One of the challenges of being a home inspector is learning how to language defects in terms of the time frame they occurred. For example the way an inspector would report about improper spacing of stair treads with open risers would be different if the home was built in 1910 as opposed to having been built in 2010.
In an older home the wording would lean more toward “upgrading” for improved safety. If it was new construction, the wording would lean more toward “repairs” of the defect.
There are lots of requirements for the proper construction of stairs, but I only want to focus on two issues right now.
The home had a completion date of 2010, I found stairs that did not comply with current regulations in place at the time of construction for the jurisdiction it was built in and likely almost any jurisdiction.
Modern codes require that there be no more than 4” between the treads when the risers are open.
The second issue is regarding the triangular space between the bottom of the side barrier the shape made by the tread and the riser which is not allowed to be larger than what a 6” diameter sphere could pass through.
It is only a little bit over 6″—but still more than is allowed. I find it a little odd that these issues got past the jurisdictional inspector. As a former builder, these sorts of concerns were on the “short-list” of things the jurisdictional inspectors looked hard at on the final inspection. But regardless, somehow these did get signed off on, and now it will be up to the new owner to deal with it–since it is now a short sale–and the bank is not likely going to fix the stairs.
To make this particular problem even more difficult is that these are public stairs used by four townhouses with no association.
So whose stairs are they really?
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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