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Old 12-15-2013, 08:54 AM   #1
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Do I have to build to code?


For starters, MOST if not everything I've fixed or built as a DIYer was/is up to code. But this next project, I'm not too sure about.

I'm putting in a small set of outside stairs to access my basement. Limited room. No matter how I tweak the design, I will be about 1 inch too narrow on my stair width.

Now, this in my home. I plan on retiring here.

What ramifications would there be if it's not up to code? I'm not pulling a permit.

When is it appropriate to cheat code for your own house? Sure, you don't cut corners that could start a fire, etc…But having my stairs 30 1/2 inch wide compared to 31 1/2 inch wide is different.

Advice?

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Old 12-15-2013, 09:02 AM   #2
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Do I have to build to code?


I don't think anyone reputable will tell you to cheat code(law). You're better off posting pictures and asking for ideas. Odds are one of the stairmasters has run into a similar situation before.

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Old 12-15-2013, 09:10 AM   #3
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Do I have to build to code?


Yeah, good idea. Will post a pic.
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Old 12-15-2013, 09:14 AM   #4
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Do I have to build to code?


Most well informed DIY'ers wind up building over the code standards as a standard.

Code is there to protect the homeowner so the spirit of it should be observed.
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Old 12-15-2013, 09:26 AM   #5
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Do I have to build to code?


Ok, here it is.



I'm trying to build stairs out of this area.

width - 63 1/2"
length - 144"
Floor to finished floor requirement for stairs - 104"

I could do a spiral up to code, but the 5' dimension would cover nearly half of the window.

Again, I could do do sets of stairs. Stairs would go up about 30 inches on wall under window away from door, come to a landing, turn and go back up to the finished floor.

this would give me a 31 1/2" width which is code for residential, but when you add a hand rail, it would encroach on the 31 1/2", causing the width between wall and handrail to be less than that.

Thoughts? Maybe I should change my title on this post.
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Old 12-15-2013, 09:53 AM   #6
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Do I have to build to code?


1" ? just put the stairs in and be done with it. the only issue i see is if/when you have to get something large down there. make the handrail easily detachable for when that occasion arises.
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Old 12-15-2013, 10:28 AM   #7
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Do I have to build to code?


Was there not a set of stairs there before? Wouldn't it be grandfathered to replace them with like stairs?
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Old 12-15-2013, 10:31 AM   #8
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Do I have to build to code?


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Was there not a set of stairs there before? Wouldn't it be grandfathered to replace them with like stairs?
Great question.

There was an emergency egress ladder attached to the side of the wall. No stairs. Wanted the area to be more useful than just an escape well.
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Old 12-15-2013, 12:53 PM   #9
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Do I have to build to code?


Egress ladder? Are you saying this was previously just a well with a ladder to get out of it? Was that supposed to be the code-required egress method for the basement? I'm not very familiar with egress requirements other than for windows, but don't think that would've been legal to start with. Even circular stairs don't satisfy egress requirements in some jurisdictions.
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Old 12-15-2013, 01:05 PM   #10
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Egress ladder? Are you saying this was previously just a well with a ladder to get out of it? Was that supposed to be the code-required egress method for the basement? I'm not very familiar with egress requirements other than for windows, but don't think that would've been legal to start with. Even circular stairs don't satisfy egress requirements in some jurisdictions.
The code for basement egress is a ladder from a window well. I didn't build the house but assume the ladder attached to this "oversized" window well was suffice. Why wouldn't it be? This is essentially a window well but the previous owner went one step further and put in a door.

I think if this was the ONLY means access to the living basement, it would need something other than just a ladder, but the basement is accessed through the house with stairs.
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Old 12-15-2013, 01:51 PM   #11
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Do I have to build to code?


Talk to your AHJ, the building inspector. Run it by him/her. You don't have to indicate that you're going to do this just looking for possible ideas.

Unpermitted, especially with stairs, if someone ever got hurt you've opened up a big can of worms.
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Old 12-15-2013, 01:54 PM   #12
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Do I have to build to code?


Quote:
Originally Posted by md2lgyk View Post
Egress ladder? Are you saying this was previously just a well with a ladder to get out of it? Was that supposed to be the code-required egress method for the basement? I'm not very familiar with egress requirements other than for windows, but don't think that would've been legal to start with. Even circular stairs don't satisfy egress requirements in some jurisdictions.
Perfectly legal form of egress here.

Here in WI, our codes for egress are far more lax than those for primary entrances/exits in residential properties. I'm fairly confident you could get away with your stair plan here in WI...........


From the IRC:

R310.2.1 Ladder and steps. Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position. Ladders or steps required by this section shall not be required to comply with Sections R311.5 and R311.6. Ladders or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches (305 mm), shall project at least 3 inches (76 mm) from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches (457 mm) on center vertically for the full height of the window well.

Last edited by jomama45; 12-16-2013 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 12-15-2013, 02:56 PM   #13
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Do I have to build to code?


Quote:
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Perfectly legal form of egress here.

Here in WI, are codes for egress are far more lax than those for primary entrances/exits in residential properties. I'm fairly confident you could get away with your stair plan here in WI...........


From the IRC:

R310.2.1 Ladder and steps. Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position. Ladders or steps required by this section shall not be required to comply with Sections R311.5 and R311.6. Ladders or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches (305 mm), shall project at least 3 inches (76 mm) from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches (457 mm) on center vertically for the full height of the window well.
That's interesting. With this info, I wonder if the stairs could comply with the above ladder/rung dimensions. If the steps ARE NOT REQUIRED to comply with the R311.5-.6, then what are they to comply with?

The inspector could always say my well is so big, it's not considered a window well and therefore would need to comply with 311.5. I guess I need to ask. I would hate to build it, invest the money to only find out it would pass inspection.
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Old 12-15-2013, 03:04 PM   #14
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Do I have to build to code?


Only one way to find out, ask.
If I was him I'd let it fly.
Better to have a safer, easer means of egress then a ladder.
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Old 12-15-2013, 03:09 PM   #15
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Do I have to build to code?


I would certainly phrase it to the AHJ as a means of egress and quote R310.2.1 and verify your plans apply.

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