Safety Guidelines for Staircases

Staircases should be built according to your area’s building codes. In the US, these codes have significantly changed over the past decades. This is primarily the reason why it is important that you check the updated versions of it. This article will talk about safety features in stairs per the 2010 regulations; these include head clearance, nose dimensions, tread and riser dimensions and their variations, and the railings.

The Typical Design of a Residential Staircase

Residential staircases should approximately 36 inches wide with each tread having an 11-inch width and a riser that has a 7-inch height; this is commonly referred to as the 7-11 rules in stairs. Note that the dimensions of the tread and riser may deviate from the approved design specifications by at least 3/16 inch.

Staircases should have at least a minimum of 6 feet and 8 inches headroom (which is the shortest distance between any part of the tread and whatever it is found above. According to a survey, some of the dimensions of the staircases in most household are considered illegal. Thus, when you are in doubt about your staircase, you should inquire your local government about the updated building codes.

Safety Guidelines for Staircases

Number of Steps in a Staircase

There is no specific building code as to the minimum or maximum number of steps in one staircase; however, the distance of one floor to the next should not exceed 12 feet. Note that your stair’s landing has its specific code; it must be at least 36 inches by 36 inches. Thus, if your staircase is wider than 36 inches, the landing should have the same width.

Safety Guidelines for Staircases

Regulations for Noses

The nose is the part that extends past the riser of the stairs. Although there are no regulations as to the minimum or maximum distance of the farthest portion of the nose to the riser, most builders will extend it to approximately 1 to 1 ½ inch.

There is a common misunderstanding, however, with the relation of the nose and the minimum width of the tread. That is, whatever the distance of the nose from the riser is will be deducted from the tread’s calculated legal length. Thus, if you have a staircase that has a 12 inch length tread with a 1 ½ inch nose, the tread’s legal length will only be 10 ½ inches (which is half an inch less than the minimum requirement). Note that nose overhangs may only deviate to 3/8 inch at most.

Hand Rails and Guard Rails

The current requirement for guard rails should be at least 42 inches in height. The hand rail, on the other hand, must be at least 36 inches to 38 inches at most. Although the design may look awkward, it is sensible since younger generations nowadays are growing taller.

Balusters and Openings

Balusters are that part of the staircase that holds up the hand rail; more often than not, there is one baluster for every one tread. According to the recent building code regulations, the distance between one baluster to another must not be more than 4 inches or from the tread to the nose. This only signifies two things: treads should not feature open backs; the riser should be solid or designed in a way that a 4 inch ball cannot pass from rolling off from the back of the tread. Aside from that, this would also mean that it is much harder to design a legal stairs that have vertical balusters; you would need to have at least 2 balusters per tread or at 4 inch ball may roll in between them. Modern designs have centered into functional vertical supports with a series of pipes and cables that are parallel to the hand rail, ensuring that they are spaced on 4-inch centers.

Hand Rail Profiles

There are many building code regulation as to the possible hand rail profile of a staircase at home. With circular hand rails, however, it is required that it should not exceed more than 2 inches in diameter and not less than 1 and ¼ inch. But if it is not circular, the total surface area of the hand rail must not be more than 6 inches and not less than 4 inches. Special profiles have requirements as well; thus, if you choose to design hand rails uniquely, you must consult your local government first.

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