Loft in Bedroom?

coloradomomof5March 22, 2010

My boys want a sleeping loft in their bedroom at the new house, but haven't found a good picture or design yet. I'm visual and need to see something in front of me! Does anyone have a photo of one they have or seen? Only one boy will sleep there the other will stay on the bunkbeds. I imagine up there a double bed with room for a small shelf, and a nightstand. Any ideas? Thanks.

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We are doing a loft in one of the bedrooms. It's more a playspace than a sleeping space. We did it by vaulting the ceiling and carving out space above the bathroom and closet. The ceiling up there is only about 6 ft. tall. It kind of looks like this space from the pottery barn kids catalog:

and like this picture from Houzz:

Sorry, I don't have any pictures of our loft yet. Our kids are very excited about it, although I'm a little concerned about the potential injury that could result from some of the not very safe things I can imagine our boys will dream up. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 12:13PM
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gobruno, Thanks! I checked out the photos. I like the one with the metal railing. I've thought about the stairs and potential "safety" things too. I'm not sure if I want a ladder or more substantial stairs. Good photos with ideas!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 12:41PM
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Oh how fun. Wish I had seen this idea sooner ha. I did make a little secret hide away but I like the idea of this space.

Can't be any worse than a tree house. I would worry about a treehouse also but point is, there are always safety issues with everything. Just have to explain the rules and decide how much risk is acceptable for your own peace of mind.

For me, I like it, my husband on the other hand, he is the one to see all the potential problems, but I think it would be a fun space for the kids.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 12:52PM
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Here's another one that I looked at in creating our space:

Here is a link that might be useful: Loft

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 1:56PM
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The spiral stair idea is nice too, but expensive. We have them in our current house as our back stairs to the upper floor, from the mudroom. At the new house, we don't have another story above their room to go that high-just a vaulted room-so I wanted to stick with the space above the bathroom or closet or both. I'll have to check the pricing on a shorter and skinnier spiral stairs to see if that is a possibility. I think code forces the size. Thanks for the idea.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 2:19PM
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I'm going to do that! We have just a 4 bedroom house, and we're planning on 4 kids, so....

There are vaulted ceilings in the kids' rooms. I wouldn't do it with an 8-foot ceiling. But ours go up to 11 feet, so the room will be divided into three parts--loft above, which will go out from the wall about 4' into the main room and will hold the beds (we'll have twins, but it'll be sized for full); a walk-in dressing area, under the loft, with possibly a toothbrushing/morning preparations sink; and a sitting/play/desk/whatever area. The loft will be reached via a ladder. That's one of the major reasons I got this house; I loooove the idea as a loft for kids.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 3:08PM
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Look up alternating tread stairs. Probably less expensive than a spiral staircase & more sturdy than a ladder.

When DD was in middle school she wanted to ditch the canopy bed for a loft bed, so DH got a kit and made it for her in double bed width. He put a shelf up there for eye glasses, book, drink of water, etc. and installed a sconce with a capacitive touch switch so she could easily turn on a light. Underneath, I put together one of those self assembled corner desks, so she had a roomy study area and space for plenty of furniture in the rest of the room.

DD loved it. It gave her a little "cave" to hole up in to study. When she went off to college, she got an Ikea single loft bed & I put together another, smaller, desk. As she moved from apartment to apartment over the years, I got very good at breaking down & reassembling that bed (desk was easy to move, as is). I think I've discovered my 2nd career - putting together self-assembly furniture. LOL!

I can't wait to see the pictures, gobruno. If I were building a house with kiddos in permanent residence, I would definitely be doing a loft, as you described it. Mebbie, when I help DD design a future house for a future family. :^)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 3:30PM
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How about something like a ship ladder, or a boat ladder, or a library ladder. I don't know how expensive any of those ideas are but how fun!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 3:59PM
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Love these ideas! I think it is such a great use of space and with all of the forts and things kids build, they will love it! I've been scheming for years, and haven't found the perfect "fort / loft" --- you guys have me thinking again......

