While not found very often during my duties as a Seattle Home Inspector, when found, the dangers of doors that swing over stairs, must be pointed out. The requirement for there to be landings on both sides of the door (for exterior doors) when the door opens toward the stairs, has been around for some time. This rule is not as “mandatory” as one might think. For example an exterior door of a home, that is not the “primary” entrance to the home (like the door to the back yard) does not require a landing and the screen door could swing out over those stairs if the stairs do not have more than two risers. Seems odd in some cases, but is another example of the “minimum standards” of the codes.
In older homes it is not uncommon to have doors that open over the stairs to the basement. Interior doors do not require landings at both sides of the door like exterior doors do. Doors would end up like this because there often wasn’t a place to swing the door into the kitchen (or elsewhere) where the top of the stairs was located. Sometimes I find where the the door used to be correct but where the hinging of the door was changed to swing over the stairs to allow for better use of the kitchen space or to eliminate “arguments” with other doors. Regardless, this installation is not safe; and, tumbles backwards down the stairs are a real possibility while trying to open the door when going up the stairs.
Some changes are warranted to prevent falls down the stairs.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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