required to bring up to code?

Page 1 of 2  

This is more a legal question than a repair question, but I thought someone here would have an opinion.
We have some stairs going down to the basement that are definitely not up to code. Treads aren't deep enough etc.
I've slipped down twice.
We want to make the stairs safer by e.g. ripping the carpet off of them.
On the other hand, we _don't_ want to bring the stairs up to code. With the rise/run requirements, we'd have to eat up a few feet of kitchen which I'd really much rather not do. And I figure just by ripping the carpet out and maybe putting some non-skid material down, the stairs can be made quite a bit safer.
Is there some kind of rule that "if you renovate something, you have to bring it up to code"? Obviously specifics could vary by locality (I live in MD USA), but I figure there might be some general rule. I suspect that minor changes (e.g. ripping out carpet) wouldn't require bringing up to code, but major renovations would, but am not sure.
Mainly worried because we'll probably sell the house in a few years.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Removing or adding a floor covering wouldn't trigger a code compliance requirement unless it involved level changes or some such. The fact that you are aware of the situation and trying to remedy it is a good thing. How, where and why you slipped are only questions you can answer, and only you can address with your improvements. As an aside, are your handrails up to snuff?
R
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for your informative reply.
<snip>

First time I slipped I ended up dislocating my shoulder. (It's happened before in other places; most interestingly, a carpeted set of stairs in the early 1990s.)
Second time I was holding my 7 mo baby girl. Luckily only thing that happened is I rode down on my behind and she woke up and cried.
Right now I try to avoid calamity by an "administrative" control of always placing my feet diagonally, or sideways, instead of pointing down. But it would be better to augment that with an "engineering" control, like ripping out the carpet.

Not really sure. We only have one, on the left. The right is missing because there's wall only half way down the stairs. The railing on the left is probably pretty good, if not great. The problem is going down the stairs rapidly with feet pointing forward. I'm guessing that ripping out the carpet would make a big difference.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
woger151 wrote:

Oh, there will definitely be lots of opinions... :)

Only if your renovations are sufficient to require building permits and inspections would there be a Code requirement.
It'll undoubtedly be a point brought to bear by a buyer's inspection on sale; what is done about it then will be an issue to deal with then if the potential buyer wants to make it an issue or simply accept it as is.
--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
<snip>

OK, thanks.

When we bought the place in June 2008, our home inspector didn't point it out, IIRC.
This friend of ours who we hire to do repairs said "those stairs are murder."
AFAICT all the homes like this in the neighborhood (colonials built in 1947/1948) have the same problem, in terms of the overall rise/run. Ours might be a little worse, because I think the rise/run heights aren't uniform.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That is _very_ bad. You should look at evening out the rise and runs without changing (by much) the overall stair length. The carpet might not be the real problem.
R
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I can even out the rise and run w/o having to bring the entire thing up to code (which is pretty much a nonstarter)?
My handy friend mentioned evening out the rise and runs and said it could probably be done without ripping out the stringers (by adding some wood here and there).
\>

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That's how I'd approach it. If you are doing a repair, you don't generally pull a permit. If you don't pull a permit, there's no code compliance official telling you you have to bring it up to code. In general, when possible, bring things up to code if it's a safety issue. In your instance correcting the inconsistencies in the rise/ run dimensions is your first order of business.
Measure the difference between the rise dimensions and the tread dimensions, and let us know the overall discrepancy is, and the greatest discrepancy between adjacent measurements.
R
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"woger151" wrote

Generally if you have to replace the stringer, you hit the level where you have to hit code.
http://www.arkestairs.com /
http://www.spiralstairsofamerica.com /
If so, I'd check out these links above first (there are many others as well).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
woger151 wrote: ...

...
The uneven tread heights is as big a killer and maybe even more than narrow; when combined it's an issue. I'd look really, really hard at trying to correct that in conjunction w/ whatever else you do.
Also, if you don't have much or any tread lip overhang, extending it just a little might be another help. You'll not want it excessive, of course, to add a toe catcher.
I've seen a really nice web online calculator for playing w/ the design rules/code requirements but I don't seem to have it bookmarked. If I get a chance I'll see if I can find it again.
--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Maybe consider building a new set of stairs with one or two fewer steps total. They will have to have a little more rise, but you will end up with longer run steps. Might be a worthwhile trade off that won't require a longer overall staircase. The rise needs to be made uniform!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@dog.com wrote: -snip-

I'll second that! You've proven it yourself by falling twice-- once with your baby in your arms. That baby is going to grow up and be running carelessly in a couple years-- then she'll bring all number of careless little people into your house.
Steep stairs are a pain-- but uneven ones are a booby-trap. You think a dislocated shoulder was painful, wait until you have to spend 5 years in court when one of your kid's friends breaks their back on your stairs.
I don't know how they did it, but in my 100 year old house the cellar stairs seemed to be an afterthought. I put an addition on 20 years ago & gained a bathroom, a bedroom & a decent set of stairs. I'd give up all the extra room and the extra bath-- but those stairs were worth the price & sweat of the whole addition.
Jim
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
woger151 wrote: (snip)

Inconsistency is a larger problem than the steepness. It makes it a real hazard for anyone using them.
At the very least, rip out the existing stairs and rebuild a set with consistent rise/run. You might also want to consider alternate tread stairs. See: http://images.google.com/images?q=alternating+stairs
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

He'll either buy it or he won't. It's not a DEFECT.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Sure; that's true for any item brought up; the buyer can accept whatever he's comfortable with.
If it's badly-constructed enough to be out of Code tolerances, that's a defect. Whether it's noticed is another matter; I was assuming from the initial posting it was pretty egregious--maybe it's "not so much", who knows as no specifics have been provided...
--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
woger151 wrote the following:

How about a platform where the steps can take a 90 degree turn at the bottom?
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Good idea. My handyman friend thought about that. Problem is that it can't be done---there are horizontal, load-bearing steel I-beams that mean there wouldn't be enough head clearance.
:-(

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 12 Jan 2010 13:22:21 -0800 (PST), woger151

How about an elevator?????
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Is there room to turn the stairwell around? Have it enter from center of house, rather than in kitchen (usually by back door? Or is there a second floor stair using same shaft, or a closet in the way or something? Most of us regulars, if we were there in person, could suggest a solution in a couple of minutes. I think you need more than a handyman, you need an actual experienced designer or contractor to eyeball it for you. May cost a few bucks for a site visit, but unlike the advice here, it will be worth as much as you paid for it.
-- aem sends...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Get rid of the carpet, even out the riser spacing and tread depth, and then cover the stairs with the sandpaper-like tread covers that you can buy at any large hardware store. If you can't find it locally, there are planty of places that can order it.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.