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 7:33PM
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This is from the website of the architectural firm of Polhemus Savery DaSilva. Isn't it just wonderful?

Here is a link that might be useful: Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 10:21PM
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That loft is fabulous!
Too bad my boys are too old...

    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 5:48PM
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Yikes, not sure if this link will work, but I googled spiral stairs to find a different company than Salter-which we used last time, and found that The Home Depot sells some really cool ones too. They are a fraction of the cost of what Salter's were.

Here is a link that might be useful: spiral stairs

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 6:48PM
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Those spiral stairs are so cool. It is the same idea as the alternating tread stairs.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 6:52PM
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coloradomomof5, the link to Home Depot shows a curved "alternating tread" stairway. Look at the treads; each is like a pok chop so that the tread can deeper but at the steepness of a ship's ladder.

There is no particular reason for it to be curved. When it is straight it can be fabricated by a good finish carpenter.

This type of stair is allowed by building codes with specific dimensions. It is also called a Lapeyre stair. Having a railing on both sides is critical (just as it would be on a ship's ladder) so I wouldn't recommend the Home Depot stair; it's just too dangerous.

Upper level flooring not installed.

Here is a link that might be useful: see diagrams at bottom of page

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 7:12PM
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Thanks for those ideas. I have never seen alternating tread stairway before I came on this site. Those definately are a possibility-both for space and $.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 5:14PM
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Most of the stair designs shown in this thread are prohibited by building codes when used to access habitable spaces....particularly the ones shown by macv.

Codes require minimum tread depths, riser heights and widths.

None of the designs shown by macv would be permitted by most codes.

Ladders, ship's ladders, and other contraptions cannot be used to access habitable spaces.

They are fine to access storage areas, just not habitable space.

Only option that does meet most code requirements is the spiral stair shown above.

Little else is acceptable.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 6:55PM
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Just a question - is a play space ala the "pretend" boat that I posted above considered a habitable space? It is reasonable that something like a sleeping area have an easy escape route for the occupant and quick access for rescue personnel. I just wonder if a play space falls more under the "storage area" which is why the inspector allowed the boat or is it because it is an area within a habitable space that does meet code? I'm not trying to be contrary, just curious.

Thanks - Jo Ann

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 7:27PM
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Contrary to the belief of many inexperienced code buffs, not everything allowed to be installed in a residence must be specifically described in the building code.

Here is the basis in the IRC for that statement:

Alternating tread stairs are not specifically allowed or prohibited by the IRC or any residential building code that I am aware of, therefore, such stairs can be allowed as an "alternate" if the local building official can be convinced that the design is reasonable and acceptable.

In the case of a residential alternating tread stair in a jurisdiction that uses the IRC as it's building code, it is very helpful that standards for the design of such stairs are specified in the IBC.

I have asked for approval of many different kinds of compliance alternatives in many states and have never had a request turned down. Of course, most officials ask that the proposal have supporting arguments and evidence and that it bear the stamp of an architect currently registered in the state.

In some jurisdictions, to get an alternating tread stairway approved it is necessary to demonstrate that the loft is not a "habitable space". That is not difficult if the space has a low or sloped ceiling, etc. but that would be the subject of another thread since I don't want to disrupt this thread anymore than it already has been.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:50PM
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I am a building code professional and we routinely reject designs such as macv's all the time.

The International Residential Code has very specific requirements for tread depths, riser heights, tread widths, opening restrictions in treads and guardrails and so on.

Every single one of the designs suggested by macv would be rejected outright without discusssion even if it bore his stamp and seal and claim it was an 'alternate design'.

Alternate designs are permitted under the Code but ONLY as long as such designs can demonstrate that they provide at least equal safety as does the presecriptive code provision.

Macv's designs do not, and in fact pose a greater risk to the safety of someone using them to access habitable space.

They violate just about every safety provision for stairs insisted upon by the Code.

