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  1. #1
    MiKe Lam's Avatar
    MiKe Lam Guest

    Default Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Hello All,

    I just purchased a home in Lake Worth, FL which is part of Palm Beach County. I just received a notice from my insurance company that says "According to the photos provided, the front steps need a handrail." I have attached a picture the stairs are 3 risers and from bottom to landing measures under 18 inches. Would today's building code require me to install a railing. Is the building code only for steps with 4 or more risers? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Mike


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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Around here its more than 2 steps. I don't know about FL. Jerry will probably chime in at some point, he'll know.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Quote Originally Posted by MiKe Lam View Post
    Hello All,

    I just purchased a home in Lake Worth, FL which is part of Palm Beach County. I just received a notice from my insurance company that says "According to the photos provided, the front steps need a handrail." I have attached a picture the stairs are 3 risers and from bottom to landing measures under 18 inches. Would today's building code require me to install a railing. Is the building code only for steps with 4 or more risers? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    Your Insurer made a request that you perform a repair to bring the structure into compliance with their requirements. Your insurance company cannot require you to make the repair, but your not doing so opens some options for them. Your insurer could possibly
    a. Cancel your policy, as you have failed to repair identified safety issues.
    b. Increase your rates as you have failed to repair identified safety issues.
    c. Decrease your coverage while maintaining the same rate, as you have failed to repair identified safety issues.
    d. Not provide coverage for any issues related to identified safety issues, as you failed to repair those identified safety issues.

    Safety issues don't know year of construction, or local codes. I would have mentioned the lack of a railing here in an inspection report. But that would have probably been ignored. Now that the insurance company has asked that you make a repair you don't have the choice of ignoring the issue. You can make the repair and know that you are in compliance with your insurers policies, you can deal with the repercussions of not making the repairs, or you can shop for another insurer. I am sure that this will bring some debate but it is what it is. A rail is needed, add the rail and move on.

    Alton Darty
    ATN Services, LLC
    www.arinspections.com

  4. #4
    MiKe Lam's Avatar
    MiKe Lam Guest

    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Alton,

    i appreciate the response but you did not answer the question. The railing was not noted as part of my inspection because I believe it is not required due to building codes in Palm Beach. That is what I am trying to get, I understand the ramifications of not adding it if the insurance company wants it, but if you give the insurance company evidence of why it is not required and conforms with code in some instances they will accept and rescind request. I am not ignoring the issue as I said my inspector didn't note it. What I am looking for are people who understand the Palm Beach building code, which you do not as stated below. So thank you for the response but it does not answer my question.

    Mike


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Quote Originally Posted by MiKe Lam View Post

    The railing was not noted as part of my inspection because I believe it is not required due to building codes in Palm Beach.

    answer my question.

    Mike
    .
    Palm Beach Building Code is available on line.

    Florida Building Codes Home Page
    .

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  6. #6
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    MiKe Lam Guest

    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Billy,

    Thanks I had read that but was confused about some of the aspects of the handrail codes as it did not specify the number of steps requiring a handrail, perhaps any amount of stairs require a handrail now in FL. Was hoping someone had dealt with this.

    Thanks again,
    Mike


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Quote Originally Posted by MiKe Lam View Post
    Alton,

    i appreciate the response but you did not answer the question. The railing was not noted as part of my inspection because I believe it is not required due to building codes in Palm Beach. That is what I am trying to get, I understand the ramifications of not adding it if the insurance company wants it, but if you give the insurance company evidence of why it is not required and conforms with code in some instances they will accept and rescind request. I am not ignoring the issue as I said my inspector didn't note it. What I am looking for are people who understand the Palm Beach building code, which you do not as stated below. So thank you for the response but it does not answer my question.

    Mike

    From the International Residential Code 2006

    R311.5.6 Handrails. Handrails shall be provided on at least
    one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with four or
    more risers.
    I was not trying to do an end run on your question. If you need to know local codes the person to ask is your local Building Codes office. The above referenced material is from the 2006 IRC. I have no idea what has been adopted in your area, or if any adopted code was modified, or when your home was built, or when any repairs or modifications were made to the home or the steps. The building codes are minimum codes, the code is actually as bad as something can be and still be "legal". Insurance companies, home owners associations and others often ask that certain criteria beyond the minimum codes be adhered to, and often for good reason...







