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?

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worthy

NO.

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
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mrspete

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
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stblgt

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
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kirkhall

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
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sombreuil_mongrel

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.
Casey

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 5:48PM
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bird_lover6

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
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renovator8

The most common code requirement is:

SECTION R312 GUARDS

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
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tombrooklyn

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
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renovator8

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
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