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  1. #1
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    Default Staircase egress

    I'm wondering if the picture attached is a code issue. It is a stairway with a door frame at the top of the stairs.

    It is confusing because the code seems to contradict itself.

    IRC R311.2 - Egress door - states that "at least one egress door shall be provided for each dwelling unit. The egress door shall be side hinged and provide a minimum clear width of 32".

    IRC 311.7.1 - Width - states that "Stairways shall not be less tha 36 inches in clear width at all points above the permitted handrail height and below the required headroom height".

    For years I've been advising my clients that the door frame is a restriction to staircase width and safe egress and it should be removed. After being told by many people that I'm too picky, I'm starting to wonder if this is really a problem.

    I wonder how an AHJ would interprete this or what you think about it??
    Am I reading it wrong???

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Is the door opening in the stairway or the hallway?


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    That's not the "egress door". The egress door is typically (but not always) the front door. Is there a landing at the top of the stairway?

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    since there is no door, it is just a framed opening, code would require that the opening width be the same as the the stair width, which it is no,t and as it creates a break in smooth entry to the stairs, it is a safety hazard.
    In my opinion it is only nitpicking until someone misses the railing due to that break and falls down the stairs.
    is the framed opening right at the top step, hard to tell from the pic.
    I think you are right in your determination especially since there is no real reason to have the framed opening there at all.
    someone framed it for the door in the wrong location and instead of tearing it out, left it for the drywallers to cover up.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    For years I've been advising my clients that the door frame is a restriction to staircase width ...
    The door is not part of the stairway, thus it is not a restriction in the stairway width.

    Now, you would also need to consider the landing at the top and bottom of a stair (stairway) and, if a landing is or is not required at the top of that stair. A landing is required at the top and bottom of a stair ... with some exceptions, one of which is at an interior stair (that is one) provided that the door (a door) does not swing out over the stair (I don't see a door which swings out over the stair), so a landing is not required at the top of that stair.

    The door at the top of that stair should be the same width of the stair for safety reasons, but "should" and "shall" are not always the same (even though 'should have been' is considered as the past tense of 'shall be' ) ...

    There are some things which are not known and could affect the final AHJ answer.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    I'm wondering if the picture attached is a code issue. It is a stairway with a door frame at the top of the stairs.

    It is confusing because the code seems to contradict itself.

    IRC R311.2 - Egress door - states that "at least one egress door shall be provided for each dwelling unit. The egress door shall be side hinged and provide a minimum clear width of 32".

    IRC 311.7.1 - Width - states that "Stairways shall not be less tha 36 inches in clear width at all points above the permitted handrail height and below the required headroom height".

    For years I've been advising my clients that the door frame is a restriction to staircase width and safe egress and it should be removed. After being told by many people that I'm too picky, I'm starting to wonder if this is really a problem.

    I wonder how an AHJ would interprete this or what you think about it??
    Am I reading it wrong???
    The net clear opening of a stairway that is 36 inches above the permitted handrail is 32 inches. The handrail extends into the 36 inches. That is why it is measured above the handrail. Same 32 inches net clear opening if all you are worrying about is net clear opening.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    There no door on the frame and it is on top of the stairs with a landing/hallway area. This is not the first time I've seen something like this. Some have doors & others do not.

    It's sort of typical in a Cape style house that was built with the first floor finished and they leave the second floor unfinished for future expansion. The door is installed to close of the unfinished part of the house during the heating season.

    When they finally decide to finish the second floor they don't remove the door frame, Which in my belief was a narrowing of the staircase width and restriction for egress.

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    The net clear opening of a stairway that is 36 inches above the permitted handrail is 32 inches. The handrail extends into the 36 inches. That is why it is measured above the handrail. Same 32 inches net clear opening if all you are worrying about is net clear opening.
    No, the net clear opening is 36" above the handrail, the handrail is allowed to project into the minimum 36" width 4-1/2" from each side, which means that the clear width at and below the handrail, when one handrail is present, is 31-1/2", and 29" clear width at and below the handrail when there are two handrails present.

    Then net clear width above the handrail to the minimum headroom height is 36", with additional exceptions for the two upper corners or that space which allows for small projections into that clear space from the upper corners of that space, for lights and such which do not project out far or down far (the building code is more specific in this regard than the residential code).