    Alton Darty
    ATN Services, LLC
    www.arinspections.com

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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Quote Originally Posted by MiKe Lam View Post
    Billy,

    Thanks I had read that but was confused about some of the aspects of the handrail codes
    Mike
    .
    R311.5.6 Handrails. Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers. R311.5.6.1 Height. Handrail height, measured vertically from the sloped plane adjoining the tread nosing, or finish surface of ramp slope, shall be not less than 34 inches (864 mm) and not more than 38 inches (965 mm).

    Exception:
    When fittings are used to provide transition between flights, transition from handrail to guardrail, or used at the start of a <<stair>>, the handrail height at the fitting shall be permitted to exceed the maximum height. R311.5.6.2 Continuity. Handrails for stairways shall be continuous for the full length of the flight, from a point directly above the top nosing edge of the flight to a point directly above the lowest nosing edge of the flight. Handrail ends shall be returned or shall terminate in newel posts or safety terminals. Handrails adjacent to a wall shall have a space of no less than 1-1/2 inch (38 mm) between the wall and the handrails.

    Exceptions:
    1. Handrails shall be permitted to be interrupted by a newel post at the turn and at the top of the flight. 2. The use of a volute, turnout, starting easing or newel shall be allowed over the lowest tread. R311.5.6.3 Handrail grip size. All required handrails shall be of one of the following types or provide equivalent graspability. 1. Type I. Handrails with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of at least 11/4 inches (32 mm) and not greater than 2 inches (51 mm). If the handrail is not circular it shall have a perimeter dimension of at least 4 inches (102 mm) and not greater than 61/4 inches (160 mm) with a maximum cross section of dimension of 21/4 inches (57 mm). 2. Type II. Handrails with a perimeter greater than 61/4 inches (160 mm) shall provide a graspable finger recess area on both sides of the profile. The finger recess shall begin within a distance of 3/4 inch (19 mm) measured vertically from the tallest portion of the profile and achieve a depth of at least 5/16 inch (8 mm) within 7/8 inch (22 mm) below the widest portion of the profile. This required depth shall continue for at least 3/8 inch (10 mm) to a level that is not less than 13/4 inches (45 mm) below the tallest portion of the profile. The minimum width of the handrail above the recess shall be 11/4 inches (32 mm) to a maximum of 23/4 inches (70 mm). Edges shall have a minimum radius of 0.01 inch (0.25 mm).
    .

    Four or more risers .


    If the nosing of the treads Overhang ( as it appears in your photo ) you have Bigger Fish to Fry.
    .

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    From the 2007 Florida Building Code, Residential:
    - R311.5.6 Handrails. Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers.

    You do not have a "continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers", there are only three risers in that flight of stairs.

    That said, Alton makes an excellent point:
    Your Insurer made a request that you perform a repair to bring the structure into compliance with their requirements. Your insurance company cannot require you to make the repair, but your not doing so opens some options for them. Your insurer could possibly
    a. Cancel your policy, as you have failed to repair identified safety issues.
    b. Increase your rates as you have failed to repair identified safety issues.
    c. Decrease your coverage while maintaining the same rate, as you have failed to repair identified safety issues.
    d. Not provide coverage for any issues related to identified safety issues, as you failed to repair those identified safety issues.


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

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Your overall exterior stairWAY includes the riser/step up INTO the residence that is beyond the threshold of your primary entance/exit door. That is the fourth riser (or rather the first) in the primary egress path your insurance company may additionally be concerned about (invited guests emergency exit path). How "deep" is that exterior landing? (is it at least 36" out from the door?) How wide is that door?

    It is also the public, implied invitational access to your property, and the required path of travel for the postal carrier (read: liability $$$) noted mail-box mounted to the right of door.

    Failure to make the correction will result in your loss of indemity.Property maintenance codes not building codes is what is likely being referred to, as appears obvious this was not new or recent construction.The to be newly constructed modifications would have to meet local codes and be permited and inspected to satisfy both your underwriter and maintain your indeminification.

    It appears your "tread" depth is not maintained as equal from the bottom landing/drive up to the area over which the storm door swings.

    Consistancy within a stairway run, exterior is required within tolerances. Minimal tread depth when there is not an overhang in a closed stair IIRC is 11".

    What is the overall height? do you even NEED the four risers for the overall stairWAY? It looks as though someone has capped and added the additional step and dressed it up, but doesn't appear to be that much of an elevation above the finished drive/walkway. (i.e. unnecessary addtional step, too narrow anyway, added at some point?).

