Debora Abele.
Exceptions to Minimum Stairway Landing or Platform Dimensions: non-public-access
In industrial settings where there may be special requirements for maintenance of equipment but not normal walking traffic, a landing or platform requirement will differ. For example the Pennsylvania Stair Code describes "Oiling Platforms" and includes this text:
How to balance headroom vs. landing length vs. building obstruction
Reader Question: I am finishing my basement and planning to install a landing at the bottom of the stairway that will be 2 steps (one actual step) down to the floor. The landing step will be to the left of the landing as you walk down.
My question is - since there is no door at the bottom of the steps, is there still a requirement that the landing be 36" deep? I will have a railing at the back of the landing (and there will be a wall to the right).
Due to the proximity of a support post, the landing will only be 2'9" deep, unless I come back up another step and have three steps down from the landing. But if I do that, there will be less head clearance in stepping from the landing onto the first step. Thanks - Rick 3/20/2013
Typically building stair codes specify that in the direction of travel the stairway landing or platform shall have a dimension at least as great as the width of the stairway. So if your stairs are 36-inches wide the codes want the platform to run 36-inches in the direction of travel. This can be tricky because in some jurisdictions codes specify varying minimum stairway widths. An IBC Stair code, for example, can call for a minimum width of 44 inches for public stairways and a minimum width of 36 inches for "stairways serving an occupant load of 50 or less) - IBC 1009.1 And
In one approach the builder would back up far enough from the end of the stairs to have room for a full width landing, insert the landing there and then continue the stairs down to the left. This might mean that the landing is two or even three steps higher, to get enough room away from an obstructing wall found in the direction of run of the stairs.
Competing Stair Measurement Requirements: headroom, landing length & width, & building obstructions
But our email discussion you point out a competing difficulty: moving the landing up one stair tread runs into a headroom clearance with the floor above.
As I understand your illustration (above left), the problem is that making the landing length (in direction of travel) equal to the width of what I am guessing is a 36-inch wide stairway means that you'd have to build the platform out intruding into the otherwise free space of the room below. And even if you did so, you have a supporting post that intrudes back into the walking space.
2'9" = 33-inches in the direction of travel. If your stairway is 36-inches in width, then typical codes want the run direction of the landing to also be 36-inches. In my OPINION, if your stair landing run is close to 36" - say 35 or maybe even 34" excepting for the intrusion of the post itself (which narrows the width of the landing right at its exit onto that final step), in recognizing the difficulty of fitting everything into the existing space, your local building code inspector may elect to accept your stairs as drawn.
If the inspector will not accept your stair as drawn, you may have to open the ceiling, install blocking or headers to allow you to move the post over to get enough room, then intrude the landing those few inches into the room beyond. In my experience, going to the building department and asking for help gets the inspector on your side rather than casting her or him as someone to "get by". Try it and let me know what you're told.
Unsafe Doors that Swing Out Over a Landing or Step
As our friend Nizar in the photo is demonstrating at his home near Rabat, in Morocco, it can be very difficult to open a door that swings out over a step while you're standing on the step.
Like the example shown above, this is a trip hazard but in this case also it's also difficult to enter the building at all.
While standing on the step the person trying to open the door has to step backwards, down the steps, while opening this security door.
Also the steps themselves are a bit slippery and have no railing installed.
Window in the Stairwell May Be Unsafe or Require Guardrails
The stairway landing shown at left includes a window that lacks a guard railing or safety glass. Someone who falls down these stairs is at risk of suffering extra severe injuries should they fall into and break the window glass, or worse, fall right through the window.
In Poughkeepsie NY our neighbor, a retired dentist, Dr. S., was returning from a night-time bathroom visit when, elderly, frail, and confused in the dark, he turned left instead of right.
Thinking he was walking down a level hallway he instead stepped into air and fell down a stair such as this one. He never completely recovered from the injuries suffered in that stair fall.
Safety glazing or window guards are required for locations such as that shown in our photograph. Here are two example building code citations:
The entry platform or landing at exterior stairs must comply with size and guardrail requirements as do interior stairs and landings. In addition, because of weather exposure entry platforms are at risk of additional slip trip and fall hazards from water, snow and ice, or algae and moss.
Our photo (left) illustrates several problems with this building entry platform including:
Stairs & guardrails for tall tanks & similar structures
Question: If you have a very large steel reservoir (100ft vertical) and you want to put stairs to the stop with a landing that includes guardrails; at what height would you put the top stair rail. Can you combined a stair rail system with a potential guardrail system. - Anon 10/9/2012
Anon your top guardrail needs to meet the height requirements for balconies and landings - typically 43-inches along horizontal walking surfaces such as a landing platform. And yes, as you can see in our photograph (above left) it is possible to combine a stair-guardrail with a handrailing along a stairway.
