What I'm Seeing Now

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A New Staircase Isn't Always A Stairway To Heaven

Sometimes new things impress buyers as they walk around a house, and very often a new staircase isn't always a stairway to heaven.

The deck has been there a while. 

The stairs have not.

There are buyers who're sure, all that glitters is gold,
But they're not buying a stairway to heaven.
Oooh, they're not buying a stairway to heaven.

The building code limits the maximum stair tread height at 7 3/4".  BUT THE RISER HEIGHT SHOULD BE UNIFORM.

There are reasons for this code.

When walking up stairs the brain remembers the height of each. 

When things vary it is easier to trip.

This staircase varies from step to step and at the top.

It isn't exactly level either.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the stairs you're on.

Looking underneath it appears that the previous staircase looked substantially like this one!

It, too, had been improperly attached to the deck!

The homeowner, or contractor (!), must have looked at how the old stairs were done, and mimicked it!

That stringer, the angled board the new stairs are resting on, is merely nailed onto that beam from the back side.

And they made little triangles to hold the stair treads onto the stringer.

All in all, it looks new, it feels new, it smells new, but it's still not right!

Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know,
The piper's calling you to join him,
Dear buyer, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And it makes me wonder...

I think often about why things are done the way they are.  In this case it might just be that this staircase mimicked a previous one, but that still does not make it correct.  It's best to have an inspection!

Are they terribly dangerous?  No.  But should they be done right?  I think so.  Even now?  I think so.

My recommendation:  Do It Right!  And as we wind on down the road, Our shadows taller than our soul. There walks a buyer we all know, Who shines white light and wants to show...  And if you listen very hard, the tune will come to you at last.  When all are one and one is all -- To be a rock and not to roll.

THE LAST THING YOU WANT TO SEE AS YOU PREVIEW A HOUSE IS A BUYER ROLLING DOWN THE STAIRS!



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 20 commentsJay Markanich • October 03 2011 05:28AM

Comments

Jay I'm wondering what other little bits of data you found wrong with this inspection.  Second did the buyers go ahead with the purchase? 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) almost 9 years ago

If you take it apart, put it back the way you found it. Even if it was wrong in the first place. Right?

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) almost 9 years ago

Actually, James, overall the house was in okay shape, for its age.  There were some electrical issues, and a few other things, but they went ahead I think.

Andrea - that may have been the plan!  Overall, you can see it isn't professional.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Good morning, Jay. ♬ O-o-o-o, it makes me wonder...♫ Are they buy-i-i-ing a stairway to the de-eck♬...

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) almost 9 years ago

Well, Michael, I don't know if they put that on the list of requested repairs, but it certainly was on the report!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jay - Varying riser height almost always gets the amateurs and sometimes the "professionals" too. And I'm sometimes surprised when code inspectors miss such obvious issues. Just another reason to get an inspection.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 9 years ago

It is John.  Watching some of the DIY shows you see it there too.  Holmes has the "best handyman in America" and only a couple of them could do stairs.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

I can't tell you how many times I have nearly fallen flat on my face because of inconistent rise on stairs.  Big problem.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) almost 9 years ago

Chris Ann - the brain really does record things.  In this case there are only three stairs so maybe there isn't enough time for the brain to register a consistent or inconsistent depth, but nonetheless, you are right - walking on them makes you vulnerable.

Oh, and don't walk on your hands... that's a sure way to fall on your face.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

The other thing my eye tells me is that the varying depths of the steps are likely to cause some issues as well.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 9 years ago

That might be the photo Steven, as I remember them all being the same depth.

But, memories fail!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

When the leggy breaks... they got no Jay to blame.

 

Because he rightly told them so!  ;-) 

Posted by Bill Warner, Infrared Thermal Inspector (BC Warner Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Jay, I have encountered this sort of problem a number of times recently.  It is easy to trip over inconsistent stairs...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 9 years ago

Thanks Bill.  They got words, pictures and a blog!

Chris - the brain is a very logical processor and different heights don't add up logically.  So we trip!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

That's uh.....interesting?  Could make for a serious tumble and a bad injury.  The older I get the longer I'm taking to heal, lol.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) almost 9 years ago

It doesn't get any better from here Justin...    ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Yep. You called it. Uneven risers send you flying. 

I'd call this one for missing handrails too. Then at least you have a chance.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 9 years ago

There never was a rail probably because when properly done there are only 2 risers!  But who knows Robert.  The attachment underneath was fun too.  I think a rail would be nice too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

We check for an 18" rise. Basically if you are changing elevation by your average knee height then railings should be used. The actual tread count is less important.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 9 years ago

No matter - I would go with the rails Robert!  Here it is 3 risers or 30".  But I consider that to be irrelevant.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

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