Stairways

Safety is Paramount when it comes to Stairways-Part M

Stairs-PartM

It stands to reason that stairways must be safe. If stairs are too steep, and they don’t have railings, or if screens and balustrades are not strong and secure, people may fall with disastrous consequences.

What the National Building Regulations say about Stairs and Stairways

“Any stairway, including any wall, screen, railing or balustrade to such stairway, shall:

(a) be capable of safely sustaining any actions which can reasonably be expected to occur and in such a manner that any local damage (including cracking) or deformation do not compromise its functioning;

(b) permit safe movement of persons from floor to floor; and

(c) have dimensions appropriate to its use.”

What this means is that stairways, in addition to all the elements relating to them, must be properly designed. This takes us back to Part B of the NBR, which deals with structural design.

Like everything else, stairways must be designed to provide the strength, stability, serviceability and durability required for use. It is imperative that they are built so that any accidental overload won’t cause the stairway to collapse. It is also vital to takes steps to ensure that people won’t fall off the structure. If the sides of the stairs don’t have railings or screens this CAN happen – and it does (sadly) happen.

In addition to these general requirements, there are fire requirements that must be adhered to. These are outlined in Part T of SANS 10400 – Fire Protection, but when it comes to houses, those that are relevant mainly relate to basics (including the materials used to build your home). For instance you don’t have to have fire escapes, exit doors, escape routes, and that kind of thing.

SANS 10400 Stairways – Part M

As always, the South African National Standards give a good rundown on how we should build to ensure that we “satisfy” the legislation. The most recent Standard was published in April 2011; and it contains new guidelines that relate to both masonry stairways and timber stairways.

You will find Part M of the legislation towards the end of Standard, on Page 11.

It should be read in conjunction with several other Standards, including SANS 2001-CC1, -CC2, and -CM1 that deal with structural concrete works, minor concrete works and masonry walling; SANS 1460, Laminated timber (glulam); and SANS 1783-2, that deals with stress-graded structural timber and timber for frame wall construction; as well as several other parts of SANS 10400, specifically Part A (general principles), Part B (structural design), Part K (walls), Part S (facilities for people with disabilities), and Part T (fire protection). This is important because, for instance:

  • Part S reduces the rise of the step (as indicated in this part), increases the width of stairways and the length of landings. It also has a requirement that solid risers should be used where stairs overlap the next lower tread, and another that specifies the need for handrails on both sides of the stairway.
  • Part T increases the standard width of stairways as indicated in this part, disallows the use of spiral stairways, and requires solid risers for all buildings except those defined in Part A as D4 (a plant room that contains mechanical or electrical services that are necessary for the running of a building, and are usually left unattended).

Requirements of this particular Standard that relate to dimensions specify that:

  • there must be sufficient headroom above any stairway: at least 2,1 m measured vertically from the pitch line of the staircase (see drawing below)
    stairways
    Minimum headroom allowed on stairways
  • stairs need to be wide enough for safe use, usually not less than 750 mm (see drawing below)
  • the going (depth of the tread) and width of treads must be at least 250 mm (see drawing below)
    stairways
    Allowable minimum dimensions of treads and risers
  • treads of stairways that do not have solid risers must overlap the next tread by at least 25 mm (see drawing above)
  • landings serving two flights in a straight line need to be at least 900 mm long and at least as wide as the flight of stairs
  • there shouldn’t be a vertical rise that is greater than 3 m between landings
  • single step risers shouldn’t be more than 200 mm
  • doors cannot open onto stairways unless it’s onto a landing – and the landing then needs to be at least the width of the door (which must not obstruct people using the stairs)

Sometimes the dimensions of risers and going of treads vary in a flight of stairs. This variation should not be more than 6 mm. Further, dimensions of each individual step can be checked for safety by adding the dimension of the going to 2 x the height of the riser. This should be at least 570 mm and no more than 650 mm.

Tapered treads and winders (which are are steps that are narrower on one side than the other and used to change direction of the stairs without landings) are most common in spiral stairways. If they don’t form part of a spiral staircase, they must be designed to comply with the minimum tread and riser dimensions shown in the drawing above, and have a minimum going of 125 mm. The angle between successive risers (measured horizontally) must be constant (see drawing below).

stairways
To check the variation in going between tapered treads, measure each tread at the same distance from the narrow end

Stairways that incorporate winders – defined by the SANS as a “tapered tread that has a going of at least 50 mm and which is used in conjunction with non-tapered treads in a single flight” –  are permitted in our homes as long as there are no more than three of them, and the winder may not turn through more than 90 degrees.

