Inspecting A Stairway

By Greg Vanden Berge

The first thing you want to do when inspecting a stairway is to give it a good visual inspection. Look for anything out of the ordinary, along with any irregularities. Again you're going to be looking for anything out of place, missing, loose, broken or damaged.

After you have inspected the stairway visually you can, grab the lower section of the hand railing and see if it moves at all. If it just moves a little, there's probably not that big of a problem but there is a good chance it will loosen up in the future. I'm not guaranteeing you that it will loosen up, try to find out how long it has been loose. If it has just loosened up with in the past year you could have a problem sooner than latter.

A lose handrail can be a pretty difficult thing to fix or repair. It could require the carpenter to remove some drywall or stair treads to get behind the newel post or stair balusters, to either tighten the loose bolts or figure out a creative way to strengthen the hand rail system.

Next, walk up and down the set of stairs and listen for any squeaks in the stair treads. Fixing stair tread squeaks can be fixed in a few different ways, depending upon which way the stairs were originally built. Keep in mind some of these stair repairs can become quite expensive. There could be cases where the stairway, if damaged enough, would have to be replaced. If the handrail is also damaged, this could end up costing as much as the stairway.

Only if the stairway is severely damaged would this become a problem. If you think it needs to be replaced, find a contractor and get his opinion and an estimate. If you are looking at the house to purchase this could affect your decision.

Something else you can inspect is the handrail balusters spacing to make sure a 4 inch diameter ball will not fit through the stair hand railing system or any other part of the stairway. This is a newer building code and probably came into effect in the 1990s. If you have a house that is older, you are safe to assume that it passed the building codes, before they were changed.

Sections of the newer building codes that where updated include, a minimum of a 42 inch guard rail for the stairway, along with a gripable handrail that should be installed between, 34 and 38 inches. Not all cities and building departments are enforcing this and older homes of course will not be required to meet these building codes in most cases.

The most common problems in a stairway are: squeaking stair treads and loose handrails. Measure each stair tread and riser. They are not allowed to vary more than a quarter inch, within the stairway.

Stairs  Stair Articles