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  1. #1

    Default stairs and fire stops

    When I see there is no drywall on the bottom of a wooden stair to the basement or the stair is not enclosed by a partition I note it in the report. My usual comment is "There is no fire separation between the underside of the basement stairs and the living quarters as normally required for fire safety". The words "as normally required for safety" seem to be causing problems, I do not mention anything about codes. I am asked required by whom? I'd like to say required by common sense but hold my tongue. Is this the correct way to report this or should I be saying it differently.

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by William Speer View Post
    I am asked required by whom? I'd like to say required by common sense but hold my tongue. Is this the correct way to report this or should I be saying it differently.
    You should be saying it differently, such as saying "Enclosed stairs and stairs with concealed spaces underneath the stairs need to be protected from fire on the underside with gypsum board, however, because this stair is not an enclosed stair nor is there a concealed space below the stair, there is no requirement for this stair to have gypsum board attached to the underside of it."

    Something like that.

    Think of it this way: when you have an open riser stair in the living space and no closet or anything below the stair, do you write that up too? If so, why? If not, the same reasoning applies here.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Why are you afraid to mention code? Every home inspection is, in reality, based on building code.

    Here's what the 2009 code states-

    NJR302.7 Under-stair protection. Enclosed assessible space under stairs shall have walls, under-stair surface and any soffits protected on the enclosed side with -inch gypsum board.

    So, if the mention of code stresses you out, simply state

    "Today's standards require enclosed assessible space under stairs shall have walls, under-stair surface and any soffits protected on the enclosed side with -inch gypsum board."

    Darren www.aboutthehouseinspections.com
    'Whizzing & pasting & pooting through the day (Ronnie helping Kenny helping burn his poots away!) (FZ)

  4. #4

    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Ok I get the part if the stair is enclosed, but what if it is just a stair to a basement not enclosed?


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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Thanks for the post, I know that I have let this go a lot in the past.
    If the home is pre 1970's you could spend all day writing up code violations so I try not to go there, if the home is newer (post 70's) something like this really should be witten up. What I say now either way is;

    We observed a staircases that is not protected from fire, as this is one of the buildings escape routes and also provides access for firefighters between levels, we recommend a qualified contractor attend to install proper fireproofing materials.

    Observation, implication, recommendation works for me most times.


  6. #6

    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    I need someone to explain to me, how can a builder be expected to know what the current code might be in the future when the house gets re-sold? Thats why home inspectors should leave codes out of pre-purchase inspections, unless it's a new home inspection specificly. JMO.

    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by William Speer View Post
    Ok I get the part if the stair is enclosed, but what if it is just a stair to a basement not enclosed?
    What's the difference if the stair is to a basement or to a second floor? I'm trying to figure that part out.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by George Hallaron View Post
    I need someone to explain to me, how can a builder be expected to know what the current code might be in the future when the house gets re-sold? Thats why home inspectors should leave codes out of pre-purchase inspections, unless it's a new home inspection specificly. JMO.
    George,

    So, you are saying that there is no need for a home inspector to keep up with the codes, that they could remember the original building code and any changes which came along the way are none of their business?

    Codes change because increased safety is recognized and standards improved to reflect that knowledge.

    I just want to get this straight - if the home inspector knows that an enclosed stair is required to be protected from fire now (and has been for the last 40 years or so) and that when the home inspector sees an older (say a 80 year old home from the 1910s) that the home inspector should NOT explain to their client that current nationally recognized safety standards (that is what codes are) require that stair with the closet under it to be protected from fire by having gypsum board on the underside of the stair and that this has been recognized as providing increased safety for getting out during a fire?

    In my opinion, NOT telling the client is criminal, especially if there is a loss of life or injury resulting from that during a fire.

    I'm just trying to figure out why you (and the few others who think the same way) think that way.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  9. #9

    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    First of all Jerry, I know what codes are! Second of all, I'm not neccasarily disagreeing with you. I'm simply saying that it should be refered to as a safety issue rather than a code violation. In my oppinion, no matter how knowledgable or up to date on current code one may be, by mentioning the word code to someone(the potential homebuyer) that doesn,t neccasarily understand the premis behind the term "code" it could possibly create unneccasary alarm. I would always mention to my clients, a safety issue based on my knowledge of the current code, and to suggest otherwise is just insulting. That being said it's all about keeping the client safe without causing undue stress for someone(the potential home buyer) that already has enough stress to deal with in the closing of his new investment.

    Sincerely,

    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by George Hallaron View Post
    I'm simply saying that it should be refered to as a safety issue rather than a code violation.
    George,

    Now you've really done it!

