Does your house have a step up into the front door?

folkvictorianDecember 22, 2011

Our builders have surprised me with our new front and back door stoops. The concrete was poured so that you have to step up to get into the house. That is, there's no platform at the same level as the the door; when you leave the house you go through the door and immediately step down to reach the stoop and then walk forward a step or two and step down again. I can't even believe that building codes allow this, but apparently they do.

What does your house have? I can't imagine reminding every single visitor that they have to step down as they go outside and it seems weird that when someone comes to our door I'll tower over them when I open it. My husband asked his coworkers and one, with the newest house, says his is built the same way as ours. We'll meet with the builder tomorrow but I wanted some input. I realize different locations have different codes, too.

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Ours will have a step, because our basement will be 3 ft above ground on 3 sides to allow for windows on all walls. Could you possibly have the landing at the top step larger so you will not be looking down and there will not be a step down immediately from the front door?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 4:48PM
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Here is what I was thinking. I don't know how your front door is set up, and you will obviously have to change this around a bit to work.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 4:52PM
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How much of an immediate step down are you talking about? The bottom edge of our front door of our new home sits about an inch and a half above the porch level. We had a similar step-down in our old house that was a tract home built in the mid-60s. I think you need a little bit of a rise so that rain can't flow in.

But, if you're talking a FULL step down (like 6 or 7 inches), I definitely would NOT want that and I don't think it's "standard". Certainly not around this part of the country anyway.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 5:04PM
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We have a step and I never thought it was strange. I think every house I've lived in has had a step into the house.

After reading your post I looked at houzz and there are plenty of examples of both.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 5:53PM
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We are at the roof rafter phase of a build. Our builder recommended a single step up for the front entry and again from the garage into the house to allow easier cleaning (hosing down) of the front porch and garage. NOTE: he made inquiry with us BEFORE taking the action. We agreed with the recommendation.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 6:06PM
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Our floorplate is about as low to the ground as you can go. It looks much like pps7 posted. About three inches up to the bluestone stoop and another couple inches over the threshold of the entry door.

You should not have to step up more than that. It sounds as though they've poured your stoops too low.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 6:29PM
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I can't even believe that building codes allow this, but apparently they do

I can't even believe I can't find a Code regulation that requires a minimum step-up. The step up is common sense as it impedes the flow of water and snow into the home.

I'm just one of those horrid builders that always has a minimum 4" step-up for just that reason. I'm not alone either. Just check out the 51 million plus pics in the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Front Porches

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 6:38PM
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While it isn't common, Worthy I think you are confused.

A door above grade is common but not required. But a step up from the porch is a little strange.

Now if the porch isn't covered and it is a snow zone that makes a lot of sense. We don't get much snow but there is one house that lived in that didn't have a covered porch and there was about a 4 inch step up. But I suspect most porches in snow areas are covered. Of course, a cover doesn't prevent a problem but it makes it better.

I think there are codes that require an elevation change from an enclosed garage. But it must be new because my last house had nothing.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 7:42PM
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But a step up from the porch is a little strange.

Not judging from the millions of pictures of porches I linked to.

Worthy I think you are confused.

Is this mrs. worthy?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 8:06PM
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I'll take a photo of it tomorrow and post it so it's clear what we've got. I think the step will be about 7 or 8 inches.

Pps7, do you warn everyone as they leave your house that they need to step down? I feel like it's such an unusual thing that I'd want to warn people so they don't fall flat on their face. :)

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 8:36PM
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I don't think OP was complaining about the door being "above grade." If I understood OP correctly, they have a stoop (a/k/a porch) that is above grade and then their door is raised above the level of the porch by another full step. Since a covered porch raised above grade already serves the purpose of impeding water and snow from entering the house, raising the door above the level of the porch doesn't seem to serve much purpose - except maybe to make it easier to hose off the porch.

With respect Worthy, some of the millions of pictures you linked to do show a door raised above the level of the porch by a fair amount. Eg, this one:,r:16,s:0

But others just as clearly show a door that seems to be set level or nearly level with the porch. Eg., this one:,r:13,s:63

And I don't think keeping the door level with the porch is merely a new-fangled idea since one of the pictures you linked to is this lovely old front porch image:,r:2,s:63

We wanted our house to be handicap accessible and ran a sloped sidewalk from our driveway up to our porch so that one would not have to climb the porch steps. A step up from porch level into the house would have defeated the whole accessibility purpose.

