Can a Staircase Be Legally Built Without a Guardrail?

tombrooklynNovember 15, 2013

In a residential building jurisdiction in the United States that follows the typical, common building code, can a staircase between floors with a wall on only one side with no attached handrail, and with no guardrail on the side open to a room, be legally built or installed?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Though I lived in a house that had exactly that for seven years. What did I know about Codes?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 12:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Even if it's code, I don't think it's a smart idea. It's just asking for an accident.

However, as I say that, I'm thinking that in our old house we had a very low front porch with only two steps to the ground . . . and we had no handrails on that. So it might be that you need a handrail only when you reach X number of steps or X amount of height. That probably doesn't matter to your purpose.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 2:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i thought if you had 3 or more steps a railing of some sort was then needed. i could be incorrect, but that's what i remember hearing.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 3:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You could do a non-conventional barricade if you are worried about aesthetics... something like plexiglass (think the clear deck barricade for view decks); or cable railing; or...

Otherwise, I think it would have to be an attic ladder to have no railing.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 3:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It could be built "legally" as a display or exercise, but the building could not be occupied or used, because inspection would deem it unsuitable and a violation.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 5:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Even if you manage to build something like that, I would imagine that you might have trouble with homeowner's insurance.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 7:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The most common code requirement is:


R312.1 Where required.
Guards shall be located along open-sided walking surfaces, including stairs, ramps and landings, that are located more than 30 inches measured vertically to the floor or grade below at any point within 36 inches horizontally to the edge of the open side. Insect screening shall not be considered as a guard.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 11:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know of a couple of instances where people have (or have had) built a staircase without a railing. In both cases they were from the first floor to a sleeping loft; so there were intended for use by the homeowners but not guests. In one case, they were a working artist; in the other, they were adventurous, adrenaline junky types (rock climbers.)

I suppose they built it themselves. If a contractor built it, and somebody fell off of it, I wonder if the contractor would have any liability if somebody fell off and got hurt? In either event, I suppose they didn't pull a permit for it. Is it normally required to get a building permit to build or replace a staircase?

I also wonder if a homeowners insurer would take issue with covering any injury that resulted from a fall off those stairs?

This post was edited by tombrooklyn on Sun, Nov 17, 13 at 14:19

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 1:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The property owner would be responsible to the injured party if the work was finished. The insurance company might deny the claim if the work was not code compliant. The lack of the permit would indicate an intent to avoid following reasonable safety precautions and could be considered negligence.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 3:40PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Smaller 2nd story possible in two story home?
My husband and I are in the beginning stages of figuring...
Lauren McLellan
Please critique plan.
Please critique plan. Thank you!
Considering buying an odd lot
We've been planning with the assumption that we'd build...
homeowner's association
totally OT, but... would you, did you, or will you be...
Raised basement
For a level lot, a basement is usually underground....
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™