    The main point I am making is that the minimum clear width above the handrail is 36" and the handrail projections into that width do not reduce that width as that width is measured "above" the handrails". One could have a 4-1/2" wall projection in from each side and have only a 29" wide for the stair width at and below the handrail, while still having the required minimum 36" width above the handrail.

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    When they finally decide to finish the second floor they don't remove the door frame, Which in my belief was a narrowing of the staircase width and restriction for egress.
    The doorway does not reduce the stair width as the stair ends before the doorway.

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Yeah...I don't see where the doorway is part of the stairs and thus restricting their width. I would be concerned about a landing but many old homes like this just don't have interior landings. Home inspectors don't do code compliance inspections here in VA. We just point out obvious safety issues.

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    Wink Re: Staircase egress

    No, but here is an error in judgement as far as "which way should the door to the basement open?"

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    I just wanted to express my understanding and opinion.
    First: if this is not a new construction or remodeled project, code does not apply.
    Second: this door is not considered an egress for the building (it may be a room or stair egress, but I believe the code you referenced id referring to the building).
    Third: the door frame is not part of the stairway.
    Fourth: if you suspect there is a safety issue, do not be afraid to state it as your opinion. If you start using code where it does not apply, it can discredit you in the eyes of the professionals you work with (contractors, agents, brokers, craftsmen, etc). Consider using the term "standards" or "safety concern" instead of code.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Subick View Post
    No, but here is an error in judgement as far as "which way should the door to the basement open?"
    Not only an error in judgment, but also not allowed.

    A door is not allowed to open over a stair - thus that door requires a landing which is level with the interior floor.

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold Mullins View Post
    I just wanted to express my understanding and opinion.
    First: if this is not a new construction or remodeled project, code does not apply.
    Codes do apply. The same codes which were applicable when the building was constructed still do apply to the existing work.

    All new(er) work is to be done to any new(er) code applicable at the time the work is done.

    Fourth: if you suspect there is a safety issue, do not be afraid to state it as your opinion. If you start using code where it does not apply, it can discredit you in the eyes of the professionals you work with (contractors, agents, brokers, craftsmen, etc). Consider using the term "standards" or "safety concern" instead of code.
    "If you start using code where it does not apply, it can discredit you in the eyes of the professionals you work with (contractors, agents, brokers, craftsmen, etc)."

    Not any more so than using the code word "safety" and there is not a "safety" issue.

    What discredits one is not what one calls it, "code" for instance, but that one is correct in what they call it.

    If you are familiar enough with your local codes, and keep up with code changes, then you should have a good grasp of the older codes and the newer codes and you should not make your self look silly calling things a "safety" issue when they are not, likewise, the same for "code" issues.

    Whimping out and trying to use 'code words' for what you really mean is what can make you look silly: if you know it is a "code" issue, calling it a "safety" issue does not make you look good, calling it a "code" issue does.

    There should not be any more reasons to be "afraid of" using the word "code" than of using the word "safety" (yeah, there are some who will say that if you call out one "safety issue" then you are doing a "safety inspection" and must therefore call out each and every "safety issue" present - bull crap - someone telling you that is out there stepping in that stuff and tracking it all over.

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Jerry, I understand your points. I did not mean to get into a debate on semantics. You are correct that codes did apply for the construction when it was constructed. You may even know the codes well enough to know which codes applied when. In my area, there are two dates that would have to be remembered. When the codes were written and when they were adopted by the local jurisdiction. I inspect in on state, 6 counties and 25 cities. If you can remember the details of all the codes and when they were adopted for all those jurisdictions, I am very impressed and good for you. That is one half of the equation. The other date that you need to know is the dates of the permit, its inspection, etc. If you can tell that from the picture or by being on site, I am even more impressed.
    I do not know what state you inspect in, but several states license, our profession. I am not aware of any state requirement for training in codes to be licensed for our profession unless you are working for a governing authority.
    If you are code trained, then you should know that the purpose of the codes is to insure “public safety, health and general welfare” through ……. With this in mind, if a code was written for safety, health and welfare in mind, then a code violation must effect the “safety, health or welfare” of someone. Now I am being a little fecicious. I would expect anyone to use a little common sense in how you describe a code violation. That is why I suggested the two terms (safety or standards).
    I have had agents complain about inspectors writing up items like 6” gaps in railing spindles as a “code” issue. The home was built in the 80’s. They joke about the inspector and the inspection process when they see that. That effects my profession and irritates me.
    I (and other professionals) respect inspectors that report t communicate understanding. I (they) do not respect those that report to impress.
    So why mention codes unless you are doing a code inspection on new construction?