Spiral stairways are defined as a “succession of tapered treads forming a curved stairway which extends as a single flight from one floor or landing to another”. These must be no wider than 800 mm and may not be used as an emergency route. There are also restrictions in terms of certain buildings where they may not be used, including theatres and other entertainment venues, schools, sports facilities, places of worship, exhibition bass, jails, hospitals and health care facilities, offices, hotels, dormitories and hospitality venues.

Prevention Against Falling

It should be common sense, but people don’t always see it that way, because stairs don’t always LOOK good with railings!

Essentially what SANS tell us is that:

If a flight of stairs is more than three risers high, it could be dangerous, especially if toddlers and old people use it. This is why it is essential to have some sort of protection to prevent falling.

This can be in the form of:

  • a secure wall
  • a screen of some sort
  • railings or a balustrade – all of which should be at least 1 m high

Other issues include “openings”. If a child can fall through a gap in the railings, or if someone falls and their leg or foot gets stuck in the gap, it could end up really badly. The opening specification is similar to that which relates to swimming pool fencing: it shouldn’t allow anything with more than a 100 mm diameter to pass through it.

Handrails are also an important element. If a flight of steps continues for more than about five risers, there should be a handrail of some sort. And any sort of handrail MUST be securely fixed to the wall, screen, railing, balustrade or whatever! In some instances, for example when the stairs are wide (more than 1,1 m), it might be necessary to have a railing on either side.

If a screen is made of glass, it is vital that the glass used complies with the relevant SANS.

Timber Stairways

There are several clauses that relate specifically to timber stairs in SANS 10400 Part M (Edition 3, 2011). This section was previously not covered in the “deemed to satisfy” regulations.

Stringer Beams

Stringer beams support treads, and where these are not be wider than 1,2 m in double- and single-storey domestic residences and dwelling houses, they should be at least 48 mm x 225 mm. Grade 5 timber should be used and it should not be excessively warped.

Timber Treads

These must be at least 36 mm thick. Since timber stairways are designed in different ways, the options are that they may be:

  • built into masonry walls with a minimum end bearing of 90 mm
  • supported on a steel angle cleat that has minimum dimensions of 50 mm x 50 mm x 4 mm
  • bolted to a wall with two masonry anchors per clear according to the manufacturer’s instructions

If anchors are used and embedded into a Grade 20 concrete (which will be 20 MPa), these anchors must have  “a safe working load in sheer of not less than 1,25 kN, certified by the manufacturer”.

Materials Used for Timber Steps

Building Materials and Tests in general are covered in Part A of the National Building Regulations. In terms of timber, it should be treated against termites and wood borer as well as protected against fungal decay in terms of SANS 10005. For consumers, the important thing to look for is the product certification mark of a body that has been certified by the SA National Accreditation System.

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133 comments

  1. Good Afternoon,
    I want to install a handrail on the exterior stairwell of my sectional title apartment, and I want to know what the building and safety standards are. Can you help please,
    Thanks and Regards,

  2. It needs to be erected about 850mm – 1m above the stairs and should be securely fixed so that it doesn’t form an obstruction. The regulations are more concerned that railings are erected for safety purposes rather than what they are like. Common sense will guide you in terms of the finish of the handrail. e.g. If it is wooden it must be sanded smooth and properly finish for longevity. If it is metal, the same applies, though you will also have to rustproof the metal.

  3. Hazel Johnstone

    I am wrkingfor a company in South Africa. My question is that we have mental stairways, however it incline very high coming down the stairs, is there a specific specfication for the stairway as per legislation requirements, please advice

  4. Hazel Johnstone

    if there is specific legislation requriements for stairways for a company be it internal or outdoor, can you please let me know how i can find the written legislation requirements or regulations

  5. Dillon Freeman

    Good day,

    I would like to know if a fire escape staircase is required to be constructed for a 100m2 concrete mezzanine floor? The mezzanine floor is to be changed into a small office for about 5 to 10 people. The mezzanine level forms a first floor of an exisitng single storey building and has an internal staircase already with fire extinguishers fitted to walls. Can you help?

