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Abandoned stairs over the Metro North railroad tracks north of NYC (C) Daniel FriedmanStairway Landings & Platforms: Codes, Construction & Inspection

  • PLATFORMS & LANDINGS, ENTRY & STAIR - CONTENTS: Stair & entry platform & landing codes, design requirements & slip, trip & fall hazards, including stair landing platform specifications, codes & safety inspection points. Stairway landing requirements for stair turn or entry platform width. Stair & entrance platform or landing defects & hazards risking fall injuries. Sketches of stair landing or platform design requirements. Trip slip and fall hazards at interior and exterior building platforms, landings, & entrances
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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.The photo at the top of this page, "Stairway to my Dreams", was photographed by the website editor from the Metro North railroad line as it passes along the Hudson River north of New York City. [Click to enlarge any image].



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Photo & Code Guide to Stair & Entry Platform & Landing Codes, Design Requirements & Slip, Trip & Fall Hazards

Door swings out over step missing landing (C) Daniel FriedmanModel & Example Building Code Specifications for Stairway Landings

Stairway platform & landing requirements & codes are summarized here.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Article Contents

Building Code Citations for Stairway Platforms & Landings

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.

International Building Code on Stair Landings - International Residential Code (IRC)

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.

Using the 2003 IRC as a stair landing code example, we obtain the requirement for landings at the top and bottom of the stairway and a maximum stair rise of 12 feet before an intermediate landing is required.

Uniform Building Code on Stair Landings

The UBC describes landing specifications as:

Landings shall have a width of not less than the width of the stair ... and a length measured in the direction of travel of not less than 36" - UBC 1003.3.1.6 & UBC 3.3.1.7

Stairway without railings, Jaral de Berrio 1764 (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photograph at left illustrates an antique stairway at el Jaral de Berrio Hacienda in central Mexico. This stairway has been in continuous use since 1764. Today the hacienda Jaral de Berrio continues to produce a superb mezcal.

Some different stair landing code or standard examples include:

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. - IBC Stairs Code 1009.4

Stairways must have a landing, top and bottom, equal to the width of stairs. The minimum dimension measured in the direction of travel shall equal to the width of the stairway, but need not exceed 48” where the stairway has a straight run. Doors opening onto a landing shall not reduce the landing to less than one-half the required width. When fully open, the door shall not project more than 7” into a landing. - Alameda CA Residential Stairway, Handrail, and Guardrail Minimum Code Requirements.

Stairways that will not be a permanent part of the structure on which construction work is being performed shall have landings of not less than 30 inches (76 cm) in the direction of travel and extend at least 22 inches (56 cm) in width at every 12 feet (3.7 m) or less of vertical rise. - OSHA 1926.1052(a)(1)

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 (1 219 mm) where the stairway has a straightway has a straight run. - Florida Building Code, 1009.4 Stairway Landings

Exceptions:
1. Aisle stairs complying with Section 1025.11.
2. Doors opening onto a landing shall not reduce the landing to less than one-half the required width. When fully open, the door shall not project more than 7 inches (178 mm) into a landing.
- Florida Building Code, 1009.4 Stairway Landings

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

Stairway Landing Requirements at Stair Tops or Building Entries

Stairway Lighting requirements (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

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.

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:

There shall be a floor or landing on each side of a door. Such floor or landing shall be at the same elevation on each side of the door. Landings shall be level except for exterior landings, which are permitted to have a slope not to exceed 1 unit vertical in 50 units’ horizontal (2-percent slope). - Florida Building Code 1008.1.4 2007

Landings shall have a width not less than the width of the stairway or the door, whichever is the greater. Doors in the fully open position shall not reduce a required dimension by more than 7 inches (178 mm). When a landing serves an occupant load of 50 or more, doors in any position shall not reduce the landing to less than one-half its required width. Landings shall have a length measured in the direction of travel of not less than 44 inches (1 118 mm).  - Florida building Code, 1008.1.5 Landings at doors.

