Securing open staircase - install risers?

yvesgOctober 12, 2008


We have an open staircase (no riser) and with our little girl on the verge of crawling, we would like to secure the stairs (this would of course be in addition to having a gate)

How hard is it to install risers? Have you seem other approaches to secure such stairs without installing risers (we like the open feel of our stairs and would like to keep it that way as long as it does not compromise safety).


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Typical code says that the balustrade shouldn't allow a ball larger than 4" through. So extending that logic, a bar across the mid-point of where a riser would sit would satisfy that need. Do you have traditional stringers to attach to? A rod with 'ears' bent at the end would be simple. If you don't have stringers, maybe a welder could fabricate a wide H that would be screwed to the back of the lower tread and screwed to the underside of the upper tread.

Or you could just slap a bit of nice 1/2" plywood onto the back of the lower tread and secure it with a small ledger on the underside of the upper tread. Simple (and easily removed afterwards), but not so aesthetically pleasing.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 3:31PM
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What about stair runner (carpet) rods? Just attach them on the vertical riser rather than the tread? Do you have anything on the back of the tread (between the treads) to screw into, or are the treads "suspended"? A picture would help...

    Bookmark   October 14, 2008 at 9:32AM
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This post made me laugh. I remember 30+ years ago, my sister had a condo with open stairway and my nephew (not her son) got his head stuck between steps. It took two of us lifting and pushing to get him out. He later turned out to be an engineer (no surprise there!)

Part of the difficulty will be
- Are the treads carpeted?
- How visible is the underside of the steps?
- Do you plan to remove them in the future?

I'd probably cut and finish plywood panels and use pocket screws to attach them to the upper riser and screw into the back side of the lower riser. While not the most esthetic, you can get screw covers for both styles, easily remove them and only have a few screw holes to putty in when and if you want to remove them.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2008 at 12:33PM
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We are going through the same situation in our home. Just last week, my 2 year old son (who has never shown an interest in the gap between the steps) somehow fell through two stairs on our upper-level staircase and landed on the parallel staircase directly below and tumbled the rest of the way to the bottom. I finally reached him at the bottom of the basement staircase. We were air-lifted to the nearest pediatric ER, and thankfully survived with only a concussion (what a miracle). I mention this not to alarm you, but just to say that I was in your situation about 2 years ago (debating on how/if to baby-proof the open staircase). My husband and I had never come up with a satisfactory solution and were falsely content after our son seemed to "master" the steps with no apparent issues. We were so wrong and I would never have forgiven myself if anything worse had happened. I don't know how we will do it, but safety (not attractiveness) is the number one priority. We are taking care of it this weekend. Please learn from my family's mistake and fix it NOW, not later! Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 7:36PM
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