    Regards,

    Dillon

  6. You wouldn’t normally need a fire escape staircase for a mezzanine. More importantly, the area needs to be “fit for purpose for which it is intended”. In terms of a mezzanine floor, I think there needs to be 2,1 m above and below the floor. Also only a certain number of people are permitted to “occupy” a certain sized space.

  7. There are no specific laws that relate to businesses (vs homes) and the regs relate to stairways in general – i.e. in/out no difference. If you want to see what SANS 10400 Part M Stairways says, you can buy the standard from the SABS, or pop into your nearest office and you can read the standard in their library.

  8. Hazel I presume your stairs are METAL. The NBRs don’t distinguish between different materials, but the SANS (deemed-to-satisy requirements) do give guidelines in terms of the height of risers. This has a direct effect on the incline. I have added info to this section. I hope it will be helpful. If there is still something you need to know, please post another query.

  9. Hazel Johnstone

    Thanks for the response, Yes it is metal. I review M of SANS 10400, however it does not give me any angle of the incline stairs. Can you furhter elaborate on the angle of the stairs.

  10. Hazel if you are convinced that the stairs are dangerous, I suggest you call your local authority and ask them for advice.

  11. What about a patio? We have one but the drop between that and the ground is just over 40cm or so.. It doesn’t feel safe as a step height with no railings. What governs this?

  12. The National Building Regulations say that step risers should not be steeper than 200 mm. So you should have a step between the patio and the ground (because at the moment it sounds as if you have to step up or down 400 mm). It doesn’t sound as if railings are an issue.

  13. Thanks for the response.
    Yes I currently have to step up 42cm to get onto the patio.
    I think I’ll see if the ground can’t be back-filled some more so as to lower change in height to around 200mm.

  14. Why not just build a step between the patio and the ground? It’ll probably look better too. YOu could probably do it yourself using bricks loose laid and dug into the earth – then backfill between the bricks and the patio and top with paving bricks or slabs. You don’t have to do it all the way along the patio – just a couple of metres.

  15. I would like to know what the legal specification is for the measurement between infills of a balustrade and from a wall to a balustrade. What is the legal space allowed?
    Thank you

  16. As far as I know, in terms of the NBR, railings and balustrades need to be at least 1 m high, and should not have openings any greater than 100 mm diameter. Other than that I don’t think there are specific requirements.
    The NHBRC manual I have states in its guidelines that freestanding balustrade walls should have a thickness of not less than the height of the wall above the base divided by a measurement based on the units used to build the wall. e.g. 5 mm for a solid unit (no dpc). It also says that if the balustrades have returns or are fixed to columns at centres not more than 3,5 m, the thickness must be 110 mm for solid units and 140 mm for hollow units. Returns must continue for at least 0,75 m from the outside face of the walls.
    But remember that these are recommendations and any “competent person”, e.g. an architect, will be able to design the balustrade taking all elements of the structure into account.

  17. Hi,
    Did the regulation on steel stairs change?

    1. Landing out the door min 1.5×1.2. Unless the door is see through.
    2. a flight of stairs should not be more than 3m with out a landing inbetween.
    3. In between flights should nou be closed and not lipped up at the bottom and down at the top.

    Please advise.

    Louis

  18. Louis, As far as I know there is no specific standard for steel stairs – and the NBR do not differentiate between materials used to build stairs.
    I think the landing should be at least the width of the door – so it could be less than your dimensions.
    Since you specialize in steelwork (I presume from the name), I am sure you know a lot more about the subject than I do!

  19. Hi, I wan’t to find out what the fire prevention regulations is on the paint of inside steel stairs of a building that is used as a fire escape. Is there a specific paint that needs to be used that is fire retardant and can you maybe send me the regulation if so?

  20. Arno the regulations are really not that prescriptive. Manufacturers’ specifications should state that the product is SABS approved and if it is a fire retardant, it should state this as well. I suggest you call the SABS and/or a couple of major paint manufacturers. You might also contact your local fire department.

  21. May there be any pot plants on the stairway – floor to floor

  22. There is no building regulation against having pot plants on a stairway, but the health and safety regulations might come into play if the stairway is open to the public. The Occupational Health and Safety Act specifies how workplaces and public places must be kept safe.

  23. Hi

    The staircase in question is already built. I see that the risers are to be 200MM in height at the most.
    The risers on this staircase are anywhere between 221MM and 250MM. They are all different heights. Is this staircase a problem and will the council occupancy going to be affected by this. Does it need to be corrected according to the regulations before an inspection.

