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Exterior stairs for dwellings

PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 2:28 pm
by RDavidson
A residence is built under the IRC. There is a landing outside the front door. The landing is two feet above grade. Does the code require a ramp or stairs to grade? If the stairs aren't required, could I use two 12 inch risers if I want to voluntarily provide a stair? If the stair wasn't required but I constructed it with 4 six inch risers, would I be required to install a handrail? If your opinion is that the code does not require the stairs and thus it is not regulated, what if the stairs served a second floor deck? Please support your opinion with code language.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 7:27 am
by Jeff Pleski
R311.1. requires; not less than one exit door shall be provided from each dwelling unit. It should not make any difference however, whether the front door is the one considered for this requirement or not. Any door that provides an exit from the house should have a code compliant ramp or stairs to grade or floor level.

Whether you are talking about a landing (R312.1.2) or stairs (R314.4) the next step down cannot be more than 8 inches so the 12 inch riser scenario should not be allowed. It would be a safety hazard and contrary to the intent and purpose of the code (1300.0030 Subpart 1 and 1300.0110 Subpart 1).

In my opinion the code is clear on the handrail issue. With the scenario of four 6-inch risers a handrail would be required because the language does not specify the height of each riser. It only says the maximum riser height shall be 8 inches (R314.2) and that a handrail is required with "four" or more risers (R315.1). Six risers is more than four risers.

Your last question) if the stairs served a second floor deck. In my opinion it shouldn't make any difference what the stair served. Any stairs that is part of a dwelling should be code compliant. Depending on the situation the code reqirements could be anywhere from R311 to R316.

These are just my opinions

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:30 am
by inspector senior"
I agree with Jeff.

any stair / landing as part of a dwelling shall be code compliant.

there is no such thing as an extra door or extra stairs; if it is provided it is code regulated.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:17 pm
by RDavidson
Just wondering, what code section do you cite on the correction order if the home has a landing two feet or three feet or 5 feet above grade with no stairs.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:09 pm
by inspector senior"
guards around platforms, landings, raised floor surfaces etc. over 30" above grade. R316

The code only requires one main exit door to have steps. other doors may have landings/decks only, there are no provisions to force a set of steps. however, if the landing has a sidewalk to it and is used as a path of travel and it exceeds the 8 inch rise.. then a compliant set of steps is required.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:15 pm
by RDavidson
Ok, so which code section "requires one main exit door to have steps"? Where in the code are there references to "sidewalks" and the requriement of compliant steps?

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:27 pm
by inspector senior"
are you goofing with me?

means of egress section R311

At least one exit door shall provide for direct access from the habitable portions of the dwelling to the exterior {IE: public way}without requiring travel through the garage.

Also, see 2006 IRC 311.2 and R311.4 ....... it gets better... :)

unless I dont understand your question, you could have a slab on grade and not have steps..

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:37 pm
by inspector senior"

take a look at the commentary for 311.2 last sentence..

wheather or not it is the required exit door or not....


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:30 am
by RDavidson
I don't have a copy of the '06 Commentary but R311.4.1, second sentence says that "The required exit door shall provide for direct access from the habitable portions of the dwelling to the exterior without requiring travel through a garage." In my opinion, once you have stepped to the exterior of the dwelling through the required exit door, you have met the code. There is nothing in the language of the IRC that can be cited to require an exit path to a public way. The IBC does have specific language addressing public ways but the IRC is silent on the matter.

ICC has provided the following opinion:
“It is not the intent of Section R312.1 of the International Residential Code to require guards at window wells. The referenced section requires guards to be located at the specifically identified locations, and does not address specific requirements for guards around window wells or other exterior offsets in grade such as at the top of retaining walls.

As a point of comparison, the International Building Code requires guards adjacent to exterior walking surfaces that are a part of the required exit discharge where the minimum grade offset is present; however, the International Residential Code does not address exit discharge. It can be argued that a window well adjacent to the only walking surface available for required access by emergency personnel, or a window well adjacent to the only means of travel to a public way once the occupant has exited the residence in an emergency, does create an unsafe, or even hazardous condition; however, the minimum requirements of the IRC do not require guards at window wells.

Roddy Barret, Sr. Staff Architect, ICC”

While this opinion addresses guards at window wells, it also points out that the IRC does not address exit discharge.

The '09 IRC will have specific language that will require access "to grade by means of a stair or ramp" from the main exit door but I think it would be pretty hard at this point to extend the requirements of the IRC all the way to a public way.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:45 am
by inspector senior"
point taken:

I believe this will become a uniformity issue. Most building officials will rely on the intent of the code, which is to provide exiting from a building to a safe location. (This include steps and stairs leading off door landings etc.)

Its nice to know 2009 will clarify this.

Thanks for your vision on this matter. :)