This newsletter will cover the requirements for means of egress stairs

September 2016: Means of Egress Stairs
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Accessible stairs

The 2010 ADA requires that stairs that are part of a means of egress be accessible.  This is true even when there is an elevator or ramp connecting the levels where the stairs are located. This newsletter will give you guidance on what those requirements are for stairs that are part of a means of egress on the interior of the building as well as the exterior.  The requirements are only for new construction.  There are some exceptions:  

1) Existing stairs that are altered are exempted from having to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards, except for the handrails should be brought up to compliance.

These steps are part of the means of egress to the exterior, but they are exempted because they are existing.

2) Stairs located at assembly areas, such as theaters, sporting event  etc. do not have to comply.  

Handrails are not required at assembly steps since they must not impede entry to seats

3) stairs that are located in a detention area that is not open to the public 

4) stairs that connect play components do not have to comply

This photo shows the handrails that are not extending.  Since these steps are part of a play component it will not have to comply with all the requirements including extension

5) And stairs that are not part of a means of egress, like at a lobby grand stair do not have to comply.

504 Stairways 

Means of egress stair are required to comply with the IBC as well as the ADA. The ADA requires that all steps on a flight of stairs have uniform riser heights and uniform tread depths. Risers shall be 4 inches high minimum and 7 inches high maximum. Treads shall be 11 inches deep minimum.

Open risers are not permitted.

If these steps at bleachers are part of a means of egress, the open risers will not be permitted.  

Stair treads shall be stable, firm and slip resistant. They should not have any gaps on them greater than 1/2".  And changes in level at treads are not permitted on the treads.  Treads shall be permitted to have a slope not steeper than 1:48. 

Stair treads and landings subject to wet conditions shall be designed to prevent the accumulation of water.  This could be with perforations, or possible sloping as long as it is not greater than 1:48

The leading edge of the treads are allowed to have curvature.  The radius of curvature at the leading edge of the tread shall be ½ inch (13 mm) maximum. Nosings that project beyond risers shall have the underside of the leading edge curved or beveled.  Risers shall be permitted to slope under the tread at an angle of 30 degrees maximum from vertical. The permitted projection of the nosing shall extend 1½ inches (38 mm) maximum over the tread below. 

Stairs shall have handrails.  The handrails should meet the requirements for ADA section 505.  Handrails will be discussed at the next section.

505 Handrails at Stair

Where required, handrails shall be provided on both sides of stairs 

This egress stair did not have handrails on both sides

Handrails shall be continuous within the full length of each stair flight. Inside handrails on switchback or dogleg stairs shall be continuous between flights or runs.

These handrails are not continuous

Top of gripping surfaces of handrails shall be 34 inches minimum and 38 inches maximum vertically above stair nosings. Handrails shall be at a consistent height above stair nosings

Clearance between handrail gripping surfaces and adjacent surfaces shall be 1½ inches (38 mm) minimum.

Handrail gripping surfaces shall be continuous along their length and shall not be obstructed along their tops or sides.  But the bottoms of handrail gripping surfaces can be obstructed but no more than 20 percent of their length. 

The supports below the handrails cannot obstruct the continuation more than 20% of the length

Where provided, horizontal projections shall occur 1½ inches minimum below the bottom of the handrail gripping surface.

Handrail gripping surfaces with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of 1¼ inches minimum and 2 inches maximum

Handrail gripping surfaces with a non-circular cross section shall have a perimeter dimension of 4 inches minimum and 6¼ inches maximum, and a cross-section dimension of 2¼ inches maximum.

Handrail gripping surfaces and any surfaces adjacent to them shall be free of sharp or abrasive elements and shall have rounded edges.

There are sharp edges on the handrails

Handrails shall not rotate within their fittings.

Handrail gripping surfaces shall extend beyond and in the same direction of stair flights 

This stair plan shows the handrail wrapping the corner and not extending in the same direction of the flight of stair.

Only In alterations, full extensions of handrails shall not be required where such extensions would be hazardous due to plan configuration.  But in new construction this is not allowed.  It is assumed that during design, the amount of space would be thought through and ample space for handrail extension would be provided.

At the top of a stair flight, handrails shall extend horizontally above the landing for 12 inches (305 mm) minimum beginning directly above the first riser nosing
Extensions shall return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or shall be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight. 

The top handrail in this stair did not extend the full tread depth.  This was located at the top of a parking garage where accessible parking spaces were not provided.  But even though there was no accessible spaces, because this is a means of egress step, all flights must comply regardless of the location of the parking spaces.  Remember handrails at stairs are not used by person who use wheelchairs necessarily.

At the bottom of a stair flight, handrails shall extend at the slope of the stair flight for a horizontal distance at least equal to one tread depth beyond the last riser nosing. Extension shall return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or shall be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight.

Need CEUs

If you are interested in Building Code seminars check out my colleague Shahla Layendecker with  SSTL Codes

If you want to learn more about these standards, be sure to check out my books:
book cover

If you have any questions about these or any other topics, please feel free to contact me anytime.  
Marcela Abadi Rhoads, RAS #240
Abadi Accessibility
214. 403.8714

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