Also, a 'trick' of many designers is to simply 're-label' a
habitable space a 'utility area' or 'storage' when it is not just to get their zany ideas passed the plan reviewers.

Unfortunately for such misguided designers, calling a bedroom a utility room does not change its use or make it so anymore than does dressing up a pig in a party dress and calling it a prom queen make it so as well.

There is nothing in my comments that has dragged this thread off topic.

My comments are aimed directly at the heart of the topic and need to be considered when trying to build such lofts.

In most cases, they will be rejected by the plan reviewers for violating the code no matter what macv says.

Unless the area in use IS a 'storage' or 'utility' area, the ladders and all the other contraptions illustrated are expressly prohibited for use to any area that will be used for living or sleeping, and are therefore illegal in most states.

Check with your local code officials before planning any 'lofts' such as indicated in this thread.

You have been getting absolutely bum advice from most here.

Especially the so-called 'professionals'.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 6:54AM
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"so-called professionals"?

State your opinion but spare us your tiresome childish jealousy of state licensed professionals.

Just because you took a course and passed a multiple choice open-book exam doesn't make you more "professional" than anyone else.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 7:35AM
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OK, someone goes to time out in the tugboat loft & someone goes to time out in the under-the-stairs-fort. ;^P

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 7:51AM
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Would you want an architect or a building inspector to design your house? Don't confuse the role of a design professional with that of a city bureaucrat.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 9:02AM
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Here's one of my shamelessly illegal ladders. What could the building inspector have been thinking to approve it?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 9:25AM
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macv, where did you get that ladder? I've been searching for one for weeks, and it's hard to find one that is the exact right height (8.5'), and to get one custom is really expensive. But, then again, the one you used looks expensive too. At this point, I'm either going to have my FIL build one or save it for phase 2, although I don't know how our kids would feel about the latter.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 11:35AM
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The ladder cost more than you would believe.

The link below is of an alternating tread stair featured by This Old House, an organization known for fostering unsafe buildings designs.

By he way, the "Arke White Karina Stair Kit" from Home Depot that was linked by the OP does not meet the IRC requirements for a regular stair or a spiral stair or for an alternating tread stair in the IBC. Getting it approved for use in a home would be virtually impossible. What's going on there?

The alt. tread stair below is from Australia and the comments next to it describe how it got approved under their building code. It's not surprising; it's the same way they get approved in the US.

Here is a link that might be useful: This Old House loft access

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 12:30PM
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Alternating Tread Stair Building Code Summary:

OSHA has issued a letter stating that alternating tread stairs are safe, meet the intent of the OSHA Act, and no citations will be issued. This letter can be found on OSHA's website of "Standards Interpretation and Compliance Letters". In April 1982, OSHA issued a directive to field compliance officers concerning the use of alternating tread stairs. This directive can also be found on OSHA's website: Instruction STD 1-1.11

Alternating tread stairs are permitted as a means of egress for the following:
1. To mezzanines less than 250 sq ft in area and serving five occupants or less in buildings whose occupancy is F, H or S. (1009.10)
2. To prison guard towers, control rooms or observation decks less than 250 sq ft in area (1009.10)
3. To unoccupied roofs. (1009.12)
4. As one of two means of egress to boiler rooms, incinerator rooms, furnance rooms or refrigeration machinery rooms. (1014.3,4)
5. To stage catwalks, galleries and gridirons leading to a floor or roof (1014.6.1)
Alternating tread stairs are also permitted for access to equipment platforms as a non means of egress (505)

The 2003 IRC is silent on the subject of alternating tread stairs.

