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What is a Home Inspection?
existing basement stairs and safety  XML
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Terry Wilhite
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Joined: 07/26/2014 06:11 PM EDT
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I am new to the forum.
I am a license home inspector and recently inspected a 125 year old home.
The current stairway to the basement (no documentation of age, but these are not as old as the home, but very aged) are steep, have very narrow treads, and very low headroom.
safety concerns:
-no illumination
-the steepness in traveling up/down
-tread depth
-lower headroom (the 2nd floor stairway is above)
-no handrail

There has been no capital improvements to the basement hence no changes over the years in the stairway.
I am checking local municipality and county codes governing these as a safety item.
Pending how the sale transaction unfolds, what would be the IRC section used to rule these as a safety item? Should proper lighting be added and a handrail it would be deemed acceptable.
I know it is easy to point out the obvious and we as inspectors don't enforce code.

Here are some of the code section and items I have been researching since yesterday's inspection:

AJ501.8.1 Stair width. Existing basement stairs and handrails not otherwise being altered or modified shall be permitted to maintain their current clear width at, above, and below existing handrails.
R311.5.3.3 Profile. ...Open risers are permitted, provided that the opening between treads does not permit the passage of a 4-inch diameter (102 mm) sphere.

I appreciate your feedback to initiate discussion.
Terry


Terry Wilhite
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Nathan
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Joined: 06/17/2014 09:32 PM EDT
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It sounds as if the home is too old for that code to apply. It's typical of homes that age as well- I don't think you note it as a defect. I would say something along the lines of the following;

Be advised that the Basement staircase appears to have been constructed at least many decades ago, and as a result doesn't meet modern safety standards. These safety standards include handrails, lighting, tread height and depth.


I would go further to explain to the Buyers agent and buyer that there's no easy fix here and to be very clear that it's not a defect or failure, just part of that old home charm!

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Nathan
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Welcome to the forum!

P. Nathan Thornberry
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ddhoffman
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Joined: 06/21/2014 04:22 PM EDT
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Terry Wilhite wrote:I am new to the forum.
I am a license home inspector and recently inspected a 125 year old home.
The current stairway to the basement (no documentation of age, but these are not as old as the home, but very aged) are steep, have very narrow treads, and very low headroom.
safety concerns:

. . .

I know it is easy to point out the obvious and we as inspectors don't enforce code.

. . .

I appreciate your feedback to initiate discussion.
Terry


Terry, you are correct in that we don't do code inspections even though codes provide the necessary structure for our findings.

My advise is this: "Hazards do not predate themselves!" If it is a hazard today, then it was back then when there was no code standard to go by. Therefore, just comment on recommendation to consider for upgrading to today's standards.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 07/26/2014 11:46 PM EDT


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Juan Jimenez
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Joined: 06/18/2014 08:53 PM EDT
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This is what I write.

The stairs to the basement would not meet modern safety standards. If concerned, discuss options and costs for replacement with a qualified contractor.

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Pete Campbell
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Joined: 06/18/2014 10:55 PM EDT
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I would not even think about it for a moment. It is what it is.

I don't comment on the obvious and I don't worry about all the 'what ifs'.

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Jeremiah Anderson
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Sounds pretty much obvious that there is a safety concern regarding this condition. It's nothing that you should need to spend a lot of time and energy on elaborating (codes, construction standards, and dates they were in effect). Simply make a basic comment that is clear and concise and move on.

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Kevin Moore
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Pete Campbell wrote:I would not even think about it for a moment. It is what it is.

I don't comment on the obvious and I don't worry about all the 'what ifs'.


I feel the same way. If your buying an older home its not going to meet modern safety standards. I tell clients they should expect to have to do some work but I only comment in my report if I think a hazardous situation is present

Kevin Moore
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Cameron Anderson
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Joined: 09/27/2014 09:37 AM EDT
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I don't really care about the codes when it comes to a safety issue like that, especially on a house that old. No one will care about grandfathered construction if their kid gets injured. I call it out as a safety hazard and a recommended repair. This is my opinion about all safety issues especially electrical. Just because something was built many years ago doesn't magically make it acceptable or safe. Construction standards change for a reason and it's usually because somebody gets injured or killed.

At the very least I would mention it as a recommended upgrade.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 11/16/2014 08:59 PM EST


Cameron Anderson
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RickSab
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Joined: 06/30/2014 11:13 PM EDT
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I inspect a lot of 100 year plus homes. Often these are recent rehabs and many contractors never bother to change the basement stairs. They can't figure out how. It doesn't matter to me, I report the safety issues. It's up to them to figure out how to make it work. My client needs to know what dangers may exist. Many of these are investment properties so I call out all safety issues. I don't need a tenant getting hurt and then my client and possibly myself getting dragged into court.

I try to protect my client and myself.

Rick Sabatino
Sabatino Consulting
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