Home Inspector with About The House

When house-hunting, buyers are focused on many aspects of the house; the style, the 'work-ability', the comfort etc. When it comes to safety, that's close to last on the list.

Here's a photo of a set of exterior steps; simple enough? Not quite. There are many potential hazards in this photo that could lead to injury.


The green arrow is pointing to a low spot in the driveway (note the debris build-up). Water ponds here; water turns to ice in cold months.

The blue arrow is showing a high riser. In NJ a single family house can have a riser not more than 8 1/4 inches; this one is almost 10 inches high!

The red arrow is pointing to open risers. The opening between risers can not exceed 4 inches. Picture a toddler crawling backwards down a set of steps.

The purple arrows are pointing to openings at the rail. This is a two-fold problem. Balusters should be installed with no more than 4 3/8 inches between them (the current 'rails' form what's known as the ladder effect when a small child can actually climb up and fall over).

The yellow arrows are showing the rails. There's no way a small child or an elderly person would be able to hold onto these 'handrails'. Handrails should be no more than 2 5/8 inch in diameter (or other configeration that someone can actually hold onto).

So the next set of steps you climb, take a minute to survey what's wrong with them. You can't be too careful when walking on steps.


Comments (7)

Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

I am always careful on steps having gone thru a set and actually having a client fall on steps that were not attached

Feb 03, 2010 10:53 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I have seen such stairs. The thought of a toddler crawling there is scary.

Feb 03, 2010 10:54 PM
Jen Anderson
Exit By the Bay Realty - Chesapeake Beach, MD

Darren, Most buyers would never consder the stair safety. Great post!

Feb 03, 2010 10:54 PM
Barbara Kornegay
REMAX Essential - Wilmington, NC
Wilmington NC Real Estate, Homes

This is so true!!!!

Feb 03, 2010 10:54 PM
Sue Wettstein Brazzel & Dipper Wettstein
Howard County, MD - RE/MAX 100 - Columbia MD - Columbia, MD
"Fast, Efficient, Hassle-Free Service!"

Good visual of a treacherous staircase!

Feb 03, 2010 11:04 PM
Ian Niquette
Square One Home Inspection - Markesan, WI

Darren, great post. This area is one of the most overlooked by potential home buyers. A set of stairs can be very dangerous if they are not built properly or have had a lack of maintenance performed on them. 

Feb 04, 2010 10:42 PM
Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate

If you can walk and walk back down they must be good, right.

Feb 10, 2010 01:39 PM