Alternating tread stairs are permitted with a minimum projected tread of 8.5 inches to access 250 square foot mezzanines or less, occupied by no more than 5 people. They may also be used to and between staff locations in penal facilities. (Section 1007.8)

Alternating tread stairs are permitted with a minimum projected tread of 5 inches and a minimum tread depth of 8.5 inches as a means of egress from mezzanines, roofs and various areas in penal facilities; exception as a means of egress from a mezzanine area not more than 250 sq. ft. not serving more than 5 occupants, shall have a minimum projected tread of 8.5 inches, minimum tread depth of 10.5 inches. (Section 1014.6.6 and 1027.0)

An October 1987 letter states that the alternating tread stair may be installed when it is used only to attend equipment. (Section 3306 (a))

A November 1988 letter states that alternating tread stairs could serve as a secondary stair for convenience purposes.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 1:02PM
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I wish we had enough space for something that awesome! *sighs*

I was inspired by a house I visited and fell in love with as a little girl. I'm sure it med all code standards. The bedroom lofts were not habitable space--they had low sloping roofs and were accessed by a ladder. By the time I went, the kids had left home, so the rooms were mostly guest rooms, but the kids must have been in paradise when they were in use.

"Against code," the end? REALLY, now? That's one of the silliest things I've ever heard. I hope I never run into an ignorant martinet who styles himself as a code-enforcer in my area. Sheesh.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 1:04PM
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Again, macv's and the other's designs are prohibited from use under the International Residential Code if they access habitable spaces.

I recently prosecuted a local builder/developer over just such an issue and won.

The builder/developer came in with a set of plans for a 6 unit townhouse with a mezzanine level above the 2nd floor that was access by a "library ladder" from the 2nd floor atrium/foyer....Very similar to some of those shown here.

The mezzanine was labeled on the plans as 'storage' and the design approved because this loft was not going to be used as habitable space.

Once the units were built, and the Certificates to Occupy were issued, the builder/developer signed a contract with a local realtor to show the units.

That's where the trouble for the builder/developer began.

I was directed to the realtor's website where for her 'staging' she had arranged this mezzanine area as a habitable area, complete with sofas, living room furniture and day beds.

These were permitted as 3 bedroom townhouses, yet the realtor's description of the units indicated they were 4 bedroom homes...the mezzanine clearly being listed as an additional sleeping space.

The result: Our office revoked the certificates of occupancy and ordered the builder to either replace the 'library ladders' with stairs that met the code, or to stop advertising these units as 'bedrooms' with habitable mezzanines.

The builder/developer objected and filed an appeal with the Appeals Board. The Appeals Board, once seeing the false advertising, concluded as well that the builder/developer had intended all along to use these levels as habitable space and provided false information to our code office. The Appeals Board ordered the builder/developer to do exactly as we had ordered: change the library ladders to code compliant stairs since it was obvious their intended use was as habitable space.

The builder/developer did not stop there, however.

He filed suit, but unfortunately for him, lost again. The judge agreeing that these lofts were indeed intended as habitable space, and that the builder/developer must comply with our order or face daily fines until he did.

The result: The builder/developer had to not only pay for all the costs associated with his challenges, in the end he was forced to install code compliant spiral stairs in order to have a certificate to occupy each townhouse reinstated. About $50,000 more.

Moral of the story: The CODES prevail when it comes to designs acceptable for compliance, not the whims or imagination of designers, builders, developers, realtors or anyone else.

macv's mis-use of the Code is apparant even as he tries to support his erroneous positions by stating from it.

While it is true that 'alternative designs' are allowed, it is NOT TRUE that these alternate designs can violate the prescriptive intent of the Code.

macv's link from the IRC section R104.11 rightly states:

'The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code....."

But macv is forgetting entirely that R104.11 also mandates:

"... provided that any such alternative has been approved. An alternative material, design or method of construction shall be approved where the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method and work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least equivalent of that of the prescribed code."

NONE of the designs illustrated by macv and others provide methods "at least equivalent" to that of the prescriptive code requirement for residential stairs. None.

They are designs that are LESS RESTRICTIVE and therefore unfit to be "approved".

I don't have time to point out macv's flawed use of the other code sections he cites....none of which even pertain at to residential habitable spaces.

That said, I work in an office that employs 32 code inspectors all of whom are former trade professionals.

The collective experience of all these men and women in the building and code inspection professions is many hundreds of years.

