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Building stairway codes specify the size and placement requirements for safe, accessible stairway landings & platforms.
The minimum recommended stair landing length is 36" (or a length and width sufficiently greater than the swing of the door if a wider door is present).
This stairway landing or platform dimension is often also expressed as "a minimum of 36-inches in the direction of travel. This means that where codes like the IBC require a public access stairway (occupancy of more than 50) to be at least 44-inches wide, the platforms will have to be 44-inches in the direction of travel as well; the same IBC permits a 36-inch wide stairway for occupancies of 50 or less, thus permitting the stairway length of 36 inches in the direction of travel.
Using the 2003 IRC as a stair landing code example, we obtain the requirement for landings at the top and bottom of the stairway and a maximum stair rise of 12 feet before an intermediate landing is required.
Our photograph at left illustrates an antique stairway at el Jaral de Berrio Hacienda in central Mexico. And though it should go without saying, the recommended stairway landing or platform width is equal to the stairway width. The minimum recommended stair landing length is 36" (or a length and width sufficiently greater than the swing of the door if a wider door is present. Notice that a stair top landing is not required if the door at the top of the stair opens away from the stairwell.
We often find older one and two family homes at which a door opens directly onto a stairway without a top landing platform. As you can see in our photo at left, a door is opening out over a stairwell and no landing is provided. Because the ergonomics of a person placing their hand on a doorknob and opening the door tends to guide where they put their foot in stepping out and down, the absence of a landing here is a serious trip and fall hazard that is prohibited by building codes and by good construction practice. In industrial settings where there may be special requirements for maintenance of equipment but not normal walking traffic, a landing or platform requirement will differ.
Reader Question: I am finishing my basement and planning to install a landing at the bottom of the stairway that will be 2 steps (one actual step) down to the floor. My question is - since there is no door at the bottom of the steps, is there still a requirement that the landing be 36" deep? Due to the proximity of a support post, the landing will only be 2'9" deep, unless I come back up another step and have three steps down from the landing. Typically building stair codes specify that in the direction of travel the stairway landing or platform shall have a dimension at least as great as the width of the stairway.
In one approach the builder would back up far enough from the end of the stairs to have room for a full width landing, insert the landing there and then continue the stairs down to the left. The user would walk down stairs, and near the end, step onto a full-sized landing, make a left turn, walk across the landing, and continue one or two or however many necessary additional steps to get down to the finished floor. But our email discussion you point out a competing difficulty: moving the landing up one stair tread runs into a headroom clearance with the floor above. As I understand your illustration (above left), the problem is that making the landing length (in direction of travel) equal to the width of what I am guessing is a 36-inch wide stairway means that you'd have to build the platform out intruding into the otherwise free space of the room below. If the inspector will not accept your stair as drawn, you may have to open the ceiling, install blocking or headers to allow you to move the post over to get enough room, then intrude the landing those few inches into the room beyond. As our friend Nizar in the photo is demonstrating at his home near Rabat, in Morocco, it can be very difficult to open a door that swings out over a step while you're standing on the step. Like the example shown above, this is a trip hazard but in this case also it's also difficult to enter the building at all.
While standing on the step the person trying to open the door has to step backwards, down the steps, while opening this security door.
The stairway landing shown at left includes a window that lacks a guard railing or safety glass. Thinking he was walking down a level hallway he instead stepped into air and fell down a stair such as this one. Safety glazing or window guards are required for locations such as that shown in our photograph.
Handrailings at intermediate stairway platforms should be continuous and should be accessible in the area of stair passage. There is a railing along the upper stairway starting at a newell on the fourth stair platform but not along the steps formed by the four platforms (marked in yellow) except along the left wall (marked in green) where no one will ever set-foot.


In the area of principal walking assage from the two sides of this four-riser lower stairway there is no handrailing. On wide stairways you may get by with a pair of wall rails or a railing down the stair center. I imagine that the architect who designed these stairs liked the attractive and open design with a two-sided approach to the stairway. The entry platform or landing at exterior stairs must comply with size and guardrail requirements as do interior stairs and landings. The concrete platform was poured right against building siding, providing a protected entry path into the structure for wood destroying insects. The combination of platform poured against siding and poor drainage sending water towards the house walls increases the risk of insect attack as well as ice formation in winter at this New York home. Stair treads and landings subject to wet conditions shall be designed to prevent the accumulation of water.
