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Bug1961 10-16-2012 09:00 PM

Stair rail problems
I have a problem I need some suggestions on. I'll give a little background. I am a single female, pretty handy with a drill and saw. I've built a couple of things that turned out incredibly good, but I don't know a lot of technical lingo in the field.

In January my brother moved in with me. He is disabled, has Downs Syndrome and is 63. He has difficulty maneuvering steps. I live in a rental home that is about 50 years old. My mother had a neighbor who owns a construction company. He is a family friend. I asked him to come install hand rails for my brother to get in and out of the house. I ask him if he would install iron rails that bolt into the concrete.

He said he could do wood, and they would look good and be very stable. He used 4x4 posts that he bolted into the brick steps and then attached a handrail to the door frame.

Problem: The brick is old, old, old, and the brick and mortar crumbled into powder while he was drilling. He knew this, and he put in some type of adhesive he said would stablize the posts. I took one down the next day, because the brick was so unstable that it wasn't going to hold. The second post I left, I shimmed it up a little because the concrete wasn't quite level. The post has had "give" to it all along. Finally, yesterday, a section of 3 bricks across gave way and I had to take down the rail.

I won't call him because he knew when he installed it that he screwed up, and he went on with the job anyway.

The steps are 6" high, 40" wide and about 16" deep. There are 3 steps, including the door level.

This is what I have done today, just an attempt to get functional rails up. (BTW I don't have a hammer drill and I'm not sure I could use one if I got one. I don't have the money to put into something like that, and I don't have the money to pay someone else to come put in the rails I really want.)

I thought I would build a "frame" around the steps. On the concrete level, between the two posts, I put a 2x2, bolted onto the posts with a heavy duty steel 90 degree angle joint. I also put 2x2 on the outside of the posts, joined the same way. From the side 2x2's I rose up a 1x4 to the height of each step at the back of the steps, and attached them to another 2x2 that runs across the back of each of the other two steps. I ran another 2x2 between the posts and the 2x2 that is on the back of the steps and bolted them.

I haven't completed this process of "framing" the steps, or reattaching the handrail to the door frame (which, btw, holds very well). I can tell the posts are not going to tip or fall, they are upright and will stay that way. But they still have a lot of sway. Attaching the handrails will help some, but not completely. I'm thinking about removing the 2x2 that is at the bottom of the posts on the concrete floor part and replacing that with a 2x6 that will be the same height as the stair and securing that well. That way the posts will be secured up to 6" from the concrete flooring.

Because this is a rental home, I can't afford to further damage the steps (I repaired them as good as I could, they look okay but not perfect) They are not strong enough to hold the posts. I can't drill the concrete myself, my drill is not powerful enough. I know this is the best option, but right now it can't be done. Maybe after the 1st of the year.

Anyone have any idea of how I can make the posts more stable? My brother puts quite a bit of pressure on the rails to use them, but he only weighs about 115.

I don't need this to be pretty. They are inside the carport. I just need to keep my brother safe without having to replace the steps or lose my deposit here.

joecaption 10-16-2012 09:10 PM

Hard to picture what your suggesting. Anyway to post a picture of what you have.

Bug1961 10-16-2012 09:27 PM

4 Attachment(s)
Hope this works....

joecaption 10-16-2012 09:46 PM

Sorry I see no way what you trying to is going to work.
There's several code violations on those steps already, sure the landlords not willing to bring them up to code for you?

The top step looks like it's angled.
There should been a hand rail.
There also was suppost to be a platform then the steps.

If those where mine and I was just a renter I would just build a platform and run the stairs down the sides so they did not stick out so far into the carport.
It would be like building a small deck with steps.
That way there would be 0 damage to the steps or the house.

(It's always a good thing to have your location in your profile for lots of reasons)
In my area there's agencys that will help you out on jobs like this if your the care profider for a challange person.

Bug1961 10-16-2012 09:56 PM

You mean install a ramp? When you say platform, that is the only thing I can visualize.

These steps do not meet code for new construction. This would only become an issue on the resale of the home. I ran into that issue when I sold my house, I had to bring several things up to code.

Oh, I see now what your saying. But attaching posts would still be an issue if I made a platform and ran the steps down the side of the wall... I think.

Oh, also, as in my original post, I haven't yet attached the handrail. I was going to reuse the one the guy put up in January. I also reused his 4x4 posts. I bought the 2x2's and the 1x4's today.

joecaption 10-16-2012 10:10 PM

I'm trying to find you a picture of something close to what I think you need, but here's a program that will come up with a 3D drawing you can play with it's free just have to register.
And no I'm not suggesting you make it out of composite lumber. The framing would be the same no matter what decking material you use.

