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Old 03-22-2020, 10:21 AM   #1
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Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Hi all, our garage has an upstairs, and the stairs leading up are not level, but rather angle down away from the wall. They feel sturdy, and don't seem to move or anything. It may just be that someone measured wrong when installing (which would be in keeping with most of the rest of the house, as an inch here or there is about the margin or error the builder and last DIY owner were apparently comfortable with).

The stringer along the wall seems to be OK, although I didn't really inspect how it was attached to the wall, but it doesn't seem to have moved at all based on the drywall. On the other side, you can see the 2x4 wall that is supporting the steps, which run down to a 2x4 bottom plate that sits on the concrete slab. There was drywall here at one point, and maybe the wall even ran up to enclose the stairs, but then they opened up the room for a workout area. This left the stairs with no railing, which is what I need to get installed so people can safely use the stairs.

Anything need to be done with this? It seems weird to leave them not level, but I guess if they are sturdy and not level it might be OK? If I needed to fix, I'm guessing I would have to jack them up somehow and then re-frame underneath? That sounds like a pretty big project.

Here is a link with images:

Edit: URL didn't seem to work...here it is again:
https://imgur.com/a/TX8eBcN


Please let me know if any more pictures or details would help!
Thanks!
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Old 03-22-2020, 10:35 AM   #2
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


1. Using short level and measuring off carpet. 2 things never to do. No matter what, carpet can't be considered a flat, continuous plane. Short level can "suggest" continuity but not the carpet. The torpedo level used there, will show the level of 8-9" surface only.



2. Lumbers used look ok. Photo 2 showing a wall frame under the stairs. Check the base sill and see if it's rotting from touching the slab. Otherwise, check the slab level. If the stair maker followed the slab without leveling the stairs, everything will follow the slab level.


3. If the way the stairs are now is ok to use, walk up and down, I would leave it as is. What the original builder did, if living in it feels ok, repairs are not necessary. Finers fittings, trims, windows, doors, example, may be more trouble, but they are all fixable.
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Old 03-22-2020, 12:48 PM   #3
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


If they were built like that they would be very hard to fix.

If the slab went down (settled) there would be other evidence that should be visible.

Get a bigger level, check the wood under the stairs, better than carpet. Check the floor upstairs and the slab for level.
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Old 03-22-2020, 01:57 PM   #4
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


If the riser height is uniform then the slope is not likely to cause a fall. Having sturdy hand rail is however, very important.
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Old 03-22-2020, 03:24 PM   #5
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Here are some new pics:
https://imgur.com/a/0LHb8ah

OK, checked again with a longer level on the under side of the steps (although the torpedo level was just for an illustration, as you can feel the slope as soon as you are on them). That's the first pic in the link above.

Then I checked the base sill. Was discolored but didn't seem to be rotten at all. Then I noticed that part of it didn't look flush to the slab. The second pic is of a shim I had that slid right under the sill, which I'm guessing is not a good thing.

Pic 3 is of a couple of the studs which are now floating above the sill. Several others were like this as well. Again, not an engineer but guessing that's not good.

Assuming this is from the slab settling, what's the fix? Re-frame under the stairs? If so, what will I use to support them? Hoping that just driving some 2x4s underneath will be enough, so I don't need to get jacks and such. I guess they're not really supported now, though anyway. I've never framed anything, but built and DIY'ed plenty of stuff around the house. This looks pretty basic, if I'm just recreating what was already there, but please let me know if it's not. Or is there anything easier than framing this? A couple of metal columns or something?

Thanks again for all the help!
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Old 03-22-2020, 03:42 PM   #6
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Quote:
Originally Posted by bcemail View Post
Here are some new pics:
https://imgur.com/a/0LHb8ah

OK, checked again with a longer level on the under side of the steps (although the torpedo level was just for an illustration, as you can feel the slope as soon as you are on them). That's the first pic in the link above.

Then I checked the base sill. Was discolored but didn't seem to be rotten at all. Then I noticed that part of it didn't look flush to the slab. The second pic is of a shim I had that slid right under the sill, which I'm guessing is not a good thing.

Pic 3 is of a couple of the studs which are now floating above the sill. Several others were like this as well. Again, not an engineer but guessing that's not good.

Assuming this is from the slab settling, what's the fix? Re-frame under the stairs? If so, what will I use to support them? Hoping that just driving some 2x4s underneath will be enough, so I don't need to get jacks and such. I guess they're not really supported now, though anyway. I've never framed anything, but built and DIY'ed plenty of stuff around the house. This looks pretty basic, if I'm just recreating what was already there, but please let me know if it's not. Or is there anything easier than framing this? A couple of metal columns or something?

Thanks again for all the help!

As it sits now the stairs are likely in code in that all risers are the same height or within 1/4" of each other.
So if you fix the slope the bottom riser would be 1 inch to high and create a different tripping hazard and should be rebuilt to the new height measurement or at least modify the bottom 4 or 5 risers. .

Now look at the structure of the floor above, how is it supported around the opening for the stairs.

