Open Risers on Stairs

Open risers can create problems for individuals with disabilities….and for those of us who are in a hurry.  To prevent a foot from being caught under the tread, a solid riser that is vertical or sloped is required in most conditions.

When are open risers permitted? In new construction, open risers will only be permitted on stairs that are neither a means of egress nor part of an accessible route.

The Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) and the ADAAG do not have requirements for stairs unless the stair serves as the only access to a level.  The section below is copied from the TAS (italics denote an addition or change from the ADAAG):

4.1.3(4) Interior and exterior stairs connecting levels that are not connected by an elevator, ramp, or other accessible means of vertical access shall comply with 4.9; however, stairs adjacent to areas of rescue assistance required by 4.1.3(9) shall comply with whether or not the stairs connect levels also connected by an elevator.

The International Building Code 2006 (IBC) does not permit open risers except in Group I-3 occupancies or when the stair is not an accessible means of egress (IBC 2006, 1009.3.3).  Because all spaces in new construction are required to have at least one accessible means of egress, and two when more than one means of egress is required, most stairs will require closed risers.

To sum it up, open risers can be used on monumental stairs that are not part of the egress and only if the second level is also served by a ramp or elevator.


8 Responses to Open Risers on Stairs

  1. Dannielle says:

    Does that apply to residential as well?

  2. jeromymurphy says:

    Single-family residential or duplexes may have open risers provided that the open riser does not permit the passage of a 4″ diameter sphere. Multi-family residential shall not have open risers except as mentioned in the post.

  3. christina says:

    ANSI & ADA specifically say NO OPEN RISERS even on monumental stairs

    • jeromymurphy says:

      Not exactly. They say no open risers on stairs that are required to be accessible. ANSI has no scoping provision. Therefore, you must look to the IBC to determine which stairs are required to comply with ANSI.
      ADA only requires stairs to comply that are parts of a means of egress or serving an area not served by an accessible route.

  4. John Hastie says:

    I live in California and I am in escrow on a residential property that has open risers. The gap is more than 4″ and from what I am reading it would appear that this is not to code. If the city has already signed off on the project, what can or should I do about it? I can request the developer correct the situation but do they have to comply? If I buy it “as-is” I assume that this problem may arise again when it’s time to sell.

    • jeromymurphy says:

      Open risers with a 4″ opening are typically permitted in residential construction, assuming that this is either a single family home or town home. I don’t know if California has modified this requirement for residential.

  5. Trent Marsh says:

    Must there be a closed riser even on the very bottom step? Where the stairs actually start at the sidewalk. Very bottom?

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