Typical basement stairs in a modern homeBasement Stairways & Exits
Types, Codes, Construction & Hazards

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Basement entry stairs, steps, handrails: this document describes details for constructing, repairing, or inspecting basement stairs, railings, landings, treads, exterior entries to basements, basement stairwell covers & drains, and related conditions for safety and proper construction. We also include references to stair codes and stair and railing safety.

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Basement Stair Inspection & Safety Concerns

Rotting collapsing basement stairs in a pre-1900 home Typical basement stairs in a modern home

Our photographs above show at right a typical basement entry stair with an open railing - a child hazard - and at above left, a twisting, canted narrow, no-railing basement stairway in a pre-1900 home.

The steps in the photo at above right are dangerous because they lean, have worn stair treads, damaged and loose stair treads.

Rotting stair tread and stringer and riser (C) Daniel Friedman Rotting stair structure from behind (C) Daniel Friedman

As our photos just above show, these old basement stairs look worse when inspected from underneath, where the inspector can observe: rotted stair risers, treads, and stringer along the basement foundation wall

Conventional or home-made attic or basement stairways

Photograph of a stair railing that is no use against falling.Watch out: for basement stairs from both the building interior and also exterior basement stairs and stairwells that do not meet recommended standards for

In steps to basements, especially in older homes we often find odd dimensions of stair railings, stair tread width, height, depth, nose, low or flimsy stair railings, loose stair components, and a host of other stair and railing defects are the source of more injuries and more lost time from work in the United States (and probably other countries) than any other source of injuries after automobile accidents.

If you see a silly railing such as the one in this photograph it may indicate an approach to stair building that is a red alert for other hazards.

Basement stair with open side, no rail (C) Daniel Friedman

It would be better to provide a handrail and balusters that can be removed when necessary.





Garage stairs to basement: explosion waiting to happen

Basement stair with open side, no rail (C) Daniel Friedman

At left we illustrate an unsafe entry stair passing from a residential garage into the home's basement.

Watch out: As heating equipment is most often found in the home's basement, imagine the explosion that may occur (one did, despite our emphatic warnings, in Fishkill NY) if a vehicle leaks gasoline and gasoline fumes into the garage.

Gasoline fumes, heavier than air, fall down the stairwell, into the basement (or crawl space) where, at the next spark or flame, there is risk of an explosion.

A "fire door" in the stairwell bottom is not enough security for this installation. In fact, as you can see, the (not fire-rated) door has been left ajar.


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