When is a step not a step?

Yesterday I was at a home doing an insurance inspection (these are only worthwhile if you’re having a really slow week) and noticed the concrete stairs in backyard lacked a railing. The risers were each about 26 inches from front to back. This made me wonder at what point a stairway becomes a terraced patio and doesn’t need a railing. Any ideas?


Personally, I’d consider this a service staircase needing a handrail. I don’t consider a tread to be a landing unless it is a minimum 39 inches front to back. That’s just my opinion though.

Grippable handrail required if four risers or more. At least that’s they way we see it here in Houston, Texas. :wink:

39 inches… I was hoping someone had some kind of number in mind. Thanks!

Here in Michigan, I had bought a house, some years back, in Mt Clemens. The city would not let me close on the house until a handrail was installed to the front porch. When going up the three steps you had to hold the screen, storm door open. Anything over two (2) steps required a handrail installed.

The realtor, inspector & myself installed it together the hours before the closing. The inspector thought it was dumb in this situation but he knew someone was looking over his shoulder at that time. once he signed off on the install and opened his car door, we tore it down and returned the railing to Builders Square. (Like I said it was a while ago)

The inspector loved it!

Landing minimum is 36" deep x width of door or stair.

A landing must be a minimum of 36 inches deep (per John and the IRC). Otherwise, it is a tread as part of a stair or stairway. . .

STAIR. A change in elevation, consisting of one or more risers.

STAIRWAY. One or more flights of stairs, either exterior or interior, with the necessary landings and platforms connecting them, to form a continuous and uninterrupted passage from one level to another.

I realize that this may be more for Commercial than Residential, but believe that it touches the same safety topic at hand and may be of beneficial advantage to whoever reads it and am sure that it could be applied to Residential. I believe the bottom line is, that any stairs of 3 risers or more needs a handrail.