I showed macv's photos to my colleagues today, where they were met utter amazamement that someone could be so wrong in his insistance he was right. Few were surprised, however, because we see it all the time from some designers.

Their conclusion: macv's and the other unsafe 'ladder' designs ARE prohibited from being used to access habitable spaces in residential buildings.

So don't be mislead and don't take my word for it.

Talk to your local code professionals. After all, it is THEY who issue your permits and THEY who approve your designs.

And by the way, The Appeals Board that rejected the builder/developer's "ladder"?

Made up entirely of local engineers and local architects....

Not sure why some are dead set on misleading the readers of this thread, but I'll give them cresit where credit is due: they are quite good at it.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 6:27PM
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Joanne asked:

"Just a question - is a play space ala the "pretend" boat that I posted above considered a habitable space? It is reasonable that something like a sleeping area have an easy escape route for the occupant and quick access for rescue personnel. I just wonder if a play space falls more under the "storage area" which is why the inspector allowed the boat or is it because it is an area within a habitable space that does meet code? I'm not trying to be contrary, just curious.
Thanks - Jo Ann"

A 'habitable space' as defined by the IRC is:

"A space in a building for living, sleeping, eating or cooking. Bathroom, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces and similar areas are not considered habitable areas."

There are also other criteria for determining whether or not a space can be considered habitable such as it must be a minimum of 70sf with at least 1 dimension being 7 feet long....It must have headroom at least 5 feet high...It must also meet other criteria for ventilation and illumination and so on.

Part of the confusion regarding this subject is that most here are talking apples and coconuts.

NOTHING in the Code prohibits the use of ladders as shown in the photos above from being used to access non-habitable spaces. What are non-habitable spaces? Re-read the definition above. Again. What are non-habitable spaces?:

Spaces used most commonly for storage or utilitarian use. Attics and crawlspaces are the two most common examples and why stairs to non-habitable attics do not have to meet egress requirement or why pull-down ladders can be used to access these areas.

Bathrooms and closets, toilet rooms and halls are also not 'habitable'. Hypothetically, there is nothing in the codes that would prohibit a 'ladder' from accessing a closet or even a john.

However, in the 'loft' examples above, the question becomes: How will these spaces be used?

If they will be used as permanent areas for sleeping or living, playing or recreation...They are considered 'habitable' and must be accessed using code approved stairways....not 'ladders'.

NONE of the examples via photos above are permitted by codes under any circumstance to access habitable residential spaces. None. PERIOD.

Can they be used to access roofs? Yes. Can they be used to access attics? Yes. Can they be used to access lofts used as storage? Yes. Can they be used to access some portions of commercial buildings? Yes.

Can they be used to access lofts, mezzanines, or other levels in a one or two family house or in a townhouse used for living, sleeping, eating, recreation etc...?



Because habitable spaces in a house must meet strict EGRESS requirements and the ladders shown in the photos above don't comply. None. Not a single one.

Not the ship's ladders. Not the alternating stairs.

Getting back to the cute 'ship' in the child's bedroom for a moment: Is this ship a 'room'? Is this a piece of 'furniture'? Is it a 'space' in a building?

Looks like a built in piece of furniture to me so it does not fall under the 'egress' requirements for sleeping areas.

Library ladders are also allowed to access built in book cases without having to meet riser and tread requirements.
Why? Bookshelves are not 'habitable spaces'.

Can 'ladders' be used to access bunkbeds?



Bunkbeds are FURNITURE not habitable spaces in a building even though they are pieces of furniture used for sleeping in a habitable space in the building.

The ladders illustrated above are absolutely fine, PROVIDED the spaces they access...the lofts, mezzanines or other levels rooms or spaces...are NOT HABITABLE SPACES.


Those arguing otherwise simply have no idea whereof they speak.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 7:22PM
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I never said a ladder could be used to access a habitable space; only a fool would suggest such a thing.

You've once again missed the point of what others with more experience and knowledge have said.

