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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
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:
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:
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about stairway landings & platforms
If you have a very large steele 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.
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: how to balance headroom vs. landing length vs. building obstruction
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.
Questions & answers or comments about stair codes & landing or platform requirements.
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