Uneven Stair Risers

Most of us go up and down stairs every day. We don’t give them a second thought except when we are tired or moving furniture. You have more than likely never thought about their planning and construction. However, one of the leading causes of injuries in the home comes from slips and falls on stairs and that can often be the result of improper design and/or construction. 

A properly built stairway

You probably don’t realize it but as you are going up and down a flight of stairs your mind and feet expect each step to be consistent.  These changes in height from step to step is referred to as the “rise” and each step is commonly called a “riser”. A properly built stairway will have the same amount of rise with each step so we can move up and down without stumbling.

Defect with stairs

Unfortunately, a very common defect with stairs is for the risers to vary excessively which confuses our mind and feet as we are walking up and down. The problem is often made worse by poor lighting, carrying things, being in a hurry, or just not being careful. Inconsistent stair risers are particularly problematic for elderly folks, children and others who might not be surefooted and nimble.  

Current building codes specify that the variation between the tallest and shortest riser in a flight of stairs should be no more than 3/8”.  While this seems like a small amount of variation, amounts greater than this are quite noticeable and can lead to slips and falls.

Why is it setup incorrectly?

The obvious question is, “why would stairways be setup incorrectly?” and there are many answers.  Something as simple as changing floor covering types can cause the stair risers to be incorrect due to variations in material thickness.  Other times, houses are remodeled, and stairways get incorrectly modified. Lastly, some contractors just don’t know how to correctly build steps.

So, next time you’re heading up or down a flight of stairs, check out the risers to be sure they are consistent.  If you discover problems with the stairs in your own home, we encourage you to get them corrected so your family and guests can be safe, especially during the holiday season.