Why is this so difficult for you?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 8:17PM
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What Manhattan42 has missed in the examples I posted is that it is not possible to know from a photograph if the spaces are habitable or if there are other means of egress/access not shown. All he can know is that the local building official approved the design so it is legally installed regardless of his opinions.

For anyone interested in getting an alternate stair design approved by a local building official here are two approaches:

1) Demonstrate that the space has too low a ceiling height and/or too small a floor area to be considered a "habitable space" (IRC R304 & R305). If that is approved you can use any number of devices to access the space. I recommend an alternating tread stair because ladders are too dangerous for frequent adult use or use by children at any time regardless of how cute they are.

2) Demonstrate that an "alternating tread stair" is safer than a spiral stair and is closer in safety features to a straight egress stair.

For approach #1, anyone can read the habitable space requirements and make a reasonable proposal that is most appropriate for their space. There is nothing to prevent you from pretending the space won't be used for sleeping but most building officials can figure that out even though Manhattan42's office missed it in the example he gave and caused a lot of people a lot of unnecessary trouble. This is not a problem for me because I will not put my name on a design that has a permanent ladder regardless of the space accessed but fortunately I have always been able to convince my clients to use an alternating tread stair instead.

For approach #2 it is a good idea to use the alternating tread stair design specified in the IBC for egress from a mezzanine (exception to 1009.10).
Compared to a spiral stair this design has a 1" larger projected tread dimension (at the center line) and the tread dimensions are equal for each foot (the spiral stair tread dimension on the narrow side is approximately half that of the proposed stair which makes a spiral stair considerably more dangerous to descend and nothing could be more critical for stair safety)
The riser height of the proposed stair would be 1 1/2" shorter than the spiral stair (and it could be shortened 1/4" to be the same as a standard egress stair but in my state it is already 1/4" shorter than a standard egress stair). The proposed stair would also have two handrails instead of one for a spiral stair. The proposed stair would also avoid the 4" ball limitation for open risers. Basically, it is not difficult to prove that the proposed alternate stair is safer than a spiral stair if the building official understands the intent of the code and the reasoning behind it. And I've never met one who liked spiral stairs.

Of course, using both of the above approaches at the same time offers you the best chance for approval.

Regardless of what so-called "building code professionals" in other jurisdictions might think, the final determination is up to the judgment of the local building official responsible for reviewing and approving the project design. I've never found one to be unreasonable (except in internet forums) if the design and code information is presented properly in sufficient detail.

It helps to have an architect's stamp on the design proposal but it shouldn't be necessary.

Check with your building department. Some states have special code provisions. Washington has the following provision:
"Stairs or ladders within an individual dwelling unit used to gain access to areas of 200 sq ft or less, and not containing ... a bathroom or kitchen, are exempt from the requirements of this section." (Section 1003.3.3.1, stairways, General) That allows ladders and alternating tread stairs to be used to access small lofts or storage areas.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 12:20PM
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Last time I ordered spiral stairs, I made sure I had the local code in hand before I ordered them. I'll be sure to make a call to regional to verify the types of ladders/stairs they would approve. Thanks again for all the wonderful ideas for the loft.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 5:35PM
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Don't be an idiot, manhattan42. A child's loft is perfectly allowable "nonhabitable space". It CANNOT count as another room, which is what the developer was trying to do, but it can certainly be a part of an existing room.

Thousands of children's rooms with sleeping lofts and thousands of libraries with mezzanines have been approved for construction all over the US. In neither place are the low-roofed areas called separate rooms, nor are they intended to function as such. Throw a bench on the mezzanine of a library with low ceiling height, and the library ladder does not suddenly become disallowed as access because it's now "habitable space"--especially if the library mezzanine in question is all of 4' wide.

Take a look at any book on creative kids' spaces or libraries for a glimpse of the many fabulous things that are allowed with lofts.

I'm sorry you got scared away from sensible and perfectly allowable options, coloradomomof5.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 10:31PM
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Again, consult your local code officials, not some hair-brained designers, before paying for designs that will ultimately be prohibited.

