CAHPtalk – Watch Your Step
How many times have you either tripped on the way up the stairs, or worse, jolted your back when walking down the stairs because the stair riser height changed? Consider what happens when you reach the bottom step, find that the tread depth was changed, and it was just too short for your foot. All of this is far too common, and it is important to better understand the stair limits that have been established.
Irregular stair heights and improper tread depths are more commonly found in older homes that have been retrofitted, but it also is not unusual to find these issues in new construction. It all boils down to safety and protection of the residents and the visitors in a home.
Safety requirements call for uniformity of risers and treads in any given flight of steps. Part of this is due to how our mind interprets each step we take. What we find is that most people do not pay attention to flights of stairs they are navigating, only because we assume they will be uniform.
The maximum riser height should be 7 3/4 inches. The riser should be measured vertically between leading edges of the adjacent treads. The maximum difference cannot be greater than 3/8 inch.
The minimum tread depth should be 10 inches. The greatest tread depth within any flight of stairs shall not exceed the smallest by more than 3/8 inch. Risers shall be vertical or sloped from the underside of the leading edge of the tread above at an angle not more than 30 degrees from the vertical. Open risers are permitted, provided that the opening between treads does not permit the passage of a four-inch diameter sphere.
Now that you have a better idea of how stairs are to be built, take a close look at your own stairs to see if you have any safety concerns. Remember you can always contact a qualified contractor to correct any defects at
Stan A. Garnet ACI, ASHI, ICC, is an ASHI-certified home inspector and an IRC Residential Combination Inspector with his company, Inspectors Associates, Inc., in Atlanta. Stan is the director of www.ConsultAHomePro.com, director of education at the We Teach House™ Institute and the developer of the See Thru-House at the Atlanta Home Show. For more information visit www.INeedAnInspector.com or e-mail Stan@WeTeachHouse.com.