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-   -   Question about stairwell width (http://www.diychatroom.com/f19/question-about-stairwell-width-27038/)

jonblack 09-19-2008 01:30 AM

Question about stairwell width
 
Hello all. This is my first post here. I am here seeking guidance and advice.

I have been framing the inside of a free standing metal building. This will be used as a residence. I laid the framing for a stairwell out at 36" wide. I made one important mistake. I did not account for the finished wall width. Now that the sheetrock has been installed the free span inside the stairwell is only 35".

My questions pertain to the inspection of this stairwell. I understand this would not meet the minimum requirement of 36" wide. Are inspectors allowed to give any leniency for an infraction such as this? Does this stairwell being 1" too narrow pose any serious problems, other than the fact it does not meet code?

If I were to build a code-compliant set of stairs elsewhere in the building, say from the garage/workshop leading into living the living quarters, would I be allowed to keep the infringing stairs in place?

I have really looked into methods of altering the width of the stairwell, and I don't see how I can readily widen it to meet code.

Any insight would be appreciated. I know I am going to hear something that I would rather not, but...hey, I made my stairs too narrow!

Thanks in advance
jonblack

BuiltByMAC 09-19-2008 08:35 AM

Based on the '06 IRC, if you have one set of stairs that meet code (clear width of 36"), you may have other staircases (that serve that same area) that are narrower (but not narrower than 30").

Regarding your inspector's leniency, I think that's pretty much up to him/her, yes? Give 'em a call, ask 'em what they think...

Mac

jonblack 09-19-2008 09:23 AM

Thanks for your reply Mac. That is pretty good news.

I should have prefaced my post by saying that we are building in a rural area. We do not have to obtain building permits and don't have inspections, with the exception of waste management.

I got a construction loan from the bank, which required I get a take out letter from a mortgage company. My concern is when I get the house inspected in order to get a mortgage, that the inspector will object to the stairwell only being 35".

Although it is possible, it would be a major undertaking to widen the stairs by 1". I would have to double up a 35' load bearing wall by adding sister truss and additional framing to hold the sister truss. This wall is 20' high in some places. I will also have to remove the left-hand wall of the stairwell. Of course I would have to move the wall upstairs that forms upper stairwell wall. I think I could yield 2" maximum by doing all of this.

Like I said, this would not be impossible, just a lot of time, expense, and labor to gain the needed 1". If I could simply add another set of stairs from the garage/workshop area, I would rather do that.

In summary, I don't have to deal with an actual building inspector. I only have to satisfy whatever level of inspection that takes place in order to close the mortgage process on a new construction home.

Thanks in advance for any input you all have to offer.

jonblack

jonblack 09-19-2008 08:43 PM

One more bit of information. My state adopted the 2003 IRC and IBC.

jonblack

Termite 09-19-2008 09:07 PM

The 2003 IRC requires a 36" width. I was unaware of any language in the '06 that would allow reduced clearance on a secondary stairway, so I'll have to check that out when I get back to work! There is no language to that effect in the '03.

Honestly, most inspectors won't catch it if it is only an inch off. Some will, most won't. Personally, I don't get fussy about it unless it is noticeably narrow. To my knowledge, the only reason that it is in the code is to ease the job of getting furniture down the stairs. Unlike the commercial code, stairway width in a home isn't based on occupant load and egress.

Food for thought, and a basis for friendly discussion if they do in fact flag it as an issue (it is my logic and won't necessarily get you off the hook)...

Handrails are permitted to encroach 4-1/2" into the width of the stair. One handrail can reduce the stairway's width to 31-1/2", two handrails can reduce the width to 27". The width of the treads and walls must still be 36". What I'm trying to show is that the required width is for furniture, not hurried escape from the building or accessibility. A 27" width is very, very narrow, and I personally don't see much more hazard between that and a 1" reduction and tread width.

I tend to be a bit of a boy scout as an inspector, and don't let much slide, but I think I'd have to use my blinders on this situation.