During its swing, any door in a means of egress shall leave unobstructed at least one half of the required width of an aisle, corridor, passageway, or landing, nor project more than 7 inches (178 mm) into the required width of an aisle, corridor, passageway or landing, when fully open. Doors shall not open immediately onto a stair without a landing. The landing shall have a width at least equal to the width of the door. See Section 1027 for door swing in Group E occupancies. - Florida Building Code 1008.1.8.8

International Building Code 2000 (BOCA, ICBO, SBCCI) Code on Stair Landings

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

Landings must have a width and a dimension measured in the direction of travel not less than the width of the stairway. Doors in the fully open position shall not reduce a required dimension by more than 7 inches.

All exterior doors shall have a landing immediately on the exterior side. These landings shall be as wide as the door and a minimum of 36 inches in the direction of travel. These landings must be no more than 8 inches below the interior floor level. If the door swings out over the landing this dimension is 1 inch maximum.

An interior door at the top of a flight of stairs need not have a landing at the top of the stairs, provided the door swings away from the stairs. [37]

Stair Platform or Landing Specifications & Defects

Stairway Lighting requirements (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

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.

Reader Question: OK to install a door at the bottom of stairs in the U.K. ?

2016/06/20 L Dunst said [by posting in page bottom COMMENT BOX]:

We have stairs in our living room and are planning on putting a partition wall up to block sound traveling up stairs and to also stop heat loss. My question is- would a door put at the bottom of the stairs pass British building regs? There are no other doors to obstruct this door. Thanks for your help.

Reply:

U.K. Stair codes do indeed discuss the requirement for a landing (or in my words, walking space) at the bottom of a stairway on page 19 of the model document we cite below.

Requirement for landing space not to be intruded upon by door swing in the U.K. - InspectApedia.com adapted 2016

[Click to enlarge any image]

Above: illustration of Diagram 7 p. 19, adapted from the U.K. stair guidelines shows that these rules require that a free-walking area of at least 400 mm [shown in red in the sketch above] be provided in the direction of travel at the bottom of a stairway.

This space should not be intruded upon by the swing of a door at the stair bottom. Illustration adapted from Approved Document K p. 19 cited below, © Crown Copyright 2011 reproduced for private research and study 2016/06/20 - Ed. .

Your landing has to be at least 400 mm in dimension in the direction of travel at the foot of the stairway; the swing of your door, if it opens towards the landing, has to not intrude into that space.

That means that if your door were about 90 cm wide, your landing would have to be 400 + 900 or 1300 mm

Or you can have the door swing "out" away from the stair.

I herewith repeat your question and include a link to the U.K. stair code in the article above so that you can read details. See page 19 in the U.K. stair regulations PDF document cited just below.

Landings for stairs, excerpts:

1.16 The landing mayinclude part of the floor of the building

1.17 In all buildings, keep landings clear of permanent obstructins

1.18 In dwellings:

a. A door may swing across a landing at the bottom of a flight [of stairs], but only as shown in Diagram 7 [see our adapation above where the red rectangles mark the required free travel landing area that should not be intruded-into by the swing of the door - Ed.]

Exceptions to Minimum Stairway Landing or Platform Dimensions: non-public-access

Stair dimensions (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

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:

Oiling platforms shall be constructed in a permanent and substantial manner at least 18 inches in width with a standard railing along one side. Toeboards are not required on oiling platforms. - PA 47.271. New Platforms

 Industrial equipment access stairs and landings that serve as a component of the means of egress from the involved equipment and do not serve more than 20 people shall be permitted to have a minimum clear width of 22 inches (559 mm), minimum tread depth of 10 inches (254 mm), maximum riser height of 9 inches (229 mm), minimum headroom of 6 feet 8 inches (2 032 mm), and a maximum height between landings of 12 feet (36 576 mm). - Florida Building Code, 1009.3 Stair Treads and Risers, Exceptions, exception No. 6.

How to balance headroom vs. landing length vs. building obstruction

Stair Landing dimensions (C) InspectApedia.com R.N.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

Reply:

Rick,

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

(f) Landings. Every landing shall have a dimension measured in the direction of travel equal to the width of the stairway. ... - California Title 24, Part 2, Section 3305(e) (f)

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.