Bug1961 10-16-2012 10:18 PM

A picture does say a thousand words, I hear.

I'm just confused about how the support posts for the platform would work. Can they just sit unsecured on the concrete flooring?

If I did something like that, I'd have to install rail all the way around the platform, in case he lost his balance. I know that with the money that would cost I might as well buy that hammer drill! :yes:

My landlords position is sort of this: If you need it, you can have it, as long as I don't have to pay for it. I didn't have a handicapped brother living with me when we rented, although we did let him know that he could be coming to live with us. If we pushed to have him do any costly work, he'd probably just drop our lease and find people that don't need it done. Otherwise, we really like the house... and our landlord is a nice guy, he's just broke like everyone else is these days.

joecaption 10-16-2012 10:31 PM

Still looking for a better picture.
Sort of like this but of cource on a much smaller scale.

The post just sit on the concrete pad, no need to attach them to the floor.
The rest of the framing would support the post.

Bug1961 10-16-2012 10:48 PM

Yes, I see what you mean.

Taking that photo, and how they have the posts, let me ask you this...

I know you said you don't see how what I'm doing is going to work, I certainly understand that... but I wonder how much the weight of the 4x4's are contributing to the sway?

If I didn't do the whole platform, but just cut up those 4x4 posts and used them to support new wooden risers (6" at the bottom, 12" for the second step, and 24" for the top step) framed around them and then secured the balusters and posts between the new risers and handrail, do you think that would serve the same purpose with a lot less cost? Basically, just build a new set of steps that sit on top of the brick ones?

In doing that, I could attach the top riser to the door frame, too, so that it wouldn't slide or slip.

I mentioned "wrapping" the steps with a new set of wooden ones to my daughter, and she said she'd rather be able to see the brick. Personally, I feel like seeing the brick is pointless when a.) you see all the wood around it and b.) I can see no way to secure this tightly.

Like anyone who doesn't really know how things will turn out, I had the idea, I thought it might work, and it didn't cost a lot to try.

Bug1961 10-19-2012 04:31 PM

This is my almost finished fix.
1 Attachment(s)
Thanks for your help! Using your suggestions, I have almost finished the "wrap". They're quite stable. I just need to finish the fronts for a more uniform look, and I'll add some trim around the sides just to make it more pleasing to the eye. The tread will be stained, everything else painted white.

joecaption 10-19-2012 06:38 PM

Completly illegal and will have almost 0 side strenght, but you did your best.
Railings need to be able to with stand a 200 Lb. side load. Ballister can be no more then 4" apart, Treads need a rounded 1" to 1 1/4 over hang.

Bug1961 10-20-2012 07:56 AM

They are better than what the "professional construction company" put up, which was a 4x4 on each side mounted into soft brick with 2 hand rails attached to the door frame. No ballisters.

My brother puts his feet all the way up against the back of the steps and then raises them when going up the steps. He will trip over an overhang. I'm going to finish the fronts where there is zero overhang so he doesn't trip going up them.

The original steps had no hand rail at all. So what is more illegal?

I can add extra ballisters for that part.

I don't weigh 200 pounds, but I put my entire body weight down against each hand rail and they are strong.

oh'mike 10-20-2012 08:33 AM

What Joe was suggesting --If Joe doesn't mind my butting in---is to make a 3 foot wide deck---then adding steps to that--this could be free standing and simply pinned into the brick with Tapcon screws---

Google---Ramp-a-thon----this is a group of contractors that provide free labor to help with handicap access---

They work hand in hand with your local welfare agency---

Call your county ---see if they have free or cheap services for the disabled----

I do hope someone with sketch-up sees this thread and pop up a drawing for you----I have build many simple entrances like this----so many of my long time customers are getting older and need a safer entry----

joecaption 10-20-2012 08:38 AM

I in no way meant to critize your efforts, my main concern is for your brothers safety.

oodssoo 10-20-2012 05:09 PM

I am with some of the guys here... I think you have just compounded the problem you were attempting to avoid to begin with. The wood work you installed basically are supported by the "crumbling" brick steps...

I am afraid the only way to solve your problem is to start new and build a proper set of steps. A good example of what I am saying here is by removing the crumbling brick work and replace with a properly constructed set of stairs...

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