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This document provides the stair dimensions required by building code specifications and includes sketches, photographs, and examples of defects used in inspecting indoor or outdoor stairs, railings, landings, treads, and related conditions for safety and proper construction.
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Specifications for Recommended Minimum Stairway Widths & Stair Lengths
Also see Balusters & Railing Enclosures for full details of this topic. For more details about balusters (vertical spindles in railing construction) see details at Railings for a discussion of safety barriers along stairs, and Guards (railings on landings and open hallways, porches, screened porches, balconies that are more than 30" above floors or grade).
Example Building Code Specifications For Stairway Dimensions
California and other U.S. states often take as a starting point for state building codes pertaining to stair, landing, railing, tread and other stairway design specifications the national model building codes. The California CA/OSHA Section 1003.3.3 Stairways and Landings provisions, as well as the California Building Code (CBC) illustrate:
CA/OSHA: California Stair & Railing Code details
The following stair dimension example citation is from CA/OSHA Subchapter 4. General Industry Safety Orders, Article 17. Ramps, Runways, Stairwells, and Stairs. Note: this code establishes minimum occupational safety & health standards that apply to all places of employment in California. This is not a residential building code requirement, but this text in our OPINION models stair construction safety & design specifications. Also see HANDRAILS & HANDRAILINGS and STAIR TREAD DIMENSIONS and the other stair measurement parameter subtopics outlined in our detailed article links listed at Related Topics .
CA/OSHA Section 1626. Stairwells and Stairs.
CA/OSHA Title 8 Section 1626. Stairwells and Stairs With added stair details quoting from the CBC 1003.3.3
(b) The following requirements apply to all stairways as indicated:
(c) Stair rails and handrails. The following requirements apply to all stairways as indicated:
Some codes (CA/OSHA Title 8 Section 1626) may cause a little confusion between the definition of handrail and guardrail, by adding a third term, "stair rail":
See HANDRAILS & HANDRAILINGS for handrail and stair rail code & construction details
At least in the 2006 IRC Section R202 these terms are defined clearly:
Definition of "stair rail" as guardrail: In general people speak of guardrails or guards as installed along balconies or elevated walkways and decks. When we enclose open side(s) of a stairway with a "guardrail" some codes such as the 2006 IRC Section R202 use the unfortunate term "stair rail". More unfortunate if readers don't continue along to discover that the horizontal members described in ((B) above must be further enclosed with balusters.
Definition of handrail or hand railing: Handrail [or hand railing] . A horizontal or sloping rail intended for grasping by the hand for guidance or support.
See HANDRAILS & HANDRAILINGS for details about stairway handrailing dimensions, graspability, railing heights, railing continuity, termination, projection distances and all other parameters.
(d) Temporary Service [stairs] - Temporary service stairs, treads, landings:
The following requirements apply to all stairways as indicated:
Note: Authority cited: Section 142.3, Labor Code. Reference: Section 142.3, Labor Code.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about required dimensions for steps, stairs, stairways
Questions & answers or comments about building stair codes, stair dimensions, clearances, and construction guidelines
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.