    Thanks,

  24. Technically Gordon, if the stairs have not been built according to plan, the council has every right to demand that they are fixed before they give you an occupancy certificate.

  25. Must steps on a tiled staircase be level or can they be at a severe slant ? We recently had a staircase retiled in our office complex and the tiler was told to lay tiles on steps and landing at a severe slant, apparently to assist rain water to flow off quicker.

  26. The risers can slant, but the part that you stand on (the tread) MUST be absolutely flat. If this is an outdoor staircase, there should be drainage on either side of the staircase to allow for run-off of rain water. If the treads slope they will be horrendously dangerous when wet!

  27. Hi,

    I have bought a stand in an Estate, The plan that I chose is double story house but now the staircase are a a set of 14 steps straight up (steep) design. They still building the house but the staircase has already been fitted, when i went to view the house i went up the stairs and i noticed that the tread fit my 3/4 shoe size & they are not even the same size all of them. when i go down the steps it feels like im going to fall on my face, i had to literally go down with my side to be more cautious. It worries me cause i just heard that several people who has the same design complained but they said nothing could be done because there’s no space to do them otherwise so other ppl left it as it is & i just found out that soon to be my neighbour fell down on his steps & he was taken to hospital so this worries me especially having a small baby that this will be my living nightmare cause they also just told me that nothing can be done but i still need to take measurements of the steps to prove my case. What are my options here? what should i do to make them redo my staircase? Is there a chance of me winning this case? Thank you, I will wait for the response.

  28. Lack of space is not an acceptable excuse for not building according to the National Building Regulations. There are three courses of action you should take.
    1. The law states that builders must be registered with the NHBRC. Since the building is in progress, notify the NHBRC immediately. If it turns out that the builders are not registered, then they are building illegally.
    2. Call in the building inspector and report the problem. The local council has the authority to insist that the stairs are demolished and rebuilt.
    3. Withhold payment until the situation is rectified. If you have a bond and the bank is making payments, alert them to the problem immediately.

  29. Hi, I am dealing with an insurance claim where a lady fell down on a flight of wooden steps during heavy rain. Obviously the steps are outdoors. At the time of her fall there were no anti-slip strips on the steps, but they have been installed now. I didn’t measure, but the risers seem to be less than 20cm and I estimate the treads are about 25cm wide. There are seemingly adequate balustrades, as the woman grabbed onto them and didn’t fall all the way down. From the deck to ground level is approximately 3m (no landing), but may be slightly more. (I didn’t measure anything at the time I was there, as the steps seemed solid to me and the question only came up afterwards about the regulations being adhered to). Can I send you photos to get your general impression? Personally, I suspect that the only issue may have been the lack of anti-slip strips, but I’d like any comment please.

  30. Mark the minimum dimensions for steps are all given above, but as you say, they look perfectly reasonable. In terms of the SABS deemed-to-satisfy rules, the rise should be no more than 20 cm (200 mm) and the treads should be no less than 25 cm (250 mm).
    The pictures you sent me of the steps show that they do not have solid risers – in which case each tread needs to overlap the next lower tread by no less than 25 mm – and it looks as if they do.
    There is nothing in the NBR that I can find that mentions “anti-slip strips”, or even safe materials. Obviously if wooden steps were varnished, they’d become very slippery in wet weather. These look quite worn, but not to the extent of being hazardous in any way.
    The Act itself states:
    “Any stairway, including any wall, screen, railing or balustrade to such stairway, shall:
    (a) be capable of safely sustaining any actions which can reasonably be expected to occur and in such a manner that any local damage (including cracking) or deformation do not compromise its functioning;
    (b) permit safe movement of persons from floor to floor; and (c) have dimensions appropriate to its use.”
    I am not convinced that not having an anti-slip strip was in contravention of this law. i.e. It appears that the regulations WERE adhered to. In fact, having taken photographs of thousands of steps over time, we have NEVER seen wooden steps with anti-slip strips! And in all the research I have done for garden structures, I have never seen this recommended either – though I will recommend the idea in future.
    It seems to me that this was an unfortunate accident, and that the owner has now responsibly installed anti-slip strips to prevent something similar happening again.

