As a former builder—for over 30 years—I have a pretty good idea as to what it is going to take to fix many of the issues I find in homes. When I first started inspecting, my “past” sometimes got in the way. It was easy to feel sorry for the repair person—as I visualized myself doing the repair. I hate when I come across something that I know someone spent countless hours building, only to have it turn out wrong—or in addition—unsafe.
One of the most complicated, time consuming and technically difficult finish trim components in the home is Natural Finish Wood Stairs. If you make a mistake you re-do it, you don’t carpet over it or caulk it or paint it. If you figure the rise and run wrong, and end up with risers of improper height, you might create a situation that could lead to falls on the stairs. Current requirements specify that risers can not vary more than 3/8 of an inch in any run of stairs and not be more than 7-3/4 inches high.
On this set of stairs, the average riser height was 7-7/8 inches—perhaps a hair over in the one pictured here.
However, one of the risers was dramatically different. I don’t typically measure the riser height of every set of stairs on an inspection—-but if I, my buyer, or the agent trip while using the stairs, then I do measure. It is actually quite amazing how good your feet are at finding the riser that is at a wrong height in relation to the others.
The riser height in the second photo is almost an inch different.
This is an EXCEPTIONALLY difficult issue to address without completely re-doing the stairs—-including the balusters and hand-railings. Of course the language of the recommendations for this defect is going to reflect the age of the house and what if any regulations would have applied when the stairs were built. But in New Construction—-the language is going to be a lot more “negative” and the argument for redoing the stairs much greater.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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