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BeanAcres 07-31-2012 07:37 PM

Tapering stairs at bottom to save space?
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Hi folks,

We are currently working on specifying a set of stairs to go in our home. The space to the right of where the bottom of the stairs will land is a bit tight, and we are wondering whether we could "taper" (for lack of a better word) the last few stairs in order to open it up a bit.

We understand that newer code requires that the tread width be a minimum of 6". I'm trying to fish around to get some opinions as to whether something like the attached image would be out of the question or not.

If we pulled back the right side of each step, keeping them to a minimum of 6", this would open things up a bit compared to a standard "square" set of stairs.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts,

GBrackins 07-31-2012 08:01 PM

here's the 2009 International Residential Code requirement for winder treads you should verify with your building department your local code requirements. The International Residential Code is the basis for most state/local building codes.

Willie T 07-31-2012 09:07 PM

That's not a "winder". It appears you will be creating a fairly serious hazard.

tony.g 08-01-2012 01:35 AM

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Does the 'minimum 6" tread rule' mean that stairs such as this are not allowed in US? Surely not?
The main functional requirement of stairs is that they should be safe to use. If there was a hand rail down to a newel at the taperd side, surely this would be OK?

md2lgyk 08-01-2012 07:08 AM

Is there anyplace near you that sells/installs circular staircases? The treads on them are similar to the ones in your drawing.

I put a circular staircase in my house. Because they are not commonly seen these days, building inspectors often aren't up to speed on the codes that apply to them. When I applied for my building permit, I had to submit a whole bunch of data from the staircase kit manufacturer to show that it would be code compliant.

BigJim 08-01-2012 11:06 AM

Unless your stairs are making a turn, the treads you have drawn won't pass code. The tread has to be standard width at the line of travel on winders, but the treads installed at an angle on a straight run won't fly.

The code here says spiral stairs can only be secondary, a main set of stairs has to exists, spiral stairs can't be the primary stairs.

md2lgyk 08-01-2012 11:19 AM


Originally Posted by jiju1943 (Post 978971)
The code here says spiral stairs can only be secondary, a main set of stairs has to exists, spiral stairs can't be the primary stairs.

Interesting. Having lived with my spiral staircase for three years now, I actually understand why code might say that - they do take some getting used to. Fortunately, it doesn't where I live. I have a log house, and they are the only stairs we have.

tony.g 08-01-2012 11:32 AM

[quote=jiju1943;978971]Unless your stairs are making a turn, the treads you have drawn won't pass code. quote]

Forgive me, as I'm not familiar with US codes, but are the dimensions stated in them prescriptive, ie is there legally no alternative to them.
The reason I ask is that our (UK) regs on stairs simply state; " stairs shall be designed, constructed and installed so as to be safe for people moving about the building"- To give guidance on what would be legally regarded as 'safe', we have published recommendations on minimum treads, risers, pitch etc.
However, the guidance we have states that safety can also depend on circumstances, and in single-family homes, people can get used to the stairs and they can be safe through familiarity. (this would not be the case, say, in a public building, where users would not be famiiar with the stairs).
It seems to me that if the OP has 2 or 3 tapered steps at the bottom of the flight, it would not necessarily be unsafe. I was just wondering if the codes allow this approach.

GBrackins 08-01-2012 12:25 PM


like pretty much everything in the states there are rules, rules and even more regulations ..... winder stairs are allowed if they meet the precise requirements of the building code. years ago our codes were similar to yours it seems. now we have to protect everyone from everything. I recently worked on a project where the riser was 10 inches and the treads were 8 inches. talk about a tough set of stairs to climb, but they had been that way for over 200 years. Typically you need to get approval of the building official to repair a set of stairs before removing them. If they are removed prior to his approval it is no longer a repair, and the new stairs will have to comply with today's code requirements, which can be difficult in older buildings. (this is up to each inspector to determine if this is a repair or not, I've had inspectors require new code requirements).

I posted the requirements for winder stairs so that the OP could see the requirements. I do not believe he can configure the steps as indicated in his sketch, but I have been wrong before. What he wants to do is allowed for winder stairs, but there is no winder in his layout, just a straight run. I would highly recommend taking the sketch to the local building department and ask the building official if what you are proposing would be compliant before doing any actual work.

Good luck!

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