Lofts used by children as play areas ARE habitable spaces and MUST be accessed using conventional stairs. Period.

Alternating stairs are prohibited by Code from being used as egress stairs to habitable spaces in residential structures. Period.

Don't know what is so hard for some to understand, except that perhaps they can't actually read or understand Codes or think the world exists in cyberspace where anyone can say anything...and be believed....

Or that it doesn't matter to them, because they get paid to re-draw designs over and over...whether they get approved by the Code Officials or not...

And then they can blame the Code Official for their own incompetance.

That's why the Codes and Code Enforcement agencies exist:

To protect the public from unscrupulous designers and builders.....and the guarantee the public safety.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 7:39AM
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QUOTE: "Alternating stairs are prohibited by Code from being used as egress stairs to habitable spaces in residential structures. Period."

To enforce the code you must first understand it. The IRC is "prescriptive", i.e., design elements described in the code are acceptable but design elements not described are not automatically considered "prohibited". The intent of the code to avoid prohibiting creative design ideas couldn't be more clear in Section R104.11.

A building official can disapprove an alternate but cannot deny anyone the right to submit one. Don't prevent others from doing what you lack the skill and talent to do. Your rude and unfair characterizations of building designers is evidence of a deep seated sense of inferiority. Grow up and get over it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 8:56AM
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manhatten, you are using habitable to your advantage when you choose to, and ignoring it when you want to. If the room by code is non-habitable, then a ladder can access it no matter what its purpose may be...

see link:

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 11:18AM
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Wow! I just had to re-open this old thread because of the passionate level of debate between manhattan42 and macv about codes and stairs. FWIW I think I am in a situation to add something meaningful.

I have a set of alternating tread stairs that was permitted back in 2006. They're in an accessory dwelling unit on my property. Getting them permitted was a major struggle at the time, but perhaps it was worth it because it showed me the tension between the purpose of codes and the occasionally bizarre application of codes by city officials.

The general intention of codes is to provide safety. I'm a believer in this! I've seen enough dangerous illegal work to believe that in general, following codes is a good idea, whether or not a project is going through the permit process. For example, there are plenty of 'bedrooms' out there without egress in case of fire. This is bad.

But codes and safety are not always the same thing.

City officials may hew to the letter of the code more closely than the spirit of safety. In my situation, when the drawing of the alternating tread stair was rejected, the plans examiner 'helpfully' suggested replacing it with a moveable ladder... since moveable ladders aren't regulated by codes, he would have no problem approving it!

But even more substantially, there simply isn't evidence that some things in codes actually provide a measure of safety. E.g. Is there a study comparing injury rates on alternating tread stairs and regular code stairs? I looked for one back in 2006 and found none... alternating tread stairs are simply too rare. If one exists now I would like to know about it.

In the absence of formal evidence, people fall back on tradition and anecdote. 'These are the ways stairs have always been built,' 'People in Japan use ladders all the time,' 'My grandmother broke her hip going to her basement,' 'Those stairs are weird so they must be death traps,' etc.

The general tendency is to equate 'unusual' with 'dangerous' -- which is not logical.

Making it even harder to pre-judge safety is the fact that using something like a stair or ladder is clearly a learned activity. If I came from a universe where alternating tread stairs were the norm, then of course on the first try, a code stair would look and feel weird to me. I'd probably trip. But that doesn't mean the code stair is badly conceived.

The upshot: whether you are getting a permit or not, you need to consider actual safety and not just codes. For example, in a loft: Is there a reasonable and speedy way to escape in a fire? Is there a way to get STUFF up and down without endangering the user? (this is quite significant in my opinion.. and one disadvantage of ladders) Looking beyond the current user -- how will this feature be used in the future? And so on.

If you consider actual safety you will be less paralyzed by codes... though that doesn't mean getting your project approved will be any easier.... :)

Hope that helps!

Here is a link that might be useful: my blog

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 6:19PM
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