That being said, the best advice is to get another inch of width. Or perhaps get in touch with the inspector that will be looking at it to get his opinion.

jonblack 09-19-2008 09:59 PM

Thank you sir for your reply. I was hoping you would chime in. I have been lurking here on and off for the past few weeks. I noticed you posted replies on a lot of issues, and that you were sort of a stickler. I mean that in a respectful way. Maybe I should have said "perfectionist!"

What I am looking for is a worst case scenario kind of logic. I know worst case is add an inch, but to me, adding another set of stairs would be easier and cheaper, especially if I could add them in the workshop/garage area. I'm not sure if that will fly, hopefully it will if the 35" stairs aren't accepted.

I am familiar with all the old addages regarding doing stuff right. I'm just knee-deep in a mental muck and weighing my options against each other.

I called a buddy of mine today who is a GC and does a lot of work in schools and for the military. He pretty much said the same thing. He didn't see a big issue with it being 1" too narrow and said most mortgage inspectors would not notice it.

I don't have a clue who would be inspecting the dwelling once it is complete, which makes calling an inspector difficult.

I'm still all ears, and really appreciate the input.

Thanks a lot
jonblack

Termite 09-19-2008 10:57 PM

The code your area is under doesn't allow a non-compliant set of stairs, no matter how many compliant sets of stairs you have. I seriously doubt that the '06 changes that because it establishes an "if you have one compliant facility the others don't have to meet" precedent, but I will check for sure. I'm off work for a few days though...You might want see if someone on here has an '06 code and could quote you the section verbatim. All I've got here is an '03. Since the '03 is the code you're under, the inspector certainly doesn't have to accept an unadopted change that the '06 may have brought about.

If in fact a 2nd, more compliant stair were allowed as maybe the '06 does, I can guarantee that it will not be permitted to go through the garage (and count, that is). Garages cannot be used for egress in any circumstance, and you must have compliant stairs from all levels. If a garage stair were added, I'd allow it, but would not consider it the "required" stair regardless of its dimension.

Thanks for your compliment of calling me a perfectionist. I try to be very fair and consistent in my enforcement of the codes, while balancing the need for safety. Most builders that I've dealt with will say that I'm tough and stubborn, but very fair. There's not much wiggle room on some things, and there's wiggle room on others. :yes:

jonblack 09-19-2008 11:20 PM

According to the USDOE it looks like we are under 2006 IRC*. I apologize for the possible misinformation about 2003 IRC. The resource I got that from may be outdated. Still looking into it though.

OK, scenario #2 in regards to adding a code-compliant set of stairs from the garage workshop:

I am going to try to get this garage/workshop area to be considered as a portion of the dwelling. This ~1100 sq. ft. of space has it's own HVAC unit, urinal restroom, and NSF rated stainless utility sink, as well as the mechanical room for my HVAC systems and water heater. All of the walls and ceiling will be finished. Although there has never been a car parked inside, it has two 12 ft wide by 10 ft tall garage doors (not rollup) and one 3070 metal entry door. I have an additional 800 sq feet of covered parking adjacent to the garage/workshop where I park my car and truck.

Do you think there is the possibility of having this area considered a recreational or multipurpose area? Of course my motivation would be to increase the heated square footage (for appraisal value) and for the perhaps necessity of having a code-complaint set of stairs.

I hope the above info is not too confusing.

Thank you
jonblack

*EDITED to add - "2006 IRC with direct reference to 2006 IECC. 2006 IRC with amendments. All AC duct insulation is R6 instead of R8 and to include Section R301.2.1.1 of the 2003 edition of the IRC in lieu of Section R301.2.1.1 of the 2006 edition. The code adopted and amended above in this Subsection shall remain in effect until the 2009 edition of the IRC is published, at which time such edition of the code shall be adopted by the council as provided in Subparagraph (A)(3)(a) of this Section. Thereafter, the council shall adopt the latest edition of the IRC as provided in Subparagraph (A)(3)(a) of this Section."

jonblack 09-19-2008 11:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by thekctermite (Post 159642)
...The width of the treads and walls must still be 36".

