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robert_yuen

Staggered stair posts

Robert Yuen
8 days ago

I had custom stairs installed in my new construction and was very surprised that the two bottom posts were staggered. The asymmetry is driving me nuts. I asked my contractor why one was higher than the other and he replied that it was for coding issues. I did my research and coding only requires a certain height of the railing and width between the stairs and guards. I believe he’s giving me a BS answer and doesn’t want to go back and fix this. Am I missing something here or do I have a valid point?

Comments (41)

  • PRO
    RES2
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    You didn't say where the project is located or what building code applies but if the code is the IRC, at least one handrail must be "continuous for the full length of the flight, from a point directly above the top riser of the flight to a point directly above the lowest riser of the flight". The handrail can terminate at a newel post as yours does.

    This requirement is not always enforced but custom stair builders are careful to meet all code requirement.

    I think the design is quite elegant. original and appropriate for the unusual setting. I don't think continuing both railings to the bottom riser would have been better. This design is more welcoming.

    Usually an owner signs off on the final shop drawings before fabrication.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    8 days ago

    I like it the way it is.

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  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    then why didn't he put the left one up like the right one?





    Wouldn't this have made more sense to do both like this?^

    All 3 of these are identical to yours.



    I cannot believe code required it to be offset like this.

    and if it did, why didn't he run it by you to see if it would work w/you?

    I've never ever seen a staircase done like that.






    I'd verify w/the city on your local codes, and take a pic of of it down to the building department. ask if the posts can be even.

    That would drive me crazy.

  • scout
    8 days ago

    Does the bottom stair flair out more on the right then the left? In other words is the last step asymmetrical? Do you have a photo of the stairs from the front?

  • Robert Yuen
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    I did sign off on the materials. I had asked for a sketch or 3D rendition prior to installation but his reply was that the sub contractor is “old school and doesn’t provide that.” I had trusted him that he would’ve ran this by me before finalizing it.

  • Robert Yuen
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    Here’s the best picture I have of the stairs. The lowest riser does kinda wrap around on the right side but is straight on the left.

  • Robert Yuen
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    The house is located in Bergen county NJ.

  • Paula Sanders
    8 days ago

    I would not accept this! I did post construction clean up and this is so noticeably off. Beautiful stairs but I agree with the person that posted photos of different stairs that are even at the bottom. I saw so many flubs! Good luck! Sorry no facts her. Just an opinion.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    8 days ago

    Look how boring those other examples are; just dumping the stair descender in the same old spot every time. Your stair will give the descender opportunity to make an early exit to the left.

    When your best friend's wife asks you why your stair is like that, you can look her in the eye and say, "To make little girls ask questions".

    It looks great.

  • scout
    8 days ago

    I can't say if it's correct or not, but it sounds like the bottom stair is more pronounced and larger on the right, where the railing is missing, sort of like a step off to enter the room. It is not like the photos that BethH posted where the bottom stair is symmetric.

  • RNmomof2 zone 5
    8 days ago

    With the flair on the right, I think the current placement favors this unique design. If code specifies that one must go to the bottom of the run, then this was the only choice. It would have been odd to place the post at the edge and then have the swill continue outside of it.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    scout-RNmom no need to have a flair on the right.(or if it had to be there, then the left should have been done the same) there is no reason why that bottom step couldn't be done just like these photos.


    or, have the bottom step done like this.


    i think it looks wonky the way it is. does the contractor have a drinking problem whilst at work?!

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    I think "swirl" was meant, I could be wrong.

  • worthy
    8 days ago

    If the bottom step were symmetrical, the railing would look odd. It isn't. Neat detail!

  • Robert Yuen
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    The original plans had a wall to the left of the stairs but I decided to remove it. I’m thinking that the asymmetry was to accomodate that wall but wasn’t changed when I removed it. I didn’t think much of it until now.

  • decoenthusiaste
    8 days ago
    last modified: 6 days ago

    Cut off the excess from the bottom stair and make them match. I would always feel uncomfortable on those stairs for some strange reason; maybe like I was in a fun house at the carnival.

  • LH CO/FL
    8 days ago

    With the asymmetry of the stairs, it looks like they did it correctly. If the railings were even, then you would lose that lovely swirl on the bottom step -- that would look odd.

  • worthy
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    I decided to remove it.

    Ah, no such thing as a "simple" change in building a house.

    (Says the guy who "simply" added a foot in height to the first floor of a home without bothering to tell anybody but the framers and the lumberyard.)

  • T T
    8 days ago

    This would really bother me too. I like symmetry, and it isn't just the stair railing that would bother me. I would want the bottom step to also swirl out on the left side like it does on the right. Even if they fix the railing, I think the design of that bottom step should be fixed to be symmetrical.

  • aziline
    8 days ago

    I like it as is. Where is the front door? Are you standing in front (or just to the right) of it when taking the picture? It does make for a more welcoming entry.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    8 days ago

    I assume any changes at this point will be at the expense of the owner. Does it look better now?

