Bouncy Open-under Staircase

NJHMJune 28, 2012

My framer ordered and had installed 3 sets of staircases. Two sets of staircases are supported below with studs while the one which goes from the 2nd to the 3rd floor is not since there is no way to support it. So the staircase is attached to the exterior wall on one side and floats on the other side. We noticed that the stairs are bouncing midway. My framer is MIA now. The staircase installer came by and said that there is nothing much we can do and one option would have been to install a custom-made L-shaped iron, bolted to the wall and running across the stairs (like a L-bracket).

I would appreciate it if someone can shed some light on how to fix the problem. We had to put off drywalling due to this. Attached is a picture of the stairs.

Thank you.

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NJHM

Picture 2

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:25AM
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NJHM

Picture 3

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:26AM
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aidan_m

That "framing" doesn't look right. The guy must not know how to cut a staircase. No stringers, everything looks scabbed together. Ask your building inspector to inspect the "stringers" again. If you aren't confident in his expertise, ask for a special structural inspector to come out.

I would not accept a bouncy staircase

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:18AM
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brickeyee

"The staircase installer came by and said that there is nothing much we can do and one option would have been to install a custom-made L-shaped iron, bolted to the wall and running across the stairs (like a L-bracket). "

A rather poor solution to inadequate stingers.

You would do better to add some steel to the stringers running the length of the stairs.

It sounds like someone ordered the wrong stairs.

Stair manufactures know very well how big to make stringers when the stairs must be free spanning.
I bet he ordered the same stairs for all three runs.

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

Robert J. Hanlon, Known as �Hanlon�s Razor�

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 4:13PM
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NJHM

Aidan and Brickeye,

Thank you for taking time to respond.

Our structural engineer stopped by at short notice this afternoon and he said that the stringers are under-sized and recommended running a metal angle support along the full length of the stringers (same conclusion that you both came to). Currently there are 2 stringers in place for this set of stairs (ripped lvls) 3-1/2" x 1-1/2" each. I don't know why they ripped them to 3-1/2" when they should have been a little longer which would have been stronger.

I am attaching a better picture. Also it appears that the lvls are not supported very well at the bottom.

My engineer said he will think about it tonight about any alternative retrofit design, but that was his immediate reaction.

The staircase guy when he stopped by yesterday, shimmed a gap that was there between the upper landing and stairs and I have to get my DH to walk on them to see if it helps a bit (didn't get a chance so far).

My framer finally got in touch and said that a bit of bounce will be there for open-under stairs.

The other 2 sets of stairs have knee-walls supporting them for around a 3rd of the way. These stairs are directly sitting on a flat 2x4 running like a stringer and the knee wall below it.

Thank you.
NJHM

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:59PM
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NJHM

Brickeyee/Aidan,

This is a picture of one of the other staircases which has knee-wall support for a portion with 40" unsupported. Please give me your opinion on whether the staircase is constructed correctly. There are 2 pine stringers on either side. The 2x4s running the length of the stairs are nailers for sheetrock which were installed by our framer subsequently.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 6:47PM
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Greg__R

"I bet he ordered the same stairs for all three runs."

Either that or the staircase for the free span was installed in the wrong location.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 4:59PM
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NJHM

Greg_R,

This free spanning staircase is much narrower than my other set of stairs, so these are the stairs that were ordered for this location.

I've been staring at those staircases for the past few days. My conclusion at this point is that this is the way this installer has been building his staircases (supposedly for the past 60 years that they claim to be in business)--VERY SHODDILY. Structurally this staircase is very unsound. There is no support at all under the stringer at the lower end. At the upper end, the stringer has no ledger behind the stringer to brace it. And the stringer is inadequate with no throat at all on the wall side. I began looking at staircase building websites and technical specs from boise cascade and trus-joist and my staircases don't resemble the general design theme at all.

When we first complained, the staircase installer stopped by, gave me an attitude, shimmed a bit at the upper end and ignored us after that. He only responded after receiving our structural engineer's report about faulty design/installation. They continued to suggest using two L-shaped metal braces bolted to the walls running across the staircase and bolted to the free-span stringer. Our engineer said that will not work. So the installer said that they will do whatever the engineer designs. There are way too many problems with that set of stairs that I feel that they should be redesigned correctly instead of applying band-aids to it. I will post more pictures this evening and an update when the situation changes.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 10:38AM
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aidan_m

Those stairs look like they were built in a chinese cabinet shop.

The open side stringer needs a continuous 2x12 added for support, running the entire length.

The structural connections should be reinforced with metal straps or Simpson connectors.

Structural members are better supported when they bear directly on top of another. A ledger nailed to the side of framing is not good support.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 11:07PM
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NJHM

Sorry for the delay in posting pictures.

The stringers attached to the upper landing (with nothing to brace against...). The red arrow indicates where the staircase installer shimmed when he came after the initial complaint.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 11:41PM
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NJHM

The stringers nailed to the lower landing. The pine stringer is sitting on a 1-inch deep notch in the 4x4 post and the 2 lvls are nailed to the landing in a shoddy fashion. The 4x4 post is sitting on "nothing" underneath it (see picture). As a demo when the staircase installer's foreman came to the house, I had my son go up the staircase. This post was swinging like a pendulum. Anyway, the foreman's first comment when he came to the house was "Let's not go into why these stairs were built this way, but talk about how to fix the problem". So what exactly was he trying to say???

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 11:51PM
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millworkman

"So what exactly was he trying to say???" He is trying to say that the stairs are built completely wrong and installed incorrectly as well and he really does not want to rebuild them correctly but instead add more bandaids. If I were you I would make him rip them out rebuild them correctly and then install them properly. You can't be certain but the building inspector may not even pass the stairs as currently installed even with bandaids and if he will not pass them you will not get a CO!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 8:33AM
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NJHM

Staircase installer called an hour ago this morning and said that this is the way he builds stairs for multi-million dollar homes. He is only offering the L-shaped brackets and nothing more, he disagrees with the structural engineer and any solution other than the L-brackets should be at our own cost. He blames the problem on framing and that the bounce is because of the framing and not his staircase.

Totally stumped.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 9:06AM
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millworkman

Have you paid him yet?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 11:32AM
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NJHM

I paid 67% so far.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 3:08PM
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NJHM

Hi,

Thank you for all your help. I don't know what I would have done without you guys.

After the structural engineer's report and a battle, the staircase installer retrofitted the stairs with a metal beam running alongside the stringer to prevent the collapse of stairs. It was a compromise of sorts from our end because I really wanted those stairs to be removed and new ones put it. But my husband has had it with the house construction and gave up on the fight (He just wanted to "move on"). The beam was designed at 13.25 lbs per foot (12 ft span) so it was not too heavy on the structure of the house.

It also came to our attention that the legal headroom clearance (6'8") was not met on another set of stairs. That is also being corrected.

NJHM.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:16AM
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millworkman

Excellent NJHM, glad we could help and very glad for you it all is working out!!!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 9:46AM
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