Anon your top guardrail needs to meet the height requirements for balconies and landings - typically 43-inches along horizontal walking surfaces such as a landing platform. Most codes want the stair guard to also be 42-inches in heigh but will allow that to drop to 34-inches if the top of the stair guard is also to serve as a handrail.
Continue reading at PLATFORMS & LANDINGS FAQs or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.
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If you have any other creative DVD storage ideas, please share them here by commenting on this post! Minions are quoted regularly in this house so I thought a Minion craft might get them excited to create. All you need is 2 plastic cups and a rubberband or two, something to poke holes with and paper if you also want to make a Minion. Of course they made them yell things as they sailed through the air ?? You could have Minion jumping contests or jumping accuracy contests. I’m the Editorial Assistant for Fun Family Crafts and I wanted to let you know that we have featured your Jumping Minion project!
But note that not all model building codes explicitly require the 36" dimension and instead commonly state that in the direction of travel the landing dimension shall be no less than the width of the stairway. The platform or walking surface can be wider, of course, such as occurs when stairs end at a balcony, deck, or walkway. Some opine that if the door swings into a room, away from that top step, the hazard is reduced and a landing is not required.
Doors in the fully open position shall not reduce a required dimension by more than 7 inches. So if your stairs are 36-inches wide the codes want the platform to run 36-inches in the direction of travel. This might mean that the landing is two or even three steps higher, to get enough room away from an obstructing wall found in the direction of run of the stairs.
And even if you did so, you have a supporting post that intrudes back into the walking space. If your stairway is 36-inches in width, then typical codes want the run direction of the landing to also be 36-inches.
Someone who falls down these stairs is at risk of suffering extra severe injuries should they fall into and break the window glass, or worse, fall right through the window. S., was returning from a night-time bathroom visit when, elderly, frail, and confused in the dark, he turned left instead of right.


Incomplete handrailings invite falls if stair users are likely to walk where there is no graspable handrailing or where open rail ends at intermediate platforms or landings form snag hazards. It is possible that a local official approved these stairs though in my view they are unsafe.
That may comply with the letter of the law in the view of some designers or code compliance officers but in my opinion this is an unsafe stair that would be difficult for elderly or people with walking and stair disabilities.
I would expect an alert building code compliance officer to interpret this as an unsafe stair and call out this as a code defect. I'd have put a handrailing down the steps exactly where the architect would omit it - in the area marked by yellow at the right angle between the two stair treads on the two sides of the platform rectangle. In addition, because of weather exposure entry platforms are at risk of additional slip trip and fall hazards from water, snow and ice, or algae and moss.
And yes, as you can see in our photograph (above left) it is possible to combine a stair-guardrail with a handrailing along a stairway. However as you see in our CIA photo, it's not difficult to add a lower handrailing along a 42-inch stair guard. A part of the fees from our consulting services goes to support our free and low-cost services for artists.
We want artists to know that we have no financial incentive to make our product and safety recommendations. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively.
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If the cabinet is in the living room, consider buying one that is also for decorative purpose.
You can add more dividers to the drawer so that it can fit more DVDs and is easier to retrieve them when needed. You can buy several clear DVD pockets and join them together into this creative and unique curtain.
My daughter's having a Minion Birthday Party soon and this will be a great activity for the kids to do. This can be tricky because in some jurisdictions codes specify varying minimum stairway widths.
Are you saying that if there is another railing against the other wall, it would comply or are you saying that there is no way to comply with 4 platforms without a railing at the corner of the platforms (that would not look right).
Make this handrailing attractive and you've changed a safety problem into a beautiful stair feature. We gratefully accept donations, but do not solicit them from the artists who call here for help and advice. Nevertheless many of us still struggle to find spaces for our hundreds of DVDs that we continue to collect over the year.
Every landing shall have a minimum dimension measured in the direction of travel equal to the width of the stairway.
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