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold Mullins View Post
    [FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3]So why mention codes unless you are doing a code inspection on new construction?
    What is the "safety" standard you referred to based on?
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Code.
    .
    .
    That is what safety standards are based on, so why *not* mention the code that the safety standard was based on if you are going to mention the safety standard?

    New construction or not.

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    What is the "safety" standard you referred to based on?
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Code.
    .
    .
    That is what safety standards are based on, so why *not* mention the code that the safety standard was based on if you are going to mention the safety standard?

    New construction or not.
    Thanks, Jerry.

    One of my pet peeves is how inspectors refer to building defects as a "safety" item when it is actually an installation defect and non-compliant with the existing code at construction or installation. If one is going to call out the defect they should include the appropriate code language within the report. If one is unsure about whether the installation was compliant with existing code they can, at least within N. Carolina, call and speak with a code reviewer within the Dept of Insurance/Fire Marshall's Office. I do it several times a year and it has helped tremendously since I don't have every issue of published code books applicable for even the last 20 years, just a few.

    Thanks again.


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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    ...The door at the top of that stair should be the same width of the stair for safety reasons, but "should" and "shall" are not always the same...
    Ditto.

    It's interesting that there is nothing in the IRC that I can find that specifies a minimum width, height, or shape of an interior door (with the exception of the entrance into a shower).

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold Mullins View Post
    First: if this is not a new construction or remodeled project, code does not apply.
    I use today's model codes as my baseline for acceptability when it comes to safety or electrical. Stairs & railings, guards, window size, smoke alarms, tempered glass, GFCI's, wiring, panels, etc.

    Joe Funderburk, CBO, CMI
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Funderburk View Post
    I use today's model codes as my baseline for acceptability when it comes to safety or electrical. Stairs & railings, guards, window size, smoke alarms, tempered glass, GFCI's, wiring, panels, etc.
    You can use current code as a "back drop" for recommending a "safety" upgrade. Whenever a regulatory board upgrades an existing code they are, in effect, making previous code language regarding that installation obsolete as a "standard". I use the "Safety" recommendation many times when I don't have the time or desire to research existing code in an older property. You are doing that whenever you point out that a home built prior to 1-1-1975 has no hard-wired smoke detector within required distance, dependent on the manufacturer, of a sleeping room.

    However, when you encounter an installation that was non-compliant with existing codes at the time of installation there is no reason why you can't state that the defect was non-compliant when installed. I do it quite frequently.
    In NC, we only have to be sure that our comments are correct and include the appropriate code language within our report. I have pissed off lots of sellers and agents with that information within my reports. No legal "blow back" on me for having done so. Having said that, I attempt to limit my "call-outs" to fairly important defects. As an example, I called out missing electrical outlets in an area of a 15 year old dwelling a few years ago. When questioned by the selling agent about it I asked a recently retired Chief Electrical Inspector for Greensboro and, after full understanding of all particulars involved, agreed that the electrical contractor and AHJ "missed" it at originally construction. The selling agent paid for correction installation.

    As a hobby, I have collected copies of the NEC from 1901 and most decades since then. I think you can find them online as well. When in doubt, I also request help from the code board staff within the Fire Marshall's Office. They are there to answer those questions and can send you the code language you need for your report. Diligence, just diligence.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Edwards View Post
    As a hobby, I have collected copies of the NEC from 1901 and most decades since then.
    I would like to see a listing of your collection of NEC codes and handbooks as I, too, have a collection of old NEC code books and handbooks.

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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I would like to see a listing of your collection of NEC codes and handbooks as I, too, have a collection of old NEC code books and handbooks.

    I apologize for the late reply, Jerry.
    I haven't checked this site lately.

    Upon your request, I just compiled a list of what I have.
    With your demonstration of expertise and knowledge base I would imagine my list is puny in comparison.
    I have the following NEC publications:
    1901 (reprint), 1947,1953,1959,1965,1978,1984,1993,1996,2002,2005, & 2008.
    I'm not counting any handbooks that cover any of these years since it provides the same information.
    Nearly all were purchased on Ebay.


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Edwards View Post
    I have the following NEC publications:
    1901 (reprint), 1947,1953,1959,1965,1978,1984,1993,1996,2002,2005, & 2008.
    I'm not counting any handbooks that cover any of these years since it provides the same information.
    Nearly all were purchased on Ebay.
    Tom,

    Your list is not bad at all.

