Hardwood Stairs:
Residential Building Codes
Canadian Requirements

First let me tell you why for Hardwood Stairs, the Residential Building Codes are important.... this is not meant as shock therapy, but I've sold hardwood stairs for 25 years and had all the following situations happen with my customers:

1. Customer A -- refused to take the time to understand what was needed to comply and had to install their hardwood stairs and railings 3 times before the inspector would give them an occupancy permit.

2. Customer B -- forced to rebuild their hardwood stairs to an acceptable rise before the insurance company would issue a new policy.

3. Customer C -- so as not to get caught in Customer B's position, buyer put a condition on the house purchase offer that the hardwood stair installation be brought up to the current Stairs: Residential Building Code.

4. and aside from all that, why wouldn't you want to make it safe for all your kids, parents and grandchildren!!

Residential building codes in Canada are a municipal responsibility. Although most cities follow a provincial guideline they can and do attach local amendments... thus your safest bet is to ask for very specific advice and approval from your local office.

The following is only meant to give you an idea about what kinds of issue may exist and the types of answers you can expect... Check locally your Hardwood Stairs: Residential Building Codes - Now!!


Residential Building Code Requirements
Hardwood Stair: Rise

This is the distance from the top of one step to the top of the one above.

Typical maximum rise for hardwood stairs is between 7 1/2" & 8", some provinces may even legislate a minimum of 6"

Hardwood Stair: Run

Typically the minimum run allowed is 9" but the code is moving in the direction of changing this to 10", NOT counting the overhang from above!

Some jurisdictions also specify a maximum.

Hardwood Nosing Extension:

Minimum: can be set as nothing less than 3/4"

Maximum: typically between 1 1/4" & 1 1/2"

Stairway Treads:

Minimum Width:

Typically around 36" so make sure to check.

Head Room Requirements:

Minimum height usually set at between 6'6" & 6'8"

Open Risers:
Some Inspectors allow open risers and some do not... I've not found any consistency.... Usually can get away with this is, if opening is reduced down to <4"
Winders Stairs & Circular Stairs

This always requires specific approval for each installation so check with your local office.

In many districts, circular stairs are no longer approved, based on treads that are very narrow and unsafe on the inside radius.... so before you buy ask questions!

General Comments:
Where you know your home is going to require a final inspection from the Building Controls Department, a wise step, would be to get all your products and installation methods preapproved by this department. Due to a recent lawsuit involving the office of the Ontario Building Code, inspectors today, are particularly cautious when it comes to stairs & railings. It costs less if you only have to do it once!

We ALWAYS recommend that you build to current code. MAKE it STRONG! MAKE it SAFE!


In Ontario: Hardwood Stair- Residential Building Code is found on Table 3.1.2 Supplementary Guidelines to the Ontario Building Code 1997 SG-7.... published June 24, 1999 (update)

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4 Reasons why YOU should worry about the Building Code:

1. Safety is #1

2. If you need an inspection to obtain an occupancy permit, it must be to code.

3. Insurance companies have been known to force compliance before issuing a new insurance policy.

4. Sale of your home can be blocked until conditions of building code have been met.

We have had clients experience all of the above.... so do it right the first time.