  • Robert Yuen
    Original Author
    7 days ago

    The front door is located directly in front of the stairs. The asymmetry does bother me. So the plan is to speak with my GC again to get it fixed by bringing the left rail up a step and reconstruct the first riser to have swirls on both sides. I don’t believe I am breaking any codes by doing that. I feel my GC is just giving me the run around. I shouldn’t feel liable for additional costs since I did not consent to this layout. Thanks everyone for your feedback! I’ll keep you guys posted on the final outcome.

  • RTHawk
    7 days ago

    If adding a swirl on the other side, have you thought about how it would look like from the room to its left? The existing swirl kind of creates a recessed area between the swirl and the protrusion of the closet (? Or door to the basement?)

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    7 days ago

    "The original plans had a wall to the left of the stairs but I decided to remove it. I’m thinking that the asymmetry was to accomodate that wall but wasn’t changed when I removed it. I didn’t think much of it until now."


    Here's where the problem started.

  • tozmo1
    7 days ago

    "I shouldn’t feel liable for additional costs since I did not consent to this layout." But I think you did agree if you removed the wall but didn't agree to or ask for any other changes.

  • just_janni
    7 days ago

    Is there a more logical traffic flow to head off to the left when you come down the stairs?


    Your wall removal change caused this. BUT.... if you paid for a change order - you GC should have caught the downstream implications.

  • PRO
    RES2
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    "I don’t believe I am breaking any codes by doing that"

    Actually, that depends on what the local offical enforces. Until you know, you should assume the most restrictive interpretation since that's what your builders believe.

    The residential building code in NJ is the 2018 IRC which I partially quoted earlier. For the single required residential stair handrail, I have seen the 2018 IRC "Continuity" section and its exceptions (shown below) interpreted by building officials in two very different ways:

    1) most restrictive: the front face of a bottom newel post must be aligned with the face of the lowest riser (like the left side of your stair).

    2) least restrictive: the bottom newel post can be anywhere on the bottom tread (like the right side of your stair).

    The only way to know which interpretation the local building official enforces is to ask. Apparently, your contractor and stair builder believe the official will enforce interpretation #1. Until you have asked the local official, you should not malign the builders for their opinion; they're likely to know more about the local interpretation than you do.

    When you deleted the wall, had you asked if both sides of the stair could be the same, you would have been told that to do that would require the left side design (#1) to be repeated on the right side (ie no "swirl"). Until you ask the local official, that is still your only option for making the stair symmetrical.



  • Lorraine Leroux
    7 days ago

    It is an asymmetrical stair tread with an asymmetrical newel post. The bottom tread is NOT symmetrical. It is curved on the right and flat on the left so he did it correctly. Look for pictures of asymmetrical treads. None posted were. Also it creates traffic flow. Coming down the stairs you will go left-naturally.

  • PRO
    RES2
    7 days ago

    Here's the entire online version of the NJ residential code:

    https://codes.iccsafe.org/content/NJRC2018P2/chapter-3-building-planning

    When talking to the local building official, its best to refer to the applicable code sections and paragraph numbers.

  • 3onthetree
    7 days ago

    With your style of handrail, you should NOT have the starting step turnout (the rounded ends of the first step, or what you are calling a "swirl") on either side. To be code compliant with it, your handrail will need a volute, turnout, or starter easing (see handrail code exception #2 a couple comments above) to allow the handrail to stop short on top of this tread. That is why the contractor stopped it short, he didn't want to cut off the starting step turnout and because there is no volute, turnout, or starter easing that would match that style while continuing the horizontal balusters. Actually, I am surprised what was done passed code, but I suppose if they allow ladder type balusters and larger than 4" passage at the riser, then they are a little loose to begin with (which is in your favor).

    FYI here is a volute, turnout, and starter easing:




  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    7 days ago

    Waht was the reason for the curved bottom step? IMO that is where the issue began

  • barncatz
    7 days ago
    last modified: 16 hours ago

    (No assertions re: code compliance; just looked for stairs that were not against a wall, and/or curved on one side only.)








  • Paula Sanders
    7 days ago

    I keep trying to see this staircase from a different point of view. Now it looks like the left side is like a “straight forward line” like a wall and the right side flairs out to lead to a main area?!? Still puzzles me.

  • PRO
    RES2
    7 days ago

    Only one handrail needs to comply with the code and it can be "interrupted by a newel post ... over the lowest tread".

  • scout
    7 days ago

    I'm not sure the contractor did anything wrong. The wall was removed from the design by the OP. The contractor replaced that section of the wall with the handrail. Maybe it would have been better if he had discussed the potential asymmetry, but it's hard to know if the current staircase plan makes sense without seeing the layout. Regardless, if it bothers the OP, he should change it.

  • Lorraine Leroux
    16 hours ago

    Great solution and looks good.

  • eld6161
    13 hours ago

    So much better

  • scout
    7 hours ago

    Great news! It looks so much better!

  • tozmo1
    4 hours ago

    "No extra out of pocket costs for me for the revision." Oh my dear, that cost will show up someplace in this project!

    Glad you're happy with it, that's all that matters.

  • cpartist
    2 hours ago

    Much better.