And, obviously OP is familiar with homes where there is no step-up from porch to door. Otherwise I doubt OP would have ever consciously noticed that there was a step up in this case. Maybe having a step up from the porch level is a regional thing. Common in some parts of the country and not in others?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 9:14PM
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I remember having this same conversation with our builder and my husband when we poured our front porch. Our front porch is also raised several steps up. When exiting the front door, it looks like pps7's door with a small step down to the porch level.

I also was not pleased with this and complained at the time. However, in speaking with the builder, my husband and my father (a structural engineer), I was told that if they poured the concrete porch exactly level with the finished main floor, it would cause the concrete to be against the sill plate. There was concern as to how to weather proof the sill plate properly with it directly adjacent to the "wet" concrete.

I don't remember all the specifics that were given to me at the time, but they were all concerned with the potential for the pressure treated sill plate to rot over time. Instead, with the step down, the concrete porch is next to the concrete foundation, with no weather proofing concerns.

At the time, they told be they could put in rubber membranes and do their best to protect the sill plate, but it would always be a weak spot. Our porch is also 30 feet long across the entire front facade of the house. If we were talking about a 6 foot wide portion against the sill plate, they would not have fought the issue as strongly, but because of the amount of length involved, they were more adamant about keeping the concrete away from the wood.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 10:24PM
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Nope, I don't warn people and no one has fallen flat on their face so far.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 10:46PM
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But Mr. Worthy, most of those pics did not have a significant step up from the porch. Signed, Ms Worthy.

Amazing how a seemingly small thing can have so many different opinions from builders. We have a 15 ft wide porch and it is level with our floor joists. There is a door jamb and that is all.

For people that have a step up - what is the material below the door jamp? Brick/siding?

As far as the water issue, our floor trusses are at least 12 inches (I can't remember if they are 16). So do you have 2 steps to get in front door, because that is what you would need to get the wet concrete off of the floor system?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 7:44AM
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2009 IRC says:

R311.3.1 Floor elevations at the required egress doors. Landings or floors at the required egress door shall not be more than 11/2 inches (38 mm) lower than the top of the threshold.

Exception: The exterior landing or floor shall not be more than 7 3/4 inches (196 mm) below the top of the threshold provided the door does not swing over the landing or floor.

A step is for weather protection and is usually no more than 4 inches even in northern climates. Even when the entrance is covered the step is advisable to avoid wind driven rain from entering the house. There have been several posts on the GW about water being blown under a door that had no step.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 9:41AM
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The other part of that code of Renovator's, at least in our city, is that there must be a LANDING of at least 3x3' outside the door. So, although there is a step down, people walking out your door can see the landing and know that it is lower than the floor of your house.

I questioned ours when we put our addition on the back. Our front door's landing is even with the floor joists. But, when they put in our french doors in the back, the landing/stairs are about 3 inches lower. I was worried about it, but no body has fallen down the step. It is very natural to us now. If it were just a thin step, it would be a problem, but with the depth of a 3' landing, the eye tells the feet where to go.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 11:15AM
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Folkvictorian -- I wouldn't accept a 'climb in' entry. Sounds like they poured the stoops too low and are trying to wiggle out of tearing out the cement to re-do the stoops. If the floorplate of the house is much higher than the ground, any necessary steps need to be from the ground ONTO the stoop, not from the stoop INTO the house.

(I have only seen this defect once.)

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 11:23AM
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Commercial buildings are required by code to NOT have a step up. I prefer not to have a step going into the front door of homes for all the reasons that Commercial do.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 7:40PM
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Well, it's taken me a while to get back here, but we did meet with the builder. It's just as others have said -- the step is to keep rain and snow from entering the house. Our builder has been outstanding so far, and I absolutely believe that he's not "trying to get away with something" or whatever. My husband is a structural engineer, and the step didn't bother him.

I'll get used to it, obviously, and I think my main concern is my elderly mother. We intentionally asked for as few steps into the front and back doors as possible, but the foundation is taller than we expected. On the other hand, our views of the valley are astonishing, and made better because of the foundation height.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 6:46PM
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"Commercial buildings are required by code to NOT have a step up."

It is a good thing commercial buildings are NOT th esame as residential.

"I prefer not to have a step going into the front door of homes for all the reasons that Commercial do."
It is mostly a handicapped access issue, and NOT a problem for regular residential construction (thank goodness so far).

I cannot recall a house i have lived in that did not have at least a partial step up from the front porch area.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 7:46PM
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