DIY Disaster Doctor: Staggering Staircase

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Rick A. Harrington of Patch Independent Home Inspections, LLC in Pickerington, Ohio (via The Money Pit). Used with permission of the ASHI Reporter.

Is this curious structure actually a staircase? Apparently, this DIYer didn't have ample room for a "traditional" staircase and decided to split the difference with a staggered design -- an accident waiting to happen. There isn't even a railing! Someone can easily trip on the way up or down.

Diagnosis
This creation has basically broken all the rules of proper stair design. Besides the concentration it would take to successfully ascend or descend this staircase, the design doesn't incorporate the standard tread depth and riser height that we humans are used to when moving to another level. When steps are too shallow, wide, high or low, it's hard for our bodies to accommodate the change and thus easier for us to get tripped up.

The most likely scenario here is an an obstruction within the framework of the stairs that made traditional stair impossible to build. To build a staircase that's safe, comfortable and definitely to code, you simply have to have the proper amount of space available for its footprint. Without that, it's time to move onward and upward to other staircase options.

Rx
The idea here is to select a stairway design that fits into the limited space and safely gets you to where you're going. For a finished living area, choosing a spiral staircase is a stylish, versatile solution that claims only about half the space of a traditional staircase. Used indoors or out, a spiral staircase can be made of metal, wood or both, with a diameter and other dimensions suited to the area you have available. You can also adjust the position of the first tread relative to the last for a comfortable, logical travel pattern.

For upward mobility in an unfinished space, such as an attic, try such options as fold-down, pull-down or telescoping stairs. With any of these, make sure you've got enough room below for the staircase mechanism to unfold or untelescope completely and solidly, as well as proper clearance above for when the stairs are stored. Plan properly, and you won't have to think too hard about putting one foot in front of the other when taking the stairs!

Skill Level
This one can have you going in circles...literally! Upper-division DIY experience suggested.

Tom Kraeutler delivers home improvement tips and ideas each week as host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. You can also subscribe to Tom's latest home improvement podcast or free home improvement newsletter.

** Got a DIY disaster you'd like us to feature? Send a photo of the disaster to DIYDisasterDr@aol.com, and we just might publish it here on DIY Life. All submissions will remain anonymous. **

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