  31. How can one ensure that the staircase installer is accredited.

  32. I am not aware of any form of accreditation as such. All staircases must comply with the building regulations and various relevant SANS. They should also be designed by a competent person – see here to learn more about competency.
    If someone is building the stairs for you, you can ask for proof of qualifications as well as specs on the materials to be used. They would also need approved plans. If you are installing a precast staircase, you can ask for proof of the qualification of the designer and of the materials used in terms of the relevant SANS. It would depend what type of staircase it is and the specific materials used. e.g. concrete, brick, timber, steel.

  33. hi, we have a neighbour who removed stair railings inside the house
    and a balcony railing outside. approx two years now. is this allowed
    in a private house with kids?? can one report this?

  34. How do I go a about to report a case where the spiral staircase is not
    up to the standard it should be and where in the act does it say what
    the spiral staircase should be like

  35. Hi Natalie,
    All spiral staircases should be built to South African National Standards that manufacturers and installers are obliged to adhere to. If you are worried, and it sounds as if you are, contact your local Authority and ask them to send a building inspector to have a look and give you a report. In addition the factory manufactured stairs must follow the relevant SANS, but if the stairs ars build “in situ” then the Building Regulations Part M are to be followed but these have to be read in conjunction with the section that deals with the type of material used to build the stairway as well as Part T which covers “Fire Protection” amongst others. Have a look at our page on “Stairways” that has more info for you.

  36. Hi

    Apparently the regulations on stairs have changed very recently. Can you help with this. I have spiral and timber stairs. I want to make sure they will be ‘legal’. Busy fixing the house up.

    Lola

  37. We have a porch at our main bedroom which is on the 2nd floor of the house we rent. There is no ballustrades or protection from falling of the porch, which is more than 3meters high. Only a small wall approx 500mm high. How did they pass the building plans?
    Is it legal to rent out a house with dangerous areas like that. Please advise

  38. Hi Tom,
    The Building Regulations do cover Stairways and railings. One of the main factors in Part-T is safety and by removing a railing or balustrade a persons life could be in danger. It sounds as though they have changed a legally approved structure into an illegal one. So this is a serious breach of the law. You can start by contacting your Local Council and ask for a Building Inspector to have a look.

  39. Andries Strauss

    Does the law allow for fire escape stairways to be used in the normal day-to-day movements around the office? Or should usage of the fire escape stairway be limited to emergency situations only?

  40. I am not aware of a law that prohibits use of fire escape stairways except in emergency situations, but it isn’t common practice. There should be other stairs for day-to-day use, if there aren’t there might be a problem in terms of compliance with the NBR.

  41. Andries Strauss

    Hi Penny

    There are other stairs as well. The fire escape stairway is simply much more conveniently located for most in the building.

  42. If there is anything stopping people using fire escape stairways, I guess it would be in one or other of the fire regulations. I will see what I can find next time I go to the SABS library.
    I have checked Part T, Fire protection, which deals with escape routes, including stairs, and there is nothing in the regulations to say that they may not be used unless in the case of a fire.

  43. Just my 2 cents worth here, I think it would be against the regulations to block the use of the stairs in any way, as this would block off a vital escape route in an emergency. Please use common sense when dealing with this “problem”.

  44. I recently had an accident at a Five Star Lodge. The first riser of the staircase is only 120mm and risers 2-6 are 160mm. The staircase is a closed, cast staircase. As I came down the staircase, my perception of the last stair was misjudged and I slipped and fell resulting in a broken foot, surgery and time off work. Surely this staircase is not in accordance with building regulations and leaves for me to have recourse in claiming for this accident?

  45. I own a flat in a fairly old block (probably built in the late 60’s) and I’ve been told that the hand rails of the balconies in the block are too low and/or don’t conform with the regulations. What exactly should the height be? If they don’t conform what should be done – I think most owners are unaware of the potential problem and may resist having to spend money on something that was never a problem?
    Thanks for any advice,
    Patrick

  46. Patrick the railings for stairways must be at least 1 m high, and if the flight is more than five risers high it must have a continuous handrail that extend the full length of the flight. It should also be “securely fixed to such wall, screen, railing or balustrade at a height of not less than 850 mm and not more than 1 m measured vertically from the pitch line to the upper surface of the handrail”.
    Part B Structural Design of SANS 10400 cross references SANS 10104, Handrailing and balustrading (safety aspects). I don’t have a copy of this particular Standard, but it might be helpful.
    Part D Public Safety of SANS 10400 states: “The edge of any balcony, bridge, flat roof or similar place more than 1 m above the adjacent ground or floor level shall be provided with a balustrade or parapet wall not less than 1 m in height, unless unauthorized access of persons thereto has been excluded by a physical barrier properly erected and maintained.” (the same height as stairway railings)
    Your local authority may have additional requirements – so it may be a good idea to check with them too.