This may be a deal breaker. The width between the walls would be 35" but the width of the actual stair tread would be 33.5" as it would reduced another 1.5" because of the 3/4" skirtboards. Does the tread have to be 36" as well?

I guess it is easy enough to leave the skirtboards out, if that in and of itself is code-compliant. I would still prefer the skirtboards if possible.

jonblack

Termite 09-19-2008 11:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jonblack (Post 159661)
I am going to try to get this garage/workshop area to be considered as a portion of the dwelling. This ~1100 sq. ft. of space has it's own HVAC unit, urinal restroom, and NSF rated stainless utility sink, as well as the mechanical room for my HVAC systems and water heater. All of the walls and ceiling will be finished. Although there has never been a car parked inside, it has two 12 ft wide by 10 ft tall garage doors (not rollup) and one 3070 metal entry door. I have an additional 800 sq feet of covered parking adjacent to the garage/workshop where I park my car and truck.

Do you think there is the possibility of having this area considered a recreational or multipurpose area? Of course my motivation would be to increase the heated square footage (for appraisal value) and for the perhaps necessity of having a code-complaint set of stairs.

Nope, not a chance. It is a garage because it has a garage door, no way around it. Unfortunately, as inspectors we cannot take the fact that you don't use it for vehicular parking into consideration. The potential is there for you to do that, or for a future owner to.

Your "garage" (sorry :whistling2:) may or may not have some minor hurdles due to the water heater and HVAC units. Ignition sources must be elevated 18" above the garage floor. With sealed combustion units there is some debate as to what is considered an ignition source. Personally, switches, circuitry, and of course combustion chambers are potential ignition sources. I've always allowed a self closing, self sealing solid door with a reasonably airtight threshold to circumvent the 18" requirement, provided the offending equipment is in its own closet or mechanical room inside of or adjoining the garage. The 20 minute fire membrane required by code would have to be maintained of course (sheetrock, firesealing holes).

Another thing to remember is that your garage's furnace cannot pull combustion air from the garage. It must pull it from outdoors or the attic, or it must be a high-efficiency unit that has intake and exhaust piped outdoors. A unit without sealed combustion sitting in the garage would pose a real issue.

Sorry to be so full of bad news. I had knee surgery this morning so maybe I'm cranky! :laughing: But I assure you that this information isn't pain-killer induced. :whistling2:

Termite 09-19-2008 11:43 PM

2003 section R311.5.1...

Stairways shall not be less than 36" in clear width at all points above the permitted handrail height and below the required headroom height.

I don't belive that there was a significant code change in 2006 on this. But hopefully someone has it.

Sorry, I mis-spoke on the treads. It made sense to me but after re-reading it, it was stated incorrectly. The 31.5" and 27" widths are taken below the handrails, or handrail, respectively. It would apply to skirt boards, but it won't be a problem in your case.

Your issue is wall width above the handrail.

Termite 09-19-2008 11:47 PM

Here's an awesome 2006-based link. I'm gonna read it but will post it first.
http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2006%20...C%20SCREEN.pdf

Termite 09-19-2008 11:51 PM

I find no dimensional changes from 2003 pertaining to your issue. Another portion of chapter three of the '06 IRC may have the wording that BuiltByMac is speaking of.

jonblack 09-20-2008 12:28 AM

Oh brother! More stuff to think about!

Regarding the mechanical closet. It is an enclosed closet. There are two HVAC units and a water heater in there. My house is all electric, no gas or propane. I don't know if that makes a difference or not. All equipment is elevated 18" from the floor.

The HVAC unit that conditions the house takes in air from the house, and the unit that conditions the garage takes it in from the garage.

I'm going to re-read your post regarding combustibles. I'm definitely learning a lot here.

joblack

Termite 09-20-2008 12:39 AM

Okie dokie. You're in much better shape with all electric HVAC and water heater in this application. Combustion air is a non-issue with electric, as it isn't a fuel burning appliance. Shouldn't be any problems with that at all, provided the furnaces are elevated (and many would say they don't have to be).

Sorry to spook you.


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