The stair section of our provincial (~state) code prevents much originality,
especially when it comes to "guards" (short 'walls' stopping you from
falling off). From a visual design point of view, guards are most of what
you see in a stair.
Typical stair geometry is confined but fairly reasonably, unless you buy
those traditional rules about rise and run, which I do, in which case all
kinds of awful stairs are permitted. For example, it's completely legal to
do a 7-7/8" rise with a 14" run, or one with a 4-7/8" rise with an 8-1/4"
run. These are both hazards in my opinion. We have a graph on the wall
outlining the "sweet spot" in stair geometry within code limits, but further
limited by 3 algebraic rules. We aim for the sweet spot if we can, in all
I've custom designed a few completely custom stairs in Ontario, and there is
hardly a more frustrating section of the code.
for one still on the web. I've done very traditional ones too.
Unless the work is of a law-abiding architect/designer, if you see a stair
featured in a glossy magazine up here, and it is meant to showcase someone's
creativity, it is usually illegal in one obvious way or more, and probably
done without a permit. It drives me nuts.
The code actually protects a new-born baby's head (4"/100mm) from being
insert into openings in most guards. New-borns can't even roll over, so we
are really protecting the public from baby-killers. No one asks why such a
person doesn't just toss the baby over the guard, or squish them in-between
two treads where the risers are open, (which also still legal to do- the
open risers not the squishing) which can have a clear opening of up to 7".
I admit that I'm no expert in baby-killers rules of conduct, but I imagine
them to be fairly practical, resourceful people....
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