At what point do exterior stairs become a terraced walkway

…Like along a hillside path along a garden or scenic area, like with timber or stone risers and soil (or other material) treads. How deep would treads need to be before it would be considered a terraced walkway not needing a handrail.

Landing Theory
It’s minimum 36" (IRC) or 44" (IBC) for a landing and handrails are not required at landings. Maybe that’s it. A terraced walkway is the same as a continuous series of landings. No handrail required if the tread depth complies with minimum landing depth.

Ramp Theory
Except that the IRC requires handrails on at least one side of ramps that slope more than 1&12. Does that mean that a handrail is required for a terraced walkway in which a straight line represented by the nose of the landings is steeper than 1&12?
IBC 1012.8 calls for a handrail on both sides of ramps if the rise is greater than 6", but says nothing about a single handrail.

Kenton, needing a hand rail,I think it has more to do with the distance from the treads to the grade than depth of treads…I could be wrong but that is IMHO.

But the inspector can recommend anything, like that, for enhanced safety.

Not to be confused with a ‘guard/guardrail’ as many inspectors tend to do!

What?? I see those all the time on a typical home inspection :rofl:image

It’s really a question of when would you call it out as needing a handrail. I did think about the term “guard” Jeff, but that’s mostly used for protecting level areas.

Since it doesn’t seem to be spelled out (as a guideline) in any building code it may just be up to individual inspectors. I guess the guideline should be use of the walkways by the elderly, and maybe as something to suggest a client consider to protect the client from liability and the elderly from injury.

I think these should be installed along terraced roadways bedside steep drop-offs. :smiley:

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ICC Request for Interpretation (RFI)

I don’t think that provision is meant to define a stairway, but it’s defining the maximum allowable deviation between largest and smallest treads and risers.

If it’s in a residential setting, and it follows the surrounding grade without much elevation difference between the walking surface and landscaping, it would be a terraced walkway. As far as hand holds go, it’s a judgement call really. I have seen hundreds of stepped walkways down the side of houses, from the front of house to back yard for example, of many different materials that didn’t have a hand rail. Some were very questionable with tall steps, 10"+, and steep “landings”. Others looked like a 75 foot long staircase w 5 1/2" risers.
Depends on the circumstances …

That’s true.