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Open House | Dangerous Staircases

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva analyzes a staircase that is not to code for prospective homebuyers.

Steps:

  1. Code requires stair railings to be between 34”-38” away from the stair treads.
  2. With open risers, the maximum gap allowed between treads is 4”. To tighten a gap, close in the riser or add material to the top of each step.
  3. Balusters and cable railings also need to be a maximum of 4” apart.
  4. If you come across a house with a staircase that isn’t to code, you can either ask the seller to fix the staircase, or negotiate a lower selling price accounting for the amount it will cost to fix it.
  5. These code violations are particularly dangerous for the elderly and for infants. The stair railing needs to be easily grasped, especially in case of a fall. Toddlers can get their heads stuck between railings and treads and suffocate if the gaps are more than 4”.
  6. If you don’t have young children or an elderly person living with you, you could always consider moving in at your own risk. However, this is an issue that should definitely be resolved at some point once you’re in the house.