Stair rails greater than 4 inches. Question

Im inspecting a condo built before the ( not greater )than 4 inch stair rail space was added to the code. What would be the verbiage if the house is
being sold to Senior citizens…Are they required to upgrade the stair rails?


No one is ever required to do anything a home inspector recommends.

“The LOCATION(stairs-interior) guardrail balusters or pickets do not conform to today’s commonly accepted standards. The pickets should be spaced no more than four inches apart for child safety, and that is what we recommend, especially if small children will be present.”

I agree with Joe’s statement plus who the home is being sold to is irrelevant (what…the grandkids never visit?). My standard verbiage says:

Do the buyers have grandchildren, or great-grandchildren?

The next home inspector will probably call it out, so you better also.

Would you call out the spacing if it was 4 feet apart? Would you call it out if it was 2 feet apart? At what point would it not be a concern to you? If you’re not using today’s standards, then you’re making up your own rules. When it comes to safety, today’s standards is my baseline, no matter the age of the home.


Change “guardrail” to “stair rail” for stairs. I gave you the wrong statement.

Would you call this out? Built in 1983.

The loft guardrail is 27". The main floor is 12’ below. :shock:

Hey Chris are you able to post with no moderation now.?

That’s cool rustic though.
I love that stuff.
Just tell the guy to chop down a few more trees.:smiley:

Apparently, at least on some threads.

With the stairway, I told the buyer it looked cool, still not safe, and suggested installing a handrail on the wall. The 2nd floor had me nervous though.

When someone falls throught the baluster gap on the open side of the stairs you may wish your suggestion/recommendation was different…just a thought.

The handrail suggestion was verbal. This is in the report.

“The hand/guard rail for the stairs to upper level are loose and are not installed correctly according to modern day building practices. A fall or injury could occur if not corrected. A qualified contractor should repair or replace as needed.”

[size=2]*“The balcony guardrail at upstairs is not installed correctly according to modern day building practices. A minimum height of 36” and balusters spaced at no more than 4 inches is recommended. This is a safety issue. A fall or injury could occur if not corrected. A qualified contractor should repair or replace as needed." *[/size]
[size=2]Picture caption(**[size=2]Balcony guardrail at 27 inches.)

Since you all are calling out things not built to today’s standards (which is another way of you stating code) are you also going to call out the open stingers?

How about the post being a fire safety hazard in the sense that a hose will get caught on it…how far you want to go with the obvious?

There is at least a half a dozen other things that are not today’s standards yet for that style home…it is standard.

By stating that a qualified contractor should replace or repair as needed… it sounds like you are not sure if there is a problem or not…you are putting it off on the contractor…who may simply say, that it is fine according to the code when the home was built…yet that does not address the issue that you are having. (by the way, IL. does not have a GC board which tells me that other then a few trades, there probably was little to no inspections at the time the home was built if any today)

I would have stated:
*For the style and time frame in which this home was built the stairs leading to the second floor were customary however same may present a fall / trip hazard for small children and the elderly; recommend that you consult with a licensed general contractor who is familiar with this style home in order address such concerns while retaining its architectural flavor. *

If it were my home I would not touch it… its up to parents to teach their kids not to play on stairs and even more importantly to not leave small children unattended. Our society is making so many laws in regulations mostly because so many lack common sense.

I also would not put it in the Summary Page…but that is me.



I dont think subjecting someting to todays standards has anything to do with codes. Its a justified safety concern. If you dont report it then you could end up in court. I come across stuff every week that isnt built to todays standards thats still acceptable. GFCIs are good to have, so are breakers instead of fuses. Both code violations by todays standards, both safety concerns.

  1. Is this going to compromise the clients safety
  2. Is this going to cost the client money
  3. Is this going to compromise the structure

After that I try and leave my personal (not professional) opinion out of it.

Curious, so when you see a service panel with fuses instead of breakers, do you write that up?

As to GFI’s, I simply recommend that for areas where moisture / water is present, the receptacles should be labeled “not GFI protected” or replace same. (I have seen the labels for which I simply explain why they are labeled and leave it at that).


I, regularly, see this kind of stuff, and not just for older houses.

Like these.

They may be “cool”, but they are ALL unsafe, even without little kids in the house.

Climbable ballisters, openings between the treads of > 6", no ballisters, etc.

Sure, your house looks “cool” and you win design awards, but functionality and safety are much more important than looks, and gaining prestique from your friends.

And, if some one does get hurt, who do you think they are going to sue?

Surely not their “designer”.



stair weird.jpg

People often purchase a product based upon its looks…with houses, that is one of the overriding decisions in the process…especially with women.

What is important is how you word your concerns as well as where you place such concerns…body of the report versus the summary page.

Too many times inspectors think they are code officials… which does nothing more than create a divisive atmosphere between REA and HI’s.

Growing up, most of us have done well…its amazing that today we are regulating ourselves to death…often with the same old excuse…“its for the children”. I don’t know about you all but I was told not to play on steps, not to play around the stove, not hang out the window, to pay attention where I walk, etc… but today where adults, especially parents, don’t want to take responsibility for their actions or those of their little hoodlum brats.

just my 2 cents…