Checklist for Stairways

With special application to home stairways

Developed by Jake Pauls, CPE



Permission is granted to reproduce with source identified.

Revised, with metric dimensions, Sept. 2014.


[   ]  Locate steps only where they are necessary and their presence is obvious to all.

[   ]  Avoid small changes of floor or walkway levels, especially very problematic, single steps.

[   ]  Use safety glazing for glass that could be impacted in a fall on a stairway.

[   ]  Arrange for any doors adjacent to steps not to swing over any steps. Doors and stairs are

        very problematic in close proximity (closer than 900 mm) such as at entrances to a home.

[   ]  Install securely latched gates, safe for infants and toddlers, to prevent access to stairs.

[   ]  Avoid sudden changes of views and visual distractions, including glare, from stairways.


          [   ]  When you sight down the steps, the nosings (leading edges), including those at each landing,

       must all line up. Irregularities are especially dangerous.

[   ]  Make sure risers and treads, measured nosing to nosing, are consistent in size (within 5 mm).

[   ]  If nosings project  beyond stair risers, keep nosing projections uniform in the flight—including

       at landings—configured so that there is no tripping danger to those with poor foot control.

[   ]  For older and very young users, have new step rise dimensions no higher than 180 mm.

[   ]  Build new step run dimensions at least 280 mm front to back, measured  nosing to nosing.

[   ]  Conspicuously mark flights having inconsistently sized steps; e.g., paint a contrasting stripe

       (of consistent width in range of 25-50 mm) on all step nosings (right at the leading

       edges of the treads) so that the non-uniformity stands out and is visually obvious.

[   ]  Carpets and padding on treads should not exceed 10 mm in total thickness.

[   ]  Fix tread coverings securely; coverings must be tight against the nosings.

[   ]  Remove/repair tripping surfaces such as projecting nosing caps and screws or nails on treads.

[   ]  Provide slip-resistant (rough) finish on exterior stair treads subject to wetting.

[   ]  If stairs are subject to wetting, slope treads approximately 1 percent for drainage.


[   ]  Make steps visually prominent so that their presence is obvious.

[   ]  Avoid tread materials and coverings with visually distracting patterns

[   ]  Provide slightly rounded nosings (maximum radius 13 mm) for visibility and injury reduction

       in case of a fall against the steps.

[   ]  Mark all nosings permanently—not with tape—if they are not distinctly visible in descent.

       Note that a 25 mm wide painted stripe works very well, and looks good, even on carpet.

[   ]  Provide lighting without shadows or glare. Tread nosings must be distinctly visible

[   ]  Illuminate stairs with no less than two light sources (especially if incandescent).

[   ]  Have light levels on stairs at least as high as on adjacent floor areas.

[   ]  Unless continuously lit or automatically switched on, provide light switches at each stair


[   ]  Install permanently illuminated, shielded, small light sources (e.g., LED night lights) on stairs

       so that all steps in each flight are fairly uniformly, and not too brightly, illuminated.


[   ]  Install a handrail around which fingers and thumb can encircle, rather than merely

       pinching the railing. A measuring tape, wrapped completely around the railing,

       should measure less than 160 mm.  Use a smaller size for children.

[   ]  Provide at least one handrail on each stair—regardless of the number of steps.

[   ]  Continue handrails between stair flights on the side providing the shortest path of travel.

[   ]  Extend the handrail, without a break, the full length of the stair between floors.

[   ]  Augment any decorative, ungraspable stair railing system with a functional handrail.

[   ]  Maintain adequate hand clearance (57 mm) between the handrail and nearby surfaces.

[   ]  Position handrails at about adult elbow height, e.g., 915-965 mm,

       measured vertically above step nosings to the top of the handrail.

[   ]  Provide handrails that are visually prominent.

[   ]  Fix handrails securely to walls and posts.  You should be able to bear your

       entire weight on the handrail without damaging the handrail.