    If the elevation is sufficiently "high" you may also require guards.

    Check with your local building/community development office. I'd also check with them regarding the adequacy/complance of the awning above in re: wind resistance.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 03-22-2011 at 10:29 PM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Mike,
    It is not about code.
    It is about the insurance company's inspector looking at the steps and making the demand. He would say that to reduce liability for the company a railing is required. Many time it is not an inspector with any credentials for what they are doing but an agent making it up as they go along. Bottom line they can almost demand anything that they want.

    It is really about the agent and his agency not having a claim to the main carrier of the policy. If the agency has any claims then there are repercussions from the main carrier. Their commissions and bonuses are based on not having a claim. If an agency has had to many claims the carrier will not write policies for them.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Your overall exterior stairWAY includes the riser/step up INTO the residence that is beyond the threshold of your primary entance/exit door. That is the fourth riser (or rather the first) in the primary egress path your insurance company may additionally be concerned about (invited guests emergency exit path).
    (underlining is mine for H. G. and for Mike)
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    From the 2007 Florida Building Code, Residential:
    - R311.5.6 Handrails. Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers.

    You do not have a "continuous run of treads or flight with four or more risers", there are only three risers in that flight of stairs.
    That exterior STAIR has three risers in the lower FLIGHT (continuous run of treads) and one riser in the upper FLIGHT. There are ONLY THREE risers in the longest flight, as such no handrail is required *by the code* - by Mike's insurance company, that is another matter; for increased safety, that is even a different matter than for the insurance company.

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

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Well, as you very well know, definitions not supplied by the residential portion of the florida building code, residential FIRST defer to the general florida building code. This is NOT just a "stair" it is a stair WAY. It is not an interior or IN the residence, and it isn't just ANY outdoor stairWAY it is presumptively a primary/MAIN means of EGRESS/EXIT.

    Further the city of Lake Worth has ordinances/ammendments on board effective 2009 March and October.

    This presumptively (as photographed) being the main/primary means of exit and means of egress for the residence nearest the public way.13" min. tread for the closed, was advised for reworking closed w/o overhang, partial uncovered slip resist. Was also reminded if rework lighting min. requirement may increase 10x i.e. FC and visiblity size/address numbering.

    Local ammendment in re Life Safety & Fire Code (local ordinance) applicability, one- two-family residential includes sub sections 2,4,6,7,8,11, 12, 13 and 14 of sect. 1.1.1, as well.See ch. 10 and further definitions (c.2) of the floridia building code, as applicable residential primary/main egress/exit. Unknown #bdrms, size, or common lving areas reg. zoning occp relative to "path". Also check the height of the flamable awning make sure it makes clearance and wind resistance req.'s. The first riser up from the sloped, crowned driveway or walk gets an exception from continuity regarding riser if appropirately contrasted edge met, those above do NOT.

    The intermediate platform (landing) leads no where else - has no alternative path, and is therefore included in the overall PATH and requirements of the stairWAY. The "fourth" riser is EXTERIOR (to the threshold).

    This isn't any old residential stair, it is the primary means of egress, and it is not fully contained withIN the dwelling unit, nor "IN"-doors, therefore host of exceptions qualified by "IN" and "WITHIN" for one- two-family residential, nor "IN" or "withIN" the dwelling unit, do NOT apply. It is also NOT a secondary escape path.

    OP has already indicated just under or at 18" at intermediate platform - code and city confirm overall to floor within min. 18" above crown.

    This as per verbal, with the City.

    The poster's BEST resource if property actually withIN the City of Lake Worth, is the building department of SAME, as permit app. & review IS required.

    Best of Luck to you.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 03-24-2011 at 06:18 AM. Reason: lost paragraph formatting.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post

    Best of Luck to you.
    .
    .
    .... Dang ! ..
    .

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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    Quoting and refering to wrong section for OP's question. The fourth riser in the stairWAY require presence of handrail, the area of the overall stairway requiring the installation handrail is deliniated to the areas of continous flights of stair(s).

    As mentioned previously, it would not surprise me, depending on the actual measurements to grade IF guards *might* be further required. This is primary exit/egress path and outdoors.


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    Default Re: Exterior Stair Handrail in Lake Worth, FL

    H.G Watson,
    Your postings are interesting. I commend you for your effort. Is it possible to condense your response on this topic?

    Is it possible to reduce it to 10 words or less?


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