    Below are the ones I have accumulated, I purchased some of the older ones on ebay but have not bought any in the past 7-8 years, although I do need to start checking on what is available again and try to fill in some of the blank spaces in my list. My list includes codes and handbooks, indicating which ones I have for each year of the code editions - the code years with nothing following the year indicates that I do not have either the code or the handbook (I would like to complete my list and fill in all of the blanks, but I'm not sure I can find those.
    2011 – code – handbook
    2005 – code – handbook
    2002 – code – handbook
    1999 – code – handbook
    1996 – code – handbook
    1993 – code – handbook
    1990 – code – handbook
    1987 – code – handbook
    1984 – code – handbook
    1981 – code – handbook
    1978 – code
    1975 – code – handbook
    1971 – code – handbook
    1968 – code – handbook
    1965 – code – handbook
    1962 – code – handbook
    1959 – code – handbook
    1958
    1957
    1956 – code
    1955
    1954
    1953 – code – handbook
    1951 – – – – – handbook
    1949
    1947 – – – – –handbook
    1946 – – – – –handbook (1946 NEC was adopted as the 1947 NEC, I have a handbook labeled as 1946, and one labeled as 1947)
    1943
    1942
    1940 – – – – –handbook
    1937 – code – handbook
    1935 – code – handbook
    1933
    1931
    1930
    1928 – code
    1926
    1925
    1923
    1920
    1918
    1915 – code (had one, misplaced at this time)
    1913
    1911
    1909
    1907
    1905 – code
    1904
    1903
    1901
    1899
    1897 – code

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 05-05-2013 at 08:03 PM. Reason: added return so 1943 was on a new line, did not notice until post was quoted
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Tom,

    Your list is not bad at all.

    Below are the ones I have accumulated, I purchased some of the older ones on ebay but have not bought any in the past 7-8 years, although I do need to start checking on what is available again and try to fill in some of the blank spaces in my list. My list includes codes and handbooks, indicating which ones I have for each year of the code editions - the code years with nothing following the year indicates that I do not have either the code or the handbook (I would like to complete my list and fill in all of the blanks, but I'm not sure I can find those.
    2011 – code – handbook
    2005 – code – handbook
    2002 – code – handbook
    1999 – code – handbook
    1996 – code – handbook
    1993 – code – handbook
    1990 – code – handbook
    1987 – code – handbook
    1984 – code – handbook
    1981 – code – handbook
    1978 – code
    1975 – code – handbook
    1971 – code – handbook
    1968 – code – handbook
    1965 – code – handbook
    1962 – code – handbook
    1959 – code – handbook
    1958
    1957
    1956 – code
    1955
    1954
    1953 – code – handbook
    1951 – – – – – handbook
    1949
    1947 – – – – –handbook
    1946 – – – – –handbook (1946 NEC was adopted as the 1947 NEC, I have a handbook labeled as 1946, and one labeled as 1947)1943
    1942
    1940 – – – – –handbook
    1937 – code – handbook
    1935 – code – handbook
    1933
    1931
    1930
    1928 – code
    1926
    1925
    1923
    1920
    1918
    1915 – code (had one, misplaced at this time)
    1913
    1911
    1909
    1907
    1905 – code
    1904
    1903
    1901
    1899
    1897 – code
    Yep, I'm not surprised that your list is twice as large as my own.
    They're real helpful though, for what I have, in determining when changes may have occurred in some areas. I dug some out this evening to search for some code but could not find it.

    I found a GFCI device serving a residential whirlpool tub and mounted on a bathroom wall. Only thing is....the GFCI has a duplex outlet included and I know that is wrong since that opens the circuit for additional use. I think it goes to Article 210 and the percentage of wattage for built-in appliances. Am I correct or wrong on that score?


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Edwards View Post
    I found a GFCI device serving a residential whirlpool tub and mounted on a bathroom wall. Only thing is....the GFCI has a duplex outlet included and I know that is wrong since that opens the circuit for additional use. I think it goes to Article 210 and the percentage of wattage for built-in appliances. Am I correct or wrong on that score?
    Depends on how you read it. The attached is from the 2008 NEC.

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    Default Re: Staircase egress

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Depends on how you read it. The attached is from the 2008 NEC.
    Thanks for the code, Jerry.
    I appreciate it.


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