    There is a group of home inspectors who adamantly state that if a home inspector mentions the word "safety" then they are doing a "safety" inspection and then need to inspect for, and write up, ALL "SAFETY" items in the home.

    You have really opened that one up.

    In my oppinion, no matter how knowledgable or up to date on current code one may be, by mentioning the word code to someone(the potential homebuyer) that doesn,t neccasarily understand the premis behind the term "code" it could possibly create unneccasary alarm.
    Ahh ... the word "alarm" used with "unnecessary" ... hopefully that does not make you one of those inspector who are "non-alarmist" ... ?

    The home inspector should tell their client what it is, like it is, and if the client gets "alarmed", then so be it, sometimes that is what it takes to wake the client up and get them to smell the manure placed around the roses.

    I would always mention to my clients, a safety issue based on my knowledge of the current code, and to suggest otherwise is just insulting.
    It is good that you address safety items with your client, and I am not suggesting anything, only replying to what you posted.

    That being said it's all about keeping the client safe without causing undue stress for someone(the potential home buyer) that already has enough stress to deal with in the closing of his new investment.
    Not sure that I agree with that non-alarmist "without causing undue stress" part - if something needs to be stressed, and if that stressed people out, then it just might indicate that there is a reason they are stressed out over that item.

    If it stinks like manure and you are looking at roses because someone said to stop and smell the roses, maybe you need to look and smell more closely as to where the roses are growing.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    the differance is here in NJ, once a basement is finished off and becomes "Habital" space, then you need to finish the underside of the stairs and make any additional current code compliant changes.

    Its like open stair riser or handrails not returned to the wall that may be grand fathered in, I would state that it does not meet current codes and historically have resulted in trip hazards and/ or personal injury and make the recomendation to correct the safety concern.

    Joseph Ehrhardt
    Building Forensic Specialist LLC

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Joseph,

    Not to be a wise guy, but can you show me where in the code it mentions "grand-fathered".
    I'm pretty sure that is a phrase invented by a realtor...

    How about 'pre-existing, non conforming'?

    Darren www.aboutthehouseinspections.com
    'Whizzing & pasting & pooting through the day (Ronnie helping Kenny helping burn his poots away!) (FZ)

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Can you show me in the codes where it says "pre-Existing" or "non-conforming"?

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by Darren Miller View Post
    Joseph,

    Not to be a wise guy, but can you show me where in the code it mentions "grand-fathered".
    I'm pretty sure that is a phrase invented by a realtor...

    How about 'pre-existing, non conforming'?
    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Can you show me in the codes where it says "pre-Existing" or "non-conforming"?
    - R102.7 Existing structures. The legal occupancy of any structure existing on the date of adoption of this code shall be permitted to continue without change, except as is specifically covered in this code, the International Property Maintenance Code or the International Fire Code, or as is deemed necessary by the building official for the general safety and welfare of the occupants and the public.

    The key there is "The legal occupancy ... shall be permitted to continue without change, ... " - if the structure was legally constructed (permitted, passed required inspections, and given a certificate of occupancy) then it "shall be permitted to continue without change", except if one of the mentioned codes is adopted, and then those are allowed to take precedence.

    The above is called "grandfathering" or "grandfathered" in.

    The above also addresses "Existing" structures, and the "non-conforming" issue as the LEGAL OCCUPANCY, which was conforming at the time of construction, is allowed to remain even though that structure may now be "non-conforming" to the new code(s).

    Now, if the structure was constructed when no codes were in effect and without a permit when permits were required, then that structure *was* a legal structure and is allowed to remain (given the exceptions noted above).

    By the way, the code used "existing" and not "pre-existing" ... do you know what comes before ("pre") "existing"? That was when the lot was vacant and did not have a structure on it ...


    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Darren,

    I can show you in the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code posted on the NJ Codes and Standards web page NJ UCC 5:23-Chapter 6 section 6.1 the "Rehabilatation Code" section where maybe the slang grandfather is legally explain.In fact the early versions of the UCC stated the term "grandfathered" with the problems when trying to create and implement the Rehab Code.

    See for me to breifly educate you on your own NJ sate law, we have classifacations that one can file under when applying for a permit:
    Repair Work
    Renovation
    Alteration
    Reconstruction
    Change of Use
    Additions
    Then theres Historical which in its self your allowed to match existing or I should say grandfathered in.Theres that word again!