It could be self supported with beams built into the structure or it could be supported by this wall. If it is supported by this wall I would expect slopes in that floor around this end of the hole upstairs.
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Old 03-23-2020, 07:44 AM   #7
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Does your garage have a dirt floor?
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Old 03-23-2020, 11:42 AM   #8
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Quote:
Originally Posted by huesmann View Post
Does your garage have a dirt floor?
No, but it used to flood before I fixed the drainage issue, and there was plenty of dirt in there that blows back into that room. One of the projects this spring is cleaning all the clutter out so that we can really get the floors clean. It's all dry now, just dirty.
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Old 03-23-2020, 11:43 AM   #9
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nealtw View Post
As it sits now the stairs are likely in code in that all risers are the same height or within 1/4" of each other.
So if you fix the slope the bottom riser would be 1 inch to high and create a different tripping hazard and should be rebuilt to the new height measurement or at least modify the bottom 4 or 5 risers. .

Now look at the structure of the floor above, how is it supported around the opening for the stairs.

It could be self supported with beams built into the structure or it could be supported by this wall. If it is supported by this wall I would expect slopes in that floor around this end of the hole upstairs.
I'll check and try and get some pictures of the structure above. Should I be able to see something from under the stairs? Not sure what type of beam would be supporting it, but I'll see what I can find. Thanks!
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Old 03-23-2020, 12:04 PM   #10
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Quote:
Originally Posted by bcemail View Post
I'll check and try and get some pictures of the structure above. Should I be able to see something from under the stairs? Not sure what type of beam would be supporting it, but I'll see what I can find. Thanks!
See how the joists are doubled up all around the stairs, this would not need support from below.






See how the post at the landing is needed for the one single joist which will support the wall or railing above. So if the lower floor sank it would effect things above it.

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Last edited by Nealtw; 03-23-2020 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 03-23-2020, 12:10 PM   #11
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nealtw View Post
See how the joists are doubled up all around the stairs, this would not need support from below.

See how the post at the landing is needed for the one single joist which will support the wall or railing above. So if the lower floor sank it would effect things above it.
Very interesting, thanks for the diagrams! Didn't know you could do that just from above. I'll look around to see what'g going on, but luckily all the drywall is off that side so might make it easier.

Thanks again!
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Old 03-25-2020, 04:28 PM   #12
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nealtw View Post
See how the joists are doubled up all around the stairs, this would not need support from below.






See how the post at the landing is needed for the one single joist which will support the wall or railing above. So if the lower floor sank it would effect things above it.


Took another look at things, and it does look a lot like those diagrams you posted. The first pic shows the double trimmer at the top of the stairs. Can't really see what the header is like behind the top step.

The second photo shows that double trimmer running to the wall, plus another double running across to the other wall. (This also creates a little square platform that just kind of sits there, you have to walk along the trimmer to get there, always wondered why it was there). The stairs go most of the way down, then a landing and a turn to the last few steps. This picture is right over the landing.

The third photo is under on corner of the landing. Looks like a double stud running from the bottom riser down to the slab. There is also the third stud there that connects to the other framing which I posted about above. Ignore that triangle of drywall with the mold, that's getting pulled out ASAP.

The one thing that looks different from the diagram is that there is no post running down from the double trimmer to the ground, it just runs all the way to the wall.

The stairs don't shake when you walk on them, so maybe all the weight is being carried from above. Since the framing underneath isn't touching the base plate, and the base plate is off the sill at places, I might just remove that. Can't imagine it's carrying any weight at this point.

Thanks again!



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Old 03-25-2020, 04:46 PM   #13
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Landing?? new information. Do the stringers land on the landing? Or butt into the back of it?

Are the stairs out of level above or below the landing? Or is it just the landing that is out of level?
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Old 03-26-2020, 07:24 PM   #14
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nealtw View Post
Landing?? new information. Do the stringers land on the landing? Or butt into the back of it?

Are the stairs out of level above or below the landing? Or is it just the landing that is out of level?
Sorry, forgot to mention the landing I guess! Inspected a little further today. The landing and below seem to be pretty level, then the stairs from there up are not level.

The stringers come down and the side away from the wall sits on top of a 2x (6 I think). Both sides are notched a little (not very much) onto the plywood of the landing, which sits on a 2x6 that runs between the double 2x4s that run down to the ground. Those look to be firmly on the ground, and not hovering above like some of the framing. The side away from the wall has pulled away some, much like the framing under it.

The last 2 pictures are where the double trimmer meets the top of the stairs. I can't really tell if it should be connected to the stringer better, or if it just carries the weight of the second floor which carries the stringer.

Hope all the pictures make sense, hard to capture everything with different shots. Probably make more sense to someone familiar with framing. Please let me know if there's any other details that would help!

https://imgur.com/a/rmREx12

Thanks again for all the help! Invaluable to a home-owning DIYer trying to figure all this out!
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Old 03-26-2020, 07:46 PM   #15
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Re: Garage stairs not level; need to be fixed?


Measure from the top of the landing to the underside of the first trade straight up and compare that to the other side. Is that your out of level?

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