Just looking for a little history info. and hoping that someone can
help. My friend is "House Hunting" and looking for a new home. I went
with her the other day, and looked at a house that she really liked. It
is a 2 bedroom ( possibly 3 ) Colonial home built in 1926 that is
The thing that is "weird" about this house, is because it has a spiral
staircase right in the MIDDLE of the small living room that leads
upstairs to a finished attic or possible 3rd bedroom or rec. room/kids
But at the back of the house, on the other side of the kitchen, there is
another regular wooden staircase that also leads to the upstairs. This
staircase is only located about 30 feet from the metal spiral staircase
thats in the middle of the living room.
The house is only 936 sq. feet of living area, so why when building this
thing, would they need to put 2 staircases about 30 feet apart from one
another that both lead to the upstairs? Why have a regular wooden
staircase located at the back of the house, and then roughly 30 feet
away, have a metal spiral staircase right in the middle of the living
We are very curious about this? Can anyone please explain why the house
would have been built like this?
Like the other poster, I strongly suspect it wasn't built this way
originally. But, my guess would be it was the spiral staircase that was
added, not the rear one.
My guess for the "why" would be that it was Code requirement to have the
second exit for the upstairs when the major renovations were done to get
approved for possibly using the upstairs as sleeping space.
Or somebody thought a spiral staircase would look neat and didn't realize
how it would effect future buyers.
If you do a lot of house hunting in older neighborhoods you will see a lot
One that comes to mind is a house that used 4" x 4" tile in the entry way,
down the hall and into the kitchen and they didn't worry too much about
keeping straight lines.
Come to think of it this house also had a spiral staircase, but it was to
get "deck" that was built over the back porch. The only other way to get
there was to climb out and up from a second floor window.
Possibly but since it was addressed by the OP as a converted attic and a
major renovation that would almost certainly required permitting, I'm
presuming there were/are no windows of sufficient size to serve as the
2nd egress thereby necessitating the second staircase to meet Code.
All sleeping spaces are required to have two exits regardless of size;
if there's not a large-enough window in the attic, the second stairway
is the result.
Now, whether it would have any real effect in case of fire given the
size of the structure is another question but Code doesn't ask such
questions nor do most inspectors/departments when approving plans.
Unfortunately, it's generally a checklist sorta' thing--"No egress
window, one staircase? Well, you'll have to add another stairway." If
it were such that there's a door on two sides of the upstairs room at or
near the head of each, it _might_ even make a difference.
Building code. You may not need a second exit, but a spiral stair may not
count at all.
I know that a friend had to change the design of his stairs from a spiral to
a split landing for code. He also added a deck on the second floor with a
door and stairs down from the deck and that made the building inspector
happy. It was 20 years ago so I forget the details.
Another couple built a log cabin with loft and ladder. It was allowed to be
for storage, but not for occupation unless there was a stair.
My friend and I went back and looked at the outside of the house again,
as she is undecided about it. We talked to a neigbor who lives next door
to the place, and got lots of info. from him.
He said that the house was a "foreclosure" that went up for auction in
"November of 2009". He said some "realty company" bought it/won it for
$47,000. They then listed it for a few months, and sold it for $68,000,
to some "rental property company". The "rental property company" then
"flipped the house" and completely renovated it, and now they are trying
to sell it for $135,000.
He says he doesn't know anything about the "spiral staircase", because
he has never been inside the house before. He said that "the people who
lived there BEFORE the foreclosure, NEVER took care of the place, and
let it go to hell". "They never mowed the lawn or nothing" he said.
He said the house was originally a 2 bedroom ( both 1ST floor bedrooms
), 1 bathroom house, with an UNFINISHED attic on the 2ND floor. He said
that when this "realty property rental company" flipped the house, they
added brand new carpeting to the 2nd floor, and added built-in closet
storage space on the 2nd floor, and converted the attic to a "finished
area" that can be used as a 3rd bedroom, office space, kids play area,
So maybe the company that flipped it, added the spiral staircase, I
There ARE 3 windows on the 2nd floor though.
There is 1 full-size window at the top of the regular wooden staircase,
which leads to the 2nd floor. The window faces the backyard from the 2nd
floor. The regular wooden staircase is located at the BACK of the house
on the other side of the kitchen.
And there are 2 full-size windows right next to each other at the FRONT
of the home, facing the street, up on the now finished 2nd floor.
So with a house that is only 936 sq. feet of living area, why would they
put a metal spiral staircase like 30 feet from the original back wooden
staircase!? And why put it right in the middle of a TINY living room!?
More than likely. If you (or your friend) really, really cares about
the "who", undoubtedly you could find building permits on file that
should give enough scope to tell. (Altho I don't see that that question
really has any bearing; either the friend likes the house enough to make
an offer or not given the way it now is or discounting it enough to fix
it as would want).
OK, so my guess on there not being windows was off base. Still, it's
possible they either weren't sufficiently large to meet the egress
requirements of Code (and I don't recall offhand what the actual
dimensions are as well as what it says about location and height or roof
access, etc., for second floor) nor, of course, do we have any idea what
additional local requirements there might be over national code that may
have something to do with it.
Or, otoh, perhaps they simply had a mad designer who thought putting it
in there would be the perfect touch as some others have suggested... :)
Surely there are even more ridiculous renovations made than this one.
To amplify on previous remarks, if the friend likes the house well
enough except for that, she could ask local building enforcement what is
the actual requirements for fire egress and whether the windows are
adequate w/o the stairway to confirm whether it is, or is not, a Code
addition(+). Knowing that one would have sufficient information on
whether a remodel to remove it is allowable or not and then make the
offer based on what an estimate for the modifications would cost. Or,
of course, simply accept it as is.
(+) Or, if don't need the upstairs as sleeping space, perhaps even if
the stair was added for that reason by not using it as sleeping area it
might be possible to get occupancy permit w/o it allowing that option
for removing it as well as if the windows are adequate for the Code
requirement. Again, this would depend on local building code/inspection
and one would need to check thoroughly and make any offers contingent on
desired conditions being able to be met so don't have any gotcha's crop up.
On Sat, 15 May 2010 10:32:41 -0400, email@example.com (MICHELLE H.)
The one in back is probably for the servants.
Okay, just kidding.
And to be pedantic (but at least I'm quoting my mother, and everyone
likes a boy who quotes his mother, or maybe it was the radio, these
libary-style staircases arent' really spiral, which have a bigger
radius, usually as one goes down the stairs.
The little ones are helical. OTOH, I don't think many people know
what a helix was until Watson and Crick described DNA, so maybe they
are spiral after all. Or at least that's what everyone calls them.
1. Geometry. a plane curve generated by a point moving around a fixed
point while constantly receding from or approaching it.
2. a helix.
So I'm both pedantic and wrong, at least the way the word is used.
Others have answered your question better than I can.
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