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A closer look at the stairs

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of replacing the banister with wall. As I said in a previous post, the existing banister falls short of the minimum code requirements. I admit that I was originally motivated by laziness– there are a lot of spindles to paint. But I also have a strong desire to eliminate all the building code issues in this house. Here are the problems that exist now. [Please note that the pictures on this page are full size– they are not thumbnails]

Handrail height

The height of the existing handrail is only 28 inches, or 2 ft 4 in.

According to the Ontario Building Code, the height of the handrail is required to be between 800 mm (2 ft 7 in) and 965 mm (3 ft 2 in) measured from the stair nosing.  Ours falls short of  the minimum by 3 inches.

Obstructed handrail

Another reason this banister cannot serve as a handrail is because it is obstructed by the second flight of stairs.

obstructed handrail

Ontario Building Code requires that the handrail be graspable along its entire length with no obstruction on or above it to break a handhold.  We can solve this issue by installing a handrail that meets code on the other side of the stairs. 

Guard Height

The barrier around the stairway on the second floor is only 33 inches high.

guard height

The Ontario Building Code requires that this guard be a minimum of 2 ft 11 in high.  The guard falls short by 2 inches (which could lead to a dangerous fall).

Openings in Guards

While the majority of spacing between the spindles meets code but there are a couple instances where the spacing is uneven or exceeds the maximum allowed 4 inches. Just imagine the amount of work to remove and re-install all the spindles so they meet code.

spindle spacing

The Ontario Building Code requires that openings in guards “be of a size which will prevent the passage of a spherical object having a diameter of more than 100 mm (4 in)….  Exceptions can be made, if it can be shown that a larger opening would not represent a hazard.  Perhaps I could win the argument in this case, but it would be up to the inspector as to whether or not to allow an exception.

Aesthetic issues

Beyond the building code issues, it was the general aesthetics that led me to take a closer look at the stairs in the first place.

spindles encroach on treads

The spindles encroach on the steps.  Cladding the stairs in hardwood, or even covering them with carpet becomes a challenge because whatever material is uses has to be trimmed around the spindles.  Not a good look.  Cleaning the spaces between the spindles is also a lot of work and naturally those are the areas that attract dirt and dog fur.

And finally, the pain in the proverbial butt that started it all:  The guard on the main floor is awkwardly close to the balustrade on the first flight of stairs.  Painting each spindle around its entire 360 degree surface– and doing a good job– would be especially difficult.  I got a taste of that when I was applying stripper to the surfaces to remove the previous owner’s finish.  And just like on the stairs, the spaces between the spindles are magnets for dirt and tedious to keep clean.

Eliminating the spindles and replacing them with a wall will solve all of these issues.


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