  47. Yes you do have recourse to claim.
    I have added some info and a few drawings to this page, and have doubled checked the Standard for Stairways. This is the clause that “proves” they were negligent:
    “4.2.7 The variation in the dimensions of the risers and the goings of the treads in any one flight shall be not more than 6 mm,”
    They should also have handrails as a precaution against falling – because the steps incorporate more than five risers.
    The new regs mention masonry stairways but not specifically case concrete (though concrete SANS are cross-referenced), viz: “Masonry stairways and landings in occupancies classified as H3 and H4 in single-storey and double-storey buildings shall be in accordance with the provisions of figure 5 and the relevant requirements of SANS 2001-CM1 and SANS 2001-CC1 or SANS 2001-CC2.”
    H3 and H4 are domestic residences and dwelling houses
    SANS 2001-CM1 deals with masonry walling
    SANS 2001-CC1 deals with structural concrete works
    SANS 2001-CC2 deals with minor concrete works
    But I don’t think that these will help you.

  48. Hi Tom, I have added to this page and you will see what the regulations are in terms of stairs (1 m height). In addition, Part D Public Safety of SANS 10400 states that the edge of any balcony (and this does apply to private homes – as do the regulations for fencing around swimming pools) that is more than 1 m above the adjacent ground or floor level must be provided with a balustrade or parapet wall not less than 1 m in height, unless there is a physical barrier that is properly erected and maintained. By removing these railings, your neighbors are breaking the law!

  49. Louis, they are breaking the law. Part D Public Safety of SANS 10400 states that the edge of any balcony or similar structure (and this does apply to private homes – as do the regulations for fencing around swimming pools) that is more than 1 m above the adjacent ground or floor level must be provided with a balustrade or parapet wall not less than 1 m in height.
    I suggest that you call your local authority and report the situation and ask them to take action against the owner.
    In terms of plans etc., there may have been some sort of balustrade or railing on the wall at one stage – that has been removed – or the building inspector may not have noticed! Anything’s possible.

  50. Lola, Part M, Stairways was updated in April 2011. I have recently updated this page to incorporate the changes – which are additions, rather than changes as such. There is a small amount of information on spiral stairs – but of course all the other guidelines apply as well – specifically those relating to dimensions. I have also added info about timber stairs – which is a new section to Part M. I hope this helps.

  51. Do you also need a landing at the top of your stairs when you have a sliding door in an external wall and the floor level is about 1m above the ground level? The width of the landing then the width of the opening? Doesn’t seem necessary?

  52. Elmine, The building regulations state that no door may open onto a stairway unless it opens onto a landing. And the width of the landing may not be less that the width of the door. This is a safety issue, since even a standard doorway will be at least 750 mm wide, but a stairway can be as narrow as 250 mm.
    The standard also states: “The position of the door relative to the landing and its direction of opening shall be such that it does not obstruct the flow of persons on the stairway when i a fully open position.” – though with a sliding door this won’t be an issue.

  53. Hi.

    I truly hope that somebody can give me an answer on a question I have regarding a staircase I need to install.

    My concern is about what the regulations allow or require for staircases that is essentially a barrier between the inside of my garage and the house.

    What im planning to build is a new room above my existing double garage.
    The garage is adjacent to my living room in the house, thus what I would like to do is to construct the stair case inside the garage, connecting the bottom of the stair case via an entrance into the living room.

    A wall will be build against the side of the staircase (thus essentially the staircase is no longer inside the garage).

    However, the bottom of the staircase will still be inside the garage, thus essentially this is the part that divide the house from the garage.

    In short, my question to this is, am I allowed to construct a wooden staircase, and will it comply with the regulations including fire regulations, and if so is there any specific requirements in need to keep in mind?

    Or do I have to construct the staircase out of concrete?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  54. Jurie, the Building Regulations require you to use a competent person to draw up your plans, and this person will, due to their training, know what you can and cannot do. Once they have drawn the plans, your local authority will assess whether the plan is in accordance with the regulations. We cannot be drawn into a debate, especially since it would be “blind”. So sorry we can’t be more helpful.

