Lots of homes in Northwest have exterior stairwells to the basement. Often these homes are small with no other means of getting to the basement. Stairwells take up a lot of space and in a small home it might have been considered better to have it on the outside of the home. If there is a second story on the home, the access is more commonly found on the interior. Today we consider outside access to the basement very inconvenient. Back when these homes were built—just having a basement was considered convenience enough.
I have always found it interesting how our ideas of what is “expected” in a home changes over time. I can imagine how when we transitioned from outhouses to indoor plumbing how many people might have been “disgusted” by the idea of bringing the outhouse indoors. Even the idea of permanently installed carpets might have thrown some homeowners for a loop. There was a time when you wanted to hang the carpets on the cloths line and beat them to death with a broom. And washers and dryers—-pretty much a given in any home you buy today.
But, back to outside stairwells.
Most of the time these older stairwells have no barrier or inadequate barriers around them to prevent falls. Most walls of this type require a barrier if they are more than 30″ tall. Even 29″ seems too high to not have a barrier to me. This is just another example of why building codes are “minimum” standards.
The stairwell in this first picture has a railing that would help prevent falls by adults, but would do little to prevent a fall from a kid chasing a ball in the dark.
This next picture has no railing at all—to speak of.
Upgrading these open stairwells for improved safety is recommended.
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