Trip hazards

The finished floor in the master bath was 3" higher than the master bedroom. Is there any specific langauge in the IRC that talks about trip hazards? Would you write this up?


I can’t find anything in the Code, but I would definitely call it “bad practice”. I would think that at least a tapered threshold should be installed, if the floor levels indeed must be different.

I was always taught to use either three risers or no risers in a stairway, and maybe this isn’t exactly a “stairway”, but the principle remains the same. If less than three risers were called for, I was taught to use a ramp and not steps. Maybe a full-fledged ramp isn’t sensible here, but certainly a fairly wide tapered threshold is a better solution than a three-inch step.

If I were an inspector (I’m not, I’m only an architect), I’d write it up in a similar fashion.

My understanding of a trip hazard is where there is a difference in the floor height where one should not exist by original design. For example, a crack in the middle of a patio or sidewalk in which the patio or sidewalk is now raised 1/4 inch or more. A patio or sidewalk should not have raised sections where it should be and is expected to be smooth. Things like this example where there is a step up to the bathroom are done by design and purposely intended. While it may not be the smartest idea, I wouldn’t call it a trip hazard. Do you call the 4 inch step up from the garage to the house a trip hazard? If the floor between the bathroom and adjoining room was intended to be level but settlement or heaving or whatever caused it to be unlevel, then that’s a trip hazard.

Why would you need to know the code, just for personal reference I assume.

How old was the house? If this was an addition they may have had no other choice, similar to some cases in a garage where the material under the slab or the slab itself was not brought up high enough and a small landing or step was installed to make up the difference.

This is original construction. Most of the lower floor is open beam construction. The bathroom floor was raised to accomodate plumbing under the floor.

A trip hazard is a trip hazard regardless of whether the elevation difference is intended or the result of settlement/heaving. If it happened in the middle of a hallway, it is definitely a trip hazard. If it happens at an entry door threshold, it is not a trip hazard because it is not only expected, but good building practice. At the threshold into an adjoining bathroom… well, I would like to get more opinions.

Maybe a better term would be a safety hazard.

Steps such as the one illustrated are quickly learned by regular occupants of the house and usually pose no problem to them. They become a hazard more to visitors to the house, or to people with limited eyesight, who are not accustomed to such a step. To them, it may feel like one has stepped off a cliff, because such a sudden difference is inexpected. It certainly is not good practice. Good practice, if the floor must be raised to accomodate plumbing, wiould have been to start about two or three tiles into the bath and ramp down to the bedroom floor. At least there is a sharp color contrast at the step; that would help people with limited eyesight to become alert to the level change. If I were designing the house, there would never be such a step.

my suggestion is to just write up your findings. this does not have to be a trip hazard or safety hazard. as long as you have informed your client, they can not come back and say you didn’t inform them

i, too, would just note the difference & caution to be careful.

I wound up doing what I always do when I am not sure how strong the wording should be. I played it conservatively and called it out as a trip hazard with a recommendation to correct it.

If I tripped over it during the inspection…or it seemed out of place and not a reasonable “normal” condition… whatever “normal” is!!! I would write it up as a “possible” trip hazard…

Remember DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE… keep yourself safe, I am sure the buyers will overlook this anyways, but if someone were to trip they could try to come after you… If you noticed it, better to be safe and disclose then be sorry later…

Why can’t we



Calling some one’s attention to an issue which may impact “some” who may have a specific family dynamic and inciting a required repair to “upgrade” an existing condition…

If I tripped over it anyway when

do I have a case?

  1. Upgrades are not required in an existing home.
  2. HI’s should not recommend how a repair is to be conducted.

I agree with you, David. I would just make a note for the sake of saying I saw it and write it up as simply a possibly trip hazard. That way, the client can’t say “you should have told me”.

My .216 cents CDN.:wink:


Just because you can’t find a building code, does not mean you shouldn’t talk about it. It’s “how” you talk about it though.

Describing associated conditions that make the condition worse should also be reported. Like the threshold is at the top of the stair system ect.

To go another step further, there are times (like when the property is going to be used as a rental) when the owners liability concern is elevated. You may not trip over it, but what about your tenant?

I agree that the step should be disclosed in the report as non-standard and caution should be taken but that’s where the liability for the HI stops. We cannot be held reponsible because of the occupants of the home might, at some point, trip over it because they are bumbling or not paying attention to where they are walking. As long as they are aware that it’s there, that’s what matters. What they choose to do about it is up to them.

Protect yourself, protect your clients by notifying them… Let them decide if it is an issue they want repaired… There is no harm in disclosure, and it will cover you! Just stating the step is a “possible” trip hazard is due diligence… I would state this:

“This step may pose a trip hazard, you should view this yourself for your own safety”

I reviewed the findings with the client today. She lives in Hawaai and was not present at the inspection. She informed me that she intends to rent out the home for half the year. I would not want to be the landlord that owned that step.

Seems like the general consensus is to point it out but not recommend that it be addressed. I am not sure I see the logic of bringing a safety item to the attention of my client without recommending that something be done about it. I am more inclined to think that all safety items should include a recommendation for corrective action. BTW, I didn’t specify a fix, but simply recommended that it be corrected by a licensed professional.

Recommending HOW it will be done is the issue.

You report the issue.
You report the potential concerns of the issue.
You referr further investigation on the issue if the issue is not clear and intrusive, technically exhaustive inspection is required.

You do not assess the remediation remedies to correct the situation (angle the step ect.).

Does this repair require a licenced person?
What licence?
Threshold installers licence?

Something one of my clients would likely ask me!

Must admit this all sounds a little overboard.They raised it out of necessity,as this is common and I have seen this done many times.
They raise it so they can put plumbing in to a rehabbed attic space,and run the plumbing over to the knee wall. Never do I see handrails or any big concern as the alternative is to get rid of the bathroom.Most would find a handrail silly,in this kind of situation.