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  1. #1
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    Default Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Hi folks,

    The other day, a couple of other California inspectors and I were discussing what each of us believes constitutes an official "Trip Hazard". I was surprised to find out that each of us used a different number: 1/4", 1/2", & 1/2".

    A search of the IRC (as well as the indispensable CodeCheck) resulted in a nice round goose egg, at least as far as walkways (and the like) go. We all (or should, at least) know that stairways have a aggregate maximum 3/8" difference in riser/tread dimension. This means that the difference between the largest and smallest cannot exceed 3/8". As a result, we took to searching the documentation that we have access to (both in our respective offices as well as online) for an answer. This is what we have come up with so far...

    From the ADA:
    4.5.2 Changes in Level
    Changes in level up to 1/4 in (6 mm) may be vertical and without edge treatment (see Fig. 7(c) ). Changes in level between 1/4 in and 1/2 in (6 mm and 13 mm) shall be beveled with a slope no greater than 1:2 (see Fig. 7(d) ). Changes in level greater than 1/2 in (13 mm) shall be accomplished by means of a ramp that complies with 4.7 or 4.8.
    ADA 4.5.2

    Of course, the ADA does not apply to single-family dwellings, but will to condos, townhomes, commercial buildings, etc. In addition, I believe that ADA standards could conceivably be used by opposing attorney if an inspector is involved in a lawsuit, even if the inspection was of a single-family residence.

    From HUD:
    TRIP HAZARD ON WALKING SURFACE
    DEFINITION: Hazard caused by an abrupt change in vertical elevation or horizontal separation on any walking surface.
    DEFICIENCY CRITERIA: There is an abrupt change in vertical elevation or horizontal separation on any walking surface along the normal path of travel, consisting of the following criteria:
    An unintended 3/4 inch or greater vertical difference, OR
    An unintended 2-inch horizontal separation perpendicular to the path of travel.
    HCD Trip Hazard

    Then, the NHIE Study Guide had this to say:
    There is no agreed upon standard for what constitutes a reportable crack in concrete drive-ways, walkways, and patios. A common guideline is that cracks that exceed 1/4 inch in width or vertical displacement should be considered for reporting.
    Safety Issues: A common defect of driveways, walkways, and patios is when one section is higher than the adjacent section. This creates a trip and fall hazard. there is no agreed upon standard for what constitutes a reportable trip hazard. A common guideline is that a 1/2 inch height difference between adjacent sections should be considered for repair.

    One inspector/friend was also informed that 3/8" had been determined by "General Consensus" (whatever that is).

    Apparently, my choices of trip hazard height are: 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", or 3/4". Do I arbitrarily pick one? Now I put this to others out in Inspector-Land. Presumably, we all mention trip hazards in our reports. But, my questions are:

    1. Do you use a specific number?
    2. If so, what number do you use?
    3. Do you have documentation or a referenced standard?

    We are interested in knowing what other inspectors/members are reporting; however, we are particularly interested in getting documentation to back up our recommendations.

    A nifty document that was shared to me is this one which does provide references to published standards, including ASTM and ANSI. Unfortunately, I do not have access to these standards.
    Kaufman


    Similar Threads:
    Last edited by Gunnar Alquist; 07-21-2023 at 09:23 AM. Reason: Elimination of weird question marks where there should have been numbers
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Gunnar, a couple of times it appears a system error occurred as "? inch" is shown.

    Sometimes "⅜" is shown, so is it possible that "? inch" was 1/4" and the reduced character symbol was not recognized by the system and replaced with "?"?

    Excellent information compilation for consideration.

    I have additional comments I'll post later.

    Jerry Peck
    Construction/Litigation/Code Consultant - Retired
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Thanks for pointing that out to me Jerry.

    Apparently, this website doesn't like some of the single character fractions, so I had to replace them with typed fractions. Weird that it did accept some.


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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Not being picky or anything, but ...

    HUD's reason(s) confuse me:
    An unintended ... OR
    An unintended ...

    Is HUD saying that an intended difference 'is not' a trip hazard, but "unintended" ones are?

    Jerry Peck
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Is HUD saying that an intended difference 'is not' a trip hazard, but "unintended" ones are?

    That made me laugh. I see your point.

    Of course, it does indicate
    "unintended 3/4 inch or greater vertical difference..." We also have to take into account the "or greater" part. Thus, wouldn't an intended vertical difference of say 7 inches constitute a riser?

    Then, at what point does a riser become a trip hazard (or vice-versa)?



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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Thus, wouldn't an intended vertical difference of say 7 inches constitute a riser?

