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STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine
ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID
BEST CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES GUIDE
BOOKSTORE - INTERIORS
BUILDING NOISE DIAGNOSIS & CURE
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CARPETING, SELECTION & INSTALLATION
DECK & PORCH CONSTRUCTION
ELDERLY & VETERANS HOME SAFETY
FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
HOME INSPECTION SAFETY HAZARDS
LIGHTING, EXTERIOR GUIDE
LIGHTING, INTERIOR GUIDE
MOBILE HOME INSPECTIONS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
NOISE CONTROL for FLOORS
ROT RESISTANT LUMBER
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
SAFETY: Elderly & Veterans Home Safety
SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
SOUND CONTROL in buildings
Splits in Structural Wood Beams
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
WOOD FLOOR DAMAGE
Outdoor or exterior building stair and step & walkway trip and fall hazards are described and illustrated with photographs of bad designs, inadequate maintenance, or other hazards that can lead to trip and fall injuries outdoors on and around buildings. We illustrate common trip points and we describe good practices for safe stairs and walks outdoors. We include a discussion of the role of stair railings or handrails and stair fall injuries, and we also discuss the role of wood species, wood treatment, and maintenance in exterior stair fall injuries.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Dilapidated Stair Structures: rot, loose connections, pitched, wobbly, missing parts, collapse risk
This article focuses on slip trip and fall hazards on exterior stairs, landings, platforms, decks, balconies & their railings. Also see Catalog of Stair Trip Fall Hazards for our complete guide to causes of stair & walk slips and falls. See HANDRAILS & HANDRAILINGS for handrailing and stair railing specifications and hazards that can be a major contributor to stair fall injuries. Also see Exterior Stairs, Stairway landings and Deck & Porch Steps or Stairs.
While in general the building code specifications for exterior stairs, landings, and railings are the same as for indoor star is, we often see special trip hazards at exterior stairs and walks, conditions that do not occur indoors, and details which may escape some building inspectors.
Our page top photo of a scary stair to nowhere was photographed by the author (DF) in Majorca in 2002. At left we document a collapsing wood stairway observed in Maine.
And some stair design requirements, such as stair treads that will not hold water, naturally pertain principally to outdoor stairways.
Unsafe Landscape-tie or railroad tie step and walk tripping hazards
Here we add some more subtle warnings about outdoor stairs and stair construction, and tips or tricks of carpentry and masonry to avoid problems with stairs.
Slip Trip Fall Defects in Masonry Steps and Landings Outdoors
Masonry stairs have of course been constructed and used for quite a while, even pre-dating modern building code and safety associations and legal remedy should the stair user fall.
At the Pyramid of the Sun outside of Mexico City (DF 2011) the stairs to the pyramid top are very tall and very steep and with a high rise. They are easier to ascend (below left), than to descend (below right - the author is in the blue shirt).
Slippery Exterior Stair Surfaces: glass & tile
Curved, Tall, or Uneven Stair Fall Hazards
Stair Landings onto a Sloped Surface May be Fall Hazards
Clandestine Trip and Fall Hazards at Low Decks & Platforms
Examples of Causes of Exterior Stair Collapse & Fall Injury Hazards
Algae growth on steps or decks: green or sometimes black algae grows readily on wood, concrete, or stone surfaces in most climates, particularly where those surfaces are repeatedly wet and especially if the surface is also shaded. Algae makes these walking surfaces dangerously slippery when wet - a slip, trip and fall hazard which is widely recognized. 
The steps at left and deck at right were inspected by the author who in fact nearly had a bad fall due to wet algae on the deck where the ladder was placed. You can see the scrape marks of the ladder feet (where my pen is pointing in the photo, above right) and the good luck that the ladder slippage was stopped by the chimney base.
It is readily observed that algae growth on wood surfaces may seem harmless when the steps are dry, but when any stair surface, stone, brick, wood, or other, is covered with algae and becomes wet, the surface is extremely slippery, adding significantly to the risk of a serious fall and injury.
Details about the hazards of slippery stair treads or other walking surfaces are found at Slippery Stairs, Walks where we discuss the coefficient of friction on various walking surfaces under various conditions as well as anti-slip stair and walk or ramp construction recommendations from building codes and standards.
More examples of exterior stair slip fall hazards are at Exterior stairs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Questions & answers or comments about how to recognize, prevent, or correct common slip, trip, or fall hazards on exterior stairs & walkways.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.