The user would walk down stairs, and near the end, step onto a full-sized landing, make a left turn, walk across the landing, and continue one or two or however many necessary additional steps to get down to the finished floor.

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.

Special Interior & Exterior Stairway Platforms and Landing Trip and Fall Hazards

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.

Missing stair landing, Rabat, Morocco (C) Daniel Friedman

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

Moss and algae on entry platform form a trip and fall hazard (C) D Friedman

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 following shall be considered specific hazardous locations requiring safety glazing materials: ...
10. Glazing adjacent to stairways, landings and ramps within 36 inches (914 mm) horizontally of a walking surface; when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the plane of the adjacent walking surface.
11. Glazing adjacent to stairways within 60 inches (1524 mm) horizontally of the bottom tread of a stairway in any direction when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the nose of the tread.
- Florida Building Code 2406.3 Hazardous Locations.

Incomplete or Inadequate Stair Platform Landing Handrailings

Stair platform without guards nor handrailing (C) InspectApediaHandrailings at intermediate stairway platforms should be continuous and should be accessible in the area of stair passage. Incomplete handrailings invite falls if stair users are likely to walk where there is no graspable handrailing or where open rail ends at intermediate platforms or landings form snag hazards.

Reader Question: Is this stair platform built to "code"?

27 June 2015 John said:
Is this built to code? Can it be argued that the top of the pyramid is considered a step and not a landing? (36" not required?)

Reply: beautiful stairs are not necessarily safe

John I took a look at the photo you cited: we have a stack of "platforms" forming four steps up from an interior floor and extending around both the entry and side of a stairway. Our edited photo appeared originally at houzz.com and was submitted by the reader. - [Click to enlarge any image]

"To Code" is a determination legally made by the local building code enforcement official. It is possible that a local official approved these stairs though in my view they are unsafe. If they were declared "compliant" that won't help when someone falls and is injured.

There is a railing along the upper stairway starting at a newell on the fourth stair platform but not along the steps formed by the four platforms (marked in yellow) except along the left wall (marked in green) where no one will ever set-foot. That may comply with the letter of the law in the view of some designers or code compliance officers but in my opinion this is an unsafe stair that would be difficult for elderly or people with walking and stair disabilities.

In the area of principal walking assage from the two sides of this four-riser lower stairway there is no handrailing. I would expect an alert building code compliance officer to interpret this as an unsafe stair and call out this as a code defect.

My reasoning is not just that top of the "pyramid" or intermiediate walking area is a landing but that we've got multiple steps down past the end of the last handrailing. It's very attractive but it's a fall hazard.

Also see the additional handrailing specifications at

John said:

Thanks for the response. I'm trying to build something similar but want to comply to code. Are you saying that if there is another railing against the other wall, it would comply or are you saying that there is no way to comply with 4 platforms without a railing at the corner of the platforms (that would not look right). This design doesn't fit neatly into the codes. Hopefully reducing it to 3 platforms isn't my only option.

Reply:

On wide stairways you may get by with a pair of wall rails or a railing down the stair center. I'd have put a handrailing down the steps exactly where the architect would omit it - in the area marked by yellow at the right angle between the two stair treads on the two sides of the platform rectangle. Make this handrailing attractive and you've changed a safety problem into a beautiful stair feature.

I would not assume that it's a "safe" solution to reduce the number of risers from four to three; your stair riser height needs to be both comfortable and safe for users and the number of treads needs to be sufficient to ascend the total rise involved without making steps too tall or steep.

See STAIR RISER SPECIFICATIONS

I imagine that the architect who designed these stairs liked the attractive and open design with a two-sided approach to the stairway. I agree that it is attractive. Attractive does not mean safe.

Exterior Stairway or Entry Platforms and Landing Slip Trip & Fall Hazards

Moss and algae on entry platform form a trip and fall hazard (C) D Friedman

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

Guardrail collapse led to injury (C) Daniel FriedmanQuestion: 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

Reply:

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.

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Or see INCOMPLETE INADEQUATE HANDRAILS

Or see RAILING CODES & SPECIFICATIONS

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