    Then, at what point does a riser become a trip hazard (or vice-versa)?
    Even a less than 1" vertical rise is a riser.

    In other than residential 1&2 Family and Townhouses, minimum riser height is 4" in 'common areas', i.e., areas outside of a dwelling unit (areas inside dwelling units are the same as the IRC).

    Jerry Peck
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Without actually getting into the deficiencies (that I perceive as deficiencies) in the stated HUD standards used in the NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR THE PHYSICAL INSPECTION OF REAL ESTATE Gunnar referenced, here is my take on it.

    IF ... the big IF ... if you are using the National Standard For Physical Inspection of Real Estate for something related to HUD, and those are referenced in the requirements given to you by your client to follow, then, yes, use them, and make sure you use that form to show that you are only providing the information asked for. I.e., 'these are not MY standards, these are the standards YOU referenced and told me to use'.

    IF ... the big IF again ... you are doing an inspection or work related to ADA and accessibility, use the ADA standards (ADAAG / ADA Accessibility Guidelines: https://www.access-board.gov/adaag-1991-2002.html ) as those are the applicable standards to use.

    If ... a small if that is actually quite big ... if you are doing home inspections (not new construction inspections), there are multiple ways to get yourself in trouble. If you are doing new construction inspections, use what the applicable code requires.

    RE: "multiple ways to get yourself in trouble"

    If you decide to use a standard or code which is not applicable, but is what you want to use, then by all means do so ... keeping in mind that deciding to use a standard or code which is not applicable allows the plaintiff (this is what we are really talking about, right?), the plaintiff's attorney, and the plaintiff's expert to select a code or standard, which is also not applicable, of their choice for their rebuttal of your inspection.

    If you decide to use a code or standard, then I recommend using a restrictive and nationally accepted* standard code or standard as the plaintiff and their side will have to try to find a more nationally accepted* code or standard to try to hang you on.

    *"nationally accepted": The US Government as decreed by law that the ADA/ADAAG is what they use.

    To become familiar with the requirements of the ADA (and ADAAG), I recommend taking the ICC Accessibility Inspector/Plans Examiner course, then the test, and become an Certified Accessibility Inspector/Plans Examiner

    The ICC Accessibility Code has been deemed in the past by the DOJ as being equivalent to the ICC Accessibility Code. I suspect that the current edition has also been deemed equivalent ( https://www.iccsafe.org/building-saf...reference-ibc/ )

    The takeaway: The best standard to use is the ADA/ADAAG and/or ICC Accessibility Code ... unless you are doing an inspection which requests/requires the use of another standard, then follow the standard referenced/required.

    For Florida inspectors: The Florida Accessibility Code has also been deemed as equivalent by the DOJ, and has been going back many editions. My recollection is that the Florida Accessibility Code was deemed as equivalent by the DOJ before the ICC Code was deemed as such, so you guys/gals have had a head start in that aspect.

    Jerry Peck
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    I should clarify the takeaway:

    "The takeaway: The best standard to use is the ADA/ADAAG and/or ICC Accessibility Code ... unless you are doing an inspection which requests/requires the use of another standard, then follow the standard referenced/required."

    The above should have included this in bold and underlined:

    ... The best standard to use is the ADA/ADAAG and/or ICC Accessibility Code sections on walking surfaces ...

    As you won't be using the ADA/ADAAG/ICC Accessibility Code for "home" inspections.

    Jerry Peck
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Not being picky or anything, but ...

    HUD's reason(s) confuse me:
    An unintended ... OR
    An unintended ...

    Is HUD saying that an intended difference 'is not' a trip hazard, but "unintended" ones are?

    I would think that intended would be say a Shower pan that could be 2"-4" higher than the floor or even a tub itself, and maybe even that mini-step going from the garage into the house. These in my thought are expected tripping hazards.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Trip Hazards on a Walkway or Similar

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Reilly View Post
    I would think that intended would be say a Shower pan that could be 2"-4" higher than the floor or even a tub itself,
    There could be many reasons to have "an intended" difference in elevation in a floor or walking surface, but does that change "a trip hazard" into "a non-trip hazard"?

    I submit that the answer is "no" to the HUD code as worded.

    If the HUD code was contemplating shower curbs, then in exceptions for those contemplated items and locations.

    Example:

    Why does that sidewalk have a 1" vertical elevation difference? We intended that because there was a huge Boulder below this section of the walkway. We either had to bring in dynamite or raise this section up, so we raised this section up.

    ... and maybe even that mini-step going from the garage into the house.
    A minor step going from garage to house?

    I would say a regular step should be there.

    Jerry Peck
    Construction/Litigation/Code Consultant - Retired
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