When moving into a newly constructed home, chances are your interior stair railings are installed correctly and meet building codes. However, when moving into a pre-existing home, how do you know if your stairs and railings meet code and are safe?
The reality of the situation is that, in many cases, pre-existing homes have issues within the home beyond that of just the stairs and railings. These issues met earlier codes, but are now outdated. Does this mean you can still move into your home? Of course you can, but do you want to move into a home that might be a safety hazard?
Here are some things to look for when assessing the safety of your stairs and railings:
- Are the treads and risers secure, and level?
- Are any of the treads and risers missing?
- Are the stairs built too steep? (In other words, do you feel like you’re climbing a latter, rather than climbing a staircase?)
- When you go up the stairs, do you trip or feel like you’re going to trip?
- Are the railings secured to the wall properly?
- Are the railings hung too high or too low?
- Are the interior stair railings missing?
- Do the stairs pose a slip hazard?
If you are unsure about what the building codes are for your stairs and railings, make an appointment with your local code enforcement officer. Sometimes it takes time to get these individuals out to the site and perform an inspection because their schedules fill up quickly. However, once they get there, they’ll be able to tell you immediately what should be done prior to becoming a resident of the home. They’ll also let you know what can be completed once you have already moved in.
In addition to looking at interior stair railings leading to a second floor or attic level of the home, be sure the basement stairs and railings are also checked. You are going to spend a fair amount of time using these stairs to perform routine home maintenance, as well as utilize storage space.
Therefore, ensuring the safety of this area of the home is an important consideration. If there’s a stairwell leading from the outside of the home and into the basement, these stairs should also be inspected. Because of weather and other conditions, these stairs tend to deteriorate quickly and may need immediate attention.
If you are concerned about the costs associated with hiring a contractor to fix your stairs and railings, be advised that putting off this work is a liability. If you have visitors in your home, and they become injured as a result of issues directly related to your stairs and railings, you’re in for costs higher than what you would experience with hiring a contractor.
If the stairs or railings aren’t up to code, it can also give you some additional bargaining power when discussing the purchase price with the seller. If they don’t meet the new requirements, you can use that to negotiate a lower price.
When deciding who will do the actual work, interview three contractors and request estimates from each of them. Also request a portfolio of past work and verifiable references. That way, when you make your final decision about who will perform the work on your stairs and railings, you can be sure that you’re getting someone who is reliable and dependable.