  55. Hi, I looked all over. What do regulations say about treads and landing at a severe slant (allegedly so that water can run off better ?!). We have 275 mm treads with a tilted slant of 13 mm and a 1 metre landing with a tilt of 40 mm. Is this legal ??

  56. Norbert there are two issues here:
    1. safety – this sounds downright dangerous
    2. good building practice – everything should be square, level and plumb (except where drainage is an issue – e.g. patios, roofs etc – not stairs!)
    While Part M of SANS 10400 (Stairways) doesn’t state that treads and landings must be level, all their drawings clearly show that they are! I am not sure if there is anything in Part B (Structural Design)… there probably is. When I get a chance I will check for you. Otherwise go to an SABS library and ask if you can have a look at that part of the regulations.

  57. Is there a legal requirement for the ladders going up the side of the flood lights ( 30m) to have safety rails on or not.
    Normally they all have a semicircular backing behind the climber ( if you know what I mean)

  58. Mark this is not covered in the Building Regulations. But I would think that there should be some time of safety rails. Certainly if it was scaffolding you would need safety rails. I am not sure which SANS covers flood lights. Contact the SABS.

  59. good moring Panny
    can you please assist me with what does the spec say about the installation off steelstairway at cylinder fuel tanks

  60. Johan, while construction standards for stairways of all types are stated in this section of SANS 10400, there is nothing that gives guidance in terms of cylinder fuel tanks and stairways. I imagine you would need to comply with various other standards including Occupational Health and Safety. Contact the SABS (phone one of their libraries)and ask them to search the full bank of standards. SANS 10400 is just one of hundreds of thousands. While we do have information about some other standards, we concentrate on the construction industry rather than industrial specifications.

  61. I urgently require advise, I work in a company that is currently re-vamping. As I am typing this, they are using a jack hammer in our reception area, we are all based on the 1st floor and we are unable to use the stairs as they are tiling the side of the stair case and there is cement and tile cutters in the way. The dust cloud hanging over us is ridculous and everyone here is either sick or couching, what can I do for my fellow workers and myself, to protect us. If there is a fire right now, it will be madness trying to get down the stairs. We often have no running water, almost on a daily bases, electicity also gets cut off often, sometime for the entire day, and that is not due to load shedding. I need help please, i cannot watch my fellow collegues work under these conditions, i myself am asthmatic.

  62. Hi N,
    You must contact your local authority and complain as it appears that they are in contravention of SANS 10400 F clause F1 Protection of the Public and it says:
    (5) The local authority may, before or during the erection or demolition of any building, impose any reasonable conditions in addition to the conditions and requirements contemplated in this regulation, for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of the general public, and every condition so imposed shall be observed by the owner.
    (6) Any owner who contravenes or causes or permits any other person to contravene a requirement of this regulation or fails to comply with any notice served on him by the local authority ordering compliance with this regulation, or contravenes any condition contained in any approval, shall be guilty of an offence.

    Let us know what happens.

  63. If you have glass balustrades, do you need a handrail, by law?

  64. Hi Louis,
    Any glass balustrade needs to satisfy the Building Regulations Part M – Stairways. There are other Parts that are also referred to but to answer your question I am copying the section that is relevant clause 4.3 “Prevention against falling” (I have put the word handrail in bold):
    4.3.1 Any flight of steps which contains more than three risers shall have protection on both sides provided by a secure wall, screen, railing or balustrade which shall be not less than 1 m high and so erected that any such wall, screen, railing or balustrade shall not have any opening above the pitch line that permits the passage of a 100 mm diameter ball; provided that such protection shall consist of at least a handrail and one other rail midway between such handrail and the stair tread.
    4.3.2 Any flight of stairs which contains more than five risers shall be provided with at least one continuous handrail extending the full length of such flight, provided that this requirement shall not apply to any building classified as H4, or within individual dwelling units in an occupancy classified as H3.
    4.3.3 The handrail to any flight of stairs provided in terms of 4.3.2 shall be
    a) on at least one side of the flight where the width of the flight is less than 1,1 m, and on both sides where the width exceeds 1,1 m,
    b)  securely fixed to such wall, screen, railing or balustrade at a height of not less than 850 mm and not more than 1 m measured vertically from the pitch line to the upper surface of the handrail, and
    c)  of such a design and so fixed that there shall be no obstructions on, above or near to it which might obstