Internachi certified professional inspector
Staircases and Code Compliance
Like any homeowner, while I like where I live and consider myself very fortunate to be a homeowner in Halifax, there are definitely things I would change if I could and at the top of the list is our stairways. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
This setup would not be permitted in the USA but here in Canada this stairway is 100% building code compliant, at least in a single dwelling. Regardless of what the codebook says, I do not like this setup and see it as an unnecessarily dangerous design (especially going down) that should not be permitted. Not only are the top few steps very narrow, but it is very steep to the point the railing goes completely vertical. There is obviously little that can be done without re-designing the entire house, but I did make two improvements: the first is almost invisible on the picture above so let me focus in on what I did.
Looking at the bottom of the left picture, the bracket in the middle of the stairs does not match the other ones because this one was completely missing when we moved in. Railings should be supported every 1.2 metres so I added one to further secure the handrail. As well, the top of the railing was only connected to the wall stud with one screw: the other two were only drilled into the drywall and were very loose. I re-attached this bracket using proper anchors and it is now tight to the wall.
When I do inspections, I always pay special attention to the staircases: while obviously they cannot be re-designed, I will point out areas that might be an issue, and suggestions for maximizing safety. For example, a significant number of homes I have inspected have been completely missing handrails. In my experience, the only bigger hidden danger in a house is automatic garage doors, which is the perfect reason to write about it in our next blog post. In the meantime, check your railings to ensure they are tight and can support the force of an adult pushing down on them: as the old saying goes a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the middle of a slip and fall is not the time to test that saying!