How to Know If Your Staircase Is Code-Compliant

Investing in a staircase is said to be cost-effective, as it provides easy access to different levels of the property, allows you to maximize your floor space, and adds aesthetic appeal. Unlike elevators, escalators, and lifts, it’s regarded that staircases are more affordable to install and maintain.


However, installing a staircase isn’t just about picking the right design, material, and finishes; you need to make sure that your staircase is also code-compliant. Installing a staircase in your property without paying attention to local rules and regulations can result in severe injuries and even possible legal repercussions. Here’s how you can determine if your prefabricated metal stairs are code-compliant:

1.      It’s Not Prone to Rusting

Your staircase should be durable enough to support the weight of the people who are using it. People will transfer their weight to the stairs the moment they step on it; a staircase made from weak materials will likely result in serious accidents.

If you want to know whether your staircase is code-compliant, check for any signs of rust, especially in the joints where welds meet. Rust weakens any type of metal as it reduces its mass, which means that the metal can no longer support the same weight it usually holds.

Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent your staircase from rusting. For one, you can have your railing galvanized to ensure that the metal is treated to resist rust over time. Adding powder coating can also help as it provides a protective layer to the entire surface of the metal.

2.      It Meets the Necessary Width Measurements

Climbing up and down a staircase that’s too narrow is inconvenient and dangerous. How can you bring large boxes to another level if your stairs are too cramped? What will you do if you meet someone in the middle of the staircase?

Your staircase is code-compliant if it follows the stair width specifications dictated by your locality’s building code. These measurements are essential to ensure that anyone who uses the stairs remains safe, regardless of the items they carry as they’re using it or if they meet anyone on the stairs.

3.      The Riser Meets the Height Requirements

The height of your stair risers plays a vital role in the functionality of your staircase and the safety of anyone who’s using it. Stair risers that are too short or long will make it very challenging for you to use the stairs and increase the risk of slip and fall accidents. This will likely happen when first-timer users step on your staircase.

Ensure that your staircase is code-compliant by checking the height of its risers. You can measure the height of your stair riser by placing a measuring tape between the landing edges of the adjacent treads. Ideally, your stair riser should measure no more than seven inches in height.

Stair risers that measure seven inches in height are comfortable for most people. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your staircase is functional and doesn’t compromise the safety of people using it, including your own.

4.      It Offers Sufficient Headspace

Hurrying up and down your stairs can lead to accidents and injuries if you don’t have the right headspace to work on. Stair head clearance is crucial to reduce head and other types of injuries, so make sure that your staircase meets this requirement.

To ensure that your staircase is code-compliant, it should meet the minimum head clearance for stairs, which is usually pegged at 80 inches. However, it may also depend on the local building code in your area. This means that your staircase should have at least 80 inches of head clearance from any overhead obstruction from the ceiling. This measurement allows you to safely use the staircase without worrying about bumping or hitting your head to any protrusion.

5.      It Has a Landing At the Top and Bottom

Staircases are meant to help you reach different levels of a property, but these should also provide comfort and safety as you’re climbing. Not having any platforms to rest as you reach another level of the property can be very dangerous.

Your staircase will only be code-compliant if it has a landing platform at the top and bottom. These areas are essential to give you an area to rest and change directions, especially if your staircase is built to connect several floors.

The size of your landing platforms should be the same as the width of your stairs. If your stairs have treads that measure three meters in width, then your landing platforms should measure at least three meters. This will make your staircase safe and ensure that the area looks appealing.

6.      It’s Lit With an Artificial Light Source

You’ll use your staircase during different times of the day, which is why it’s important to have artificial light sources nearby. Aside from accidents and injuries, a poorly lit staircase can also result in possible injury lawsuits.

With the number of lighting fixtures available in the market today, you won’t have any problems lighting your staircase. Depending on the size of your staircase and the design you want to achieve, you can invest in the wall, step, or handrail lighting fixtures. You can also install motion-sensing stair lights or window blinds nearby your stairs to save energy on lighting.

7.      It Has a Handrail

Instead of bringing convenience, your staircase will only cause disasters if it doesn’t have any handrails. Handrails are essential in staircases because these help people balance on steps and platforms, especially for individuals with mobility issues.

If your staircase has more than three steps, you need to install a handrail. Your handrail should be at least 36 inches in height with balusters spaced no more than four inches apart. Maintaining this distance between balusters is crucial to eliminate any extra space through which someone could fall.

Hire a Professional for Help

As a property owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your staircase is up to code. The time and money you spent installing one will be useless if you end up paying for medical bills and repairs in the future.


Aside from checking your staircase using the information in this article, hire inspectors who can assess whether your staircase is code-compliant. Along with your effort, their expertise will go a long way in making sure that your staircase is safe and functional. 

Erin Emanuel