Brief rundown of the International Residential Code

March 06, 2013 2 min read

Perusing the internet, you'll likely notice that there are many interesting staircases the world over that can act as a source of inspiration for the kind of structure you build in your home. However, before you start planning out an elaborate flight that features floating treads or an elaborate stair rail, consider the safety of the members of your household. You may actually be violating a building code if you get too ambitious with the project.

The Stairway Manufacturers Association, a league of craftsmen who accredit stair builders and dictate proper construction methods, released the latest version of their International Residential Code (IRC) back in 2006. This code acts as a guideline for homeowners, since residential properties require different safety considerations than commercial or industrial buildings.

One of the key components of this code is the space between steps. So that individuals can properly establish good footing, the minimum depth of a tread is 10 inches. In addition, the riser height of any residential staircase shall not exceed 7 inches, so that the incline of a staircase isn't too arduous.

Homeowners also can't neglect the railings on a staircase. It is required that every flight have a stair rail, according to the IRC. However, the placement of the railing has to be accessible to all members of your family - children and adults. For a single handrail, the minimum height from the step below is 31.5 inches. If you have two parallel handrails, they can be slightly lower at 27 inches.

So that the stairwell isn't cramped, homeowners have to have a clearance space of 36 inches. To ensure the railing doesn't take up too much room, it shouldn't jut out from the wall any more than 4.5 inches.

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