Most codes want the stair guard to also be 42-inches in heigh but will allow that to drop to 34-inches if the top of the stair guard is also to serve as a handrail. However as you see in our CIA photo, it's not difficult to add a lower handrailing along a 42-inch stair guard.
Continue reading at RAILING CODES & SPECIFICATIONS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Suggested citation for this web page
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: how to convert degrees of slope to rise and run for a stairway
Stairway at 38 degrees: what is the rise and foot? - George Tubb
There is no single answer, since we could choose different tread depths or "runs" that would give different tread rises or heights. But we can pick a desired step run or depth or step height or rise, and calculate the second number with the help of a calculator that will convert an angle in degrees using the Tan (tangent) function.
For a stair with a 38 degree slope (which is a bit too steep by the way), a ten-inch tread depth (or run) will give you a riser height of 7.8" (a little high).
I have published the details of this procedure along with some drawings at
Question: door swings away from steps - do I need a platform or landing?
If I am installing a door at the top of a stairway in a commercial application and the door swings away from the stairs how big of a landing (space from the door to first step) is needed? - Mickey 2/13/2013
Question: last stair tread is high (15-inches) and there is no landing platform. Does this comply with code?
i have wood stairs exiting the house they go down to the ground the last tread is 15 inches up the stairs are resting on some flat rocks no concrete or platform are these code - Ray 3/15/2013
Question: landing required at top of stairs that intersect a hallway?
(Feb 26, 2014) Brian said:
Is a landing required at the top of stairs that intersect a commercial building hallway (like a "T")?
Brian, interesting question, and I'll express an opinion with the arm-waving disclaimer that we can't say what your local inspector might decide.
If the width of the hallway is at least as great as the minimum platform size, AND if there is no door to whack someone at the top of the stairs, I can't see why a landing would be required. Certainly we've both seen thousands of stairways that terminate at a T formed by an intersecting walk, ramp, or hallway.
Question: installing replacement staircase, limited head room and landing space
(Mar 23, 2014) william said:
hi - i'm putting in a replacement staircase - due to space i hope to have a small landing at the top of the flight - however this landing [approx 800 x 900]will be situated over a rear porch with a height of approx 2 metres. as this poses a problem regarding head space if standard joist supports are used under the landing can i use a thicker wood for the landing itself and not need to use joist support. the front to back of the landing will be approx 900 and will be supported front and back by brick walls
William, what you suggests sounds possible but let's look at the spans.
Assuming you're going to climb to a landing in front of a door or storm door that opens "out" over the landing, the landing size needs to be at least as big as the swing of the door, typically no less than 36" square = about 1/10 of the dimensions you gave.
So perhaps I've misunderstood.
We discuss headroom vs. landing space in the article abovce.
Thanks for your reply - maybe i was not very clear with my description - basically i'm replacing an internal staircase which means that i'll need a small platform / half landing [approx 36 inches x 30 inches]which will then allow me to go up another small step to a longer landing. my problem is with the supports for this small platform - if possible i would prefer not to put standard joists underneath because of head height restrictions - and therefore wondered if i could use a stronger or thicker material for the platform - it is supported front to back [36 inches] by two brick walls
William, I guess it was the [approx 800 x 900] that confused me.
Using 2x6 or better, 2x8 or wider treated lumber on the flat over just a 36" span is not going to sag, but you'll need to consider how the whole stair is constructed and connected so as to be secure and safe.
OR as the platform is not the final level so is at least one step below the door jamb above, you might consider constructing the platform floor as an inverted box, building a rim joist around the rectangle of the platform but that extends "up" rather than downwards. One side of the rectangular rim joist surround of the platform may form the riser for the next step up.
Much appreciated danjoe - will give it some further investigation
Question: extend upper floor into lower area when stepping from one room to another at different level?
(May 26, 2014) Step requirment when entering a room of different level said:
The bathroom floor elevation is 6 inches lower than the floor level of the hallway we enter from. Is there a requirment to extend the floor from the hallway into the bathroom, essetially forming a landing or step the same same elevation as the hallway? If so, what is the tread/landing depth requirement and where is it measured from?
However if the floors and step don't offer a color key to indicate a change in level it'd be a trip hazard.
Question: garage door swings in, step down to sidewalk?
(June 11, 2014) OCinfo said:
Hi, If we have a side garage door where the door swings into the garage, what is the maximum step down to the sidewalk outside? It seems like most step downs are about 3", though I think I saw that code is 7-8"?
In the More,Reading links above see STAIR RISER SPECIFICATIONS
Question: landing needed when there is just one step from deck to ground?
8/3/14 Anonymous said:
Hi, I am building a deck that has one step that goes to ground level do I need a landing, my township says I do
Your town building inspector is the final authority for code approvals, so you'll want to comply.
A general guide is that for an exterior stair of any dimension, best practice is to include a landing that provides at least 36" of smooth walking surface in the direction of travel when exiting the stair. Your inspector may accept a ground level slab, smooth stonework, slate, etc.
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