stair light question

Brain flubbing today.

Where is it written that light switches that control interior stairs must be illuminated. I can only remember BOCA, but that disappeared in Pa when the UCC was implemented. So now it’s IBC/IRC time.

Any code references?



that’s a new one on me Tom…never heard of that requirement…jim

ditto - but I’ve been wrong before - just ask my wife. :wink:

if your going to start asking wives, I’d imagine I’ve rarely been right…jim

I know of no such requirement. . .

or do you mean “stairs must be illuminated with switch locations at the top and bottom of stairs”?

I agree. The stairs must be illuminated, not the switch. :mrgreen:

That brings up a question as to placement of switches.
Is there a required height or placement requirement.?

no requirement of height. just needs to be a switch at the bottom and top. i would guess similar to no requirement as to the attic light switch. they can put those things in the darndest of places. i’m 6’2" and almost fell off the attic ladder trying to reach across to the opposite wall to hit the switch.

if the stairs are more than 10 feet high then the light is required, guessing… maybe someone will correct me on that last part.

wait a minute. maybe their is a requirement the light switch be within a certain distance of the ladder. got to be.

Attic lights need to have a switch near the point of entrance. This can be a wall switch before climbing the ladder or in the attic area. A pull chain light will also meet this requirement.

What’s the definition of “at the top of” and “at the bottom of” the stairs. Can it be at the top of the stairs but around the corner in the third bedroom to the right? Or how about at the bottom of the stairs but through the kitchen and the laundry room, over by the entrance from the garage?

IRC - E3803.3 Additioanl Locations…Where one or more lighting outlets are installed for interior stairways, there shall be a wall switch at each floor level and landing level that includes an entryway to control the lighting outlets where the stairway between floor levels has six or more risers.

I think it is six risers and the requirement of a switch at top and bottom come into play, I have stairs at my house and let me tell you what a smart rule this is…

Call me if you have a particular need or reference.

Well this is what I know, (Allentown and Bethlehem, Pa) building inspections done on houses I help build require illuminated switches at the top and bottom. This is why we wire stair/hall lights such that the 3-ways are at the top an bottom. Illuminated 4ways are differcult to find(very expensive).

Ok this is what I found, in BOCA:

1207.2.1 Controls: The control for activation of the required
stairway lighting within a dwelling unit shall be operable from the top and bottom of each stairway without traversing any step of the stair. All switches that control interior stairway lights shall be illuminated switches. The illumination of an exterior stairway serving a dwelling unit shall be controlled from inside the dwelling unit, unless continuously illuminated or automatically activated.

BOCA codes have been replaced by the ICC Codes.

Thank you. BOCA is now the ICC.

Wondering if my AHJ have been using principle where you can’t go more lenient with codes, even if they too have become more lenient.


Generally speaking, the code is what it says it is. An example is the loosening of the deck bonding requirement for a pool in the 2008 (a single #8 vs a 12x12 grid) or the removal of the “3 story” limitation for Romex in 2005.