Staircase Going Up

“Think Twice Before Tearing It All Out”

Rarely do I see an original staircase that complies with today’s code requirements. If you are considering moving it or making it nicer overall by removing in its entirety, you will be required to comply with all staircase codes. With a combination of the IEBC (International Existing Building Code) and your local building official, the staircase is often one item where we can find considerations for our benefit, but you cannot remove the entire staircase. Most building officials will typically be okay with removing all but the structural stringers that support the treads. Others are a bit more restrictive and will only allow minor repairs. Be sure to have this conversation with your local inspector before removing your staircase.

Below is a list of the primary issues related to a fully-compliant staircase:

Rise and Run: The “Riser” relates to the height of the step. The Tread (run) is the depth of the step. Commercial maximums are 7” for the Riser and 11” for the Tread (nose to nose). If your staircase meets this requirement, you have found yourself in a rare predicament indeed. I have seen staircases as steep as 8” risers and 9” treads. Hopefully your staircase is less than this for overall safety reasons.

Midspan Landing: Code states that if your floor-to-floor height is more than 12 feet, you are required to provide a landing inside that 12 feet of rise. A lot of downtown buildings have an upper floor that exceeds this 12 foot distance above the main floor elevation

Lower Level Landing: The area inside your doorway often does not meet today’s requirement of 60 inches. If you move your staircase, you will be required to provide this 5 feet at the lower doorway on the inside of your building.

Upper Floor Landing: The landing upstairs should be a minimum of 48”. Additional space may be required depending on the design of the upper landing.

All these additional requirements will inset your staircase significantly deeper into your main level floor, which is space we normally do not want to give up! I always make the attempt to keep the staircase in the same location for these reasons.