Stair dimensions

hello all!

ive been an inspector for 2 1/2 years at this point with about 125 inspections under my belt in a part time capacity. i have a background in structural engineering and did investigative work when i was in that job as well.

well today i got an angry email from the selling agent trying to call me out on a few items as being inaccurate and esentially being an alarmist. a couple of items are just laughable that she brought them up such as calling out a double tapped breaker and calling out the fact that the oil tank was supported by random stones.

But here is something that she brought up where she may have a point and I wanted to get other inspector opinions and find out what they do. in the inspections that i do, i always measure the stair tread depth and height, being in maine I often see old homes with stairs that are tall and narrow when compared to todays standards and I call it out as such. now keep in mind this is exclusive of varying riser and/or tread dimensions, that to me is a given.

so my question to the group is this…do you call out stair dimensions that do not conform to current building practice?

Stairs are one of the most dangerous places in a house where serious injures occur. If I feel the stairs are unsafe, definitely call it out. If someone falls and breaks their neck, are you going to tell the judge “but the seller’s agent complained…” The agents have nothing to do with the inspection. It’s you & your client.

Yes! It is a tripping hazard.

i completely agree with you and ive always called it out when its an issue. thanks!

The stairs do not meet todays standards for safety.

The stairs should be corrected, by a qualified carpenter, to help prevent a tripping and fall hazard.

(They may or may not do it but at least you are covered.)


This is a good topic in many ways. Great question.

Good read;

Many of the recent changes in construction standards (building codes) involve changes in stair dimensions, but do not require changes in existing stairs and steps. Further, it is unlikely that rebuilding an interior stairs in a residence would be feasible from either a physical or cost-effective perspective. Therefore, while the ASHI inspector could report that an existing stairs does not meet new building code dimension (width, rise and run) requirements, s/he would be hard pressed to report a suitable recommendation to correct, as required by our Standards.

This is a great perspective Marcel, thank you!

I typically tell my customer that they will see the stairs called out for not meeting current building practice but also acknoledge that there is not a reasonable solution short of rebuilding the stairs. perhaps i will leave the section in my report and comment that “while no reasonable solution exists, such dimensions can still pose a hazad and that care should be taken when traversing the stairs”

You’re welcome and if it would be up to me, Codes would change to a riser height not to exceed 7-1/4" and a tread width of no less than 11".
My own house of 66’ makes me trip all the time on one of the three stairs I have, (8"&10")

Especially with your joint replacement, Marcel!

That is right Larry. My preference would be the 7", but too late to change it in this house.
40 years I spent in Commercial and Industrial and Medical Building Construction. and my legs and feet are tuned in to that 7" riser.
7-3/4" or more is dangerous for everyone I think.

Now it depends. I’m thinking about my mother-in-law God Rest her soul…
I thought several times about throwing her down the stairs.
Just joking. I loved her. I’ll probably loved her more if I could have thrown her down the stairs however

LOL! :face_with_monocle: :nerd_face: :face_with_head_bandage:

You loved her, and you know it.

Mr. Brown, you have pointed a hazard per today’s standards. You are off the hook. Don’t point it out and you could be on the hook if someone gets hurt. “Pissed off customer”, just normal day in the business.

Always. Stairs almost never get “corrected” but it’s information that may be vital to and a possible disqualifier for your client depending on their circumstances. Never let an agent decide what information is relevant to your client and don’t make assumptions about their family circumstances.

When an agent takes exception to your report, simply invite them to put their professional dissenting opinion in writing, include their license number and sign it just as you have done.