    I can renovate parts of my home and classify each section and only the applicable codes under that section apply...meaning say I have a house and the basement is unfinished but i am putting a deck on the back which is an "Addition" a new kitchen in... could be "renovation or reconstruction" depending on the scope of work...then if I finish the basement it would be an alteration to the space and certain codes apply which if the stairs were non conforming would include solid risers if none, and graspable handrails not open end and returned to the wall or knewel post. If the riser hieght was not to code say 8-3/4", the applicant can submit a variation to the code but still need to modify other componants as mentioned.

    A reconstruction or complete gut and remodel of a space may fall under the reconstruction and not be habitual until a new CO/ Certificate of Occupancy is authorized by the authority having jurisdiction.

    Joe

    I am NJ state licenced in;
    Construction Official
    Building Subcode Official,
    HHS- Highrise Hazard Specialist
    ICS- Industrial Commercial Specialist
    RCS- Residential Light Commercial
    Mechanical
    EIFS Special Inspector
    Toxic Drywall
    also
    ACI Flat work Technician

    Joseph Ehrhardt
    Building Forensic Specialist LLC

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Ehrhardt View Post
    Then theres Historical which in its self your allowed to match existing or I should say grandfathered in.Theres that word again!
    I'm not sure what the definition of "historic" is in New Jersey regarding historic buildings and the meaning in that use, but here is the definition in the ICC Existing Building Code, and I would venture to guess that the NJ definition is similar"

    (underlining and bold are mine)
    - HISTORIC BUILDING. Any building or structure that is listed in the State or National Register of Historic Places; designated as a historic property under local or state designation law or survey; certified as a contributing resource within a National Register listed or locally designated historic district; or with an opinion or certification that the property is eligible to be listed on the National or State Register of Historic Places either individually or as a contributing building to a historic district by the State Historic Preservation Officer or the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places.

    Just because a building is "old" does not mean that one can apply the "historic" exceptions/allowances to it just because they want to do something they are not allowed to do.

    I am NOT certified in NJ for anything ... so you would need to read the NJ code definition to see how close it is.


    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    you are correct on how a building is classified historic, here in NJ it is part of the Rehabilatation Sub Code and I was not leaving it out, but seperated it from the 6 primary sections, Historic is last and has its own explaination on how to apply the Rehab code.

    Part of NJ nucleus for the Rahab code was one of many conditions as follows...
    owner puts an add-a-level on their 1960's brick ranch. back then a lot of awning windows or sliders over 44" inches from finish floor were used in the bedrooms here in NJ. A owner would go for a final and the fire sub code official would come in and fail the project stating in its code the 50% rule and the windows needed to be updated to egress...5.7 square feet of clear net opening for fire fighter entrance during a fire.

    This caused a lot of calls to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) with irrate home owners finger pointing that it was not picked up in plan review and an unforeseen added expense back then of an alteration cost of $5000.00 per window.... and a brick that did not match any more. The DCA in a wise choice has ironed out over the 10 plus years many issues and conditions in residential and commercial to some what make this Rehab code work.

    As much as my fellow New Jersean wants to slide the term slang term "Grandfathered" over to the realtors, the term has been used in planning bards and construction for as long as I can remember and I have been in construction since 1975, the actual year NJ DCA adopted the BOCA code and again in 1983 when they adopted the CABO 1 and 2 family code.

    Yes we could all beat up un slang terms and the proper terminology, I call a nail puller a cats paw and my buddy from Texas calls it a pigs foot, and another avid deer hunter buddy calls it a deer hoof, its still a nail puller.

    I simply stated something to make a point in layman terms or for one who may not be skilled in the art and everyone has heard of "grandfathered" (origin unknown)

    Here in NJ when you start a project,plan review, site a code violation,ect you start with our "blue book" another slang everyone calls it or NJ Uniform Construction Code Title 5:23

    Joseph Ehrhardt
    Building Forensic Specialist LLC

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    By the way, the code used "existing" and not "pre-existing"

    That was my point.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    To firestop stairs could you put drywall from the sides of the stairs down to the floor, or do you need to drywall the underside of the steps?


  20. #20

    Talking Re: stairs and fire stops

    Boy! If I need info. About the finer points of arguing over samantics I certainly know where to go. What wa
    s this thread about again?

    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Ehrhardt View Post
    Yes we could all beat up un slang terms and the proper terminology, I call a nail puller a cats paw and my buddy from Texas calls it a pigs foot, and another avid deer hunter buddy calls it a deer hoof, its still a nail puller.
    I also have a nail puller called a cats paw (I have several nail pullers, but only one is called a cats paw), when I looked up on the internet to see what other "cats paw" pullers looked like, I found several different types, and I found out that there are single end and double end cats paws, as well as cats paws with a chisel end at the other end, etc., but this one is the closest photo to my cats paw. I also noticed that they come in several lengths too ... interesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Arcaro View Post
    To firestop stairs could you put drywall from the sides of the stairs down to the floor, ...
    If the underside of the stairs is open, the stair does not need to have any protection, drywall not required. It is only required when the space below the stair is either concealed or enclosed into a closet.

    As such, as soon as you install the drywall from the side of the stairs down to the floor, you now also need to install drywall on the underside of the stair (i.e., the "ceiling" to the under-stair closet would be the protection if the drywall was installed correctly for that purpose).

    or do you need to drywall the underside of the steps?[/quote]

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Jerry,

    I challenge to show me where the word 'Grandfathered' exists in the code book.
    Please don't say the 'intent of the code'; the intent of the code is to protect the general public.

    Grandfathered means the same to me as 'sub-panel' means to you.
    You and I know everyone uses it but as a comic used to say "That's not Right..."

    By the way Webster-
    Pre-exist- To exist beforehand or before something else.

    The 8 inch baluster spacing pre-existed before they changed it to 6 inch then changed it to 4 inch.

    Joseph- I know all about the 'blue' book. I also know there is a line in the blue book that reads "...are not in conformance with the State Uniform Construction Code.

    Darren www.aboutthehouseinspections.com
    'Whizzing & pasting & pooting through the day (Ronnie helping Kenny helping burn his poots away!) (FZ)

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Quote Originally Posted by Darren Miller View Post
    I challenge to show me where the word 'Grandfathered' exists in the code book.
    Darren,

    I haven't said the "word" "grandfather" exists in the code, just the meaning of to "grandfather" in - here is example:
    - Grandfather clause - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    - - "Grandfather clause is a legal term used to describe a situation in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations, while a new rule will apply to all future situations"

    To wit:
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    - R102.7 Existing structures. The legal occupancy of any structure existing on the date of adoption of this code shall be permitted to continue without change,
    I.e., The "old rule continues to apply" to the existing situation, while a "new rule will apply to all future" work ("situations").

    As long as the building had legal occupancy 'when it was constructed', then the code under which it was constructed "continues to apply" (with the exceptions noted previously), i.e., when someone says that something was "grandfathered" or "grandfathered in", that is what it means.

    With your "subpanel" reference, it does not mean the same thing to all - as is obvious by the problems arising from its use and then questioning where the neutral is bonded to ground. Using the term "subpanel" implies that it is not the "main panel", yet the term "main panel" does not indicate that the neutral is bonded to ground there. Only the term "service equipment" indicates where the neutral is to be bonded to ground.

    Which is quite different than "grandfathered" or "to grandfather in", kind of like comparing apples to oranges and trying to explain why they are different colors, different textures, different tastes, different ... everything.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Darren,
    Thie attached is from a mid rise transition agreeement in Hoboken NJ, This is page 6 of a 138 page transition evaluation. Meaning we go in to a multi family community and find deficiencies and negotiate with developers to repair, get funds into the capital reserve budget ect.This document goes in any thing from a 55+ community of single story residence with a club house to a high rise community and sometimes unfortunately goes before a judge jury to read along with evidence and make decisions in litigation here in NJ.

    I simply stated a slang term, never said it was in the code but stated that the NJDCA has used in when first creating the Rahab code here in Jersey...you said it was some realtors term, I argued differant, its been in construction for as long as I can remember.

    We try to communicate in ways people who may come on and find our information interesting to be some what understood. Moving forward this is a lesson for me to thread in legal terms you need a thesaurus to understand.

    I am trying to find time to load pictures of very interesting stucco information I have to get feed back across this great nation and find myself in the war of rediculous words.

    Last edited by Joseph Ehrhardt; 10-01-2011 at 05:51 PM.
    Joseph Ehrhardt
    Building Forensic Specialist LLC

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Starting at the top of this thread and fleeing to the bottom after seeing the word "grandfathered" I go back to my old mantra that the only thing a safety hazrd will do is wait to hurt or kill someone. Occupant hazards to not read code books, and if they could would they really care? If there is any one thing vital about what home inspectors do its to alert their clients to occupant safety hazards, which to my alleged mind trumps all else!

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: stairs and fire stops

    Absolutely Jerry, theres nothing wrong with "in our proffesional opinion" in a report and a good report educates a possible owner of what they have.

    Joseph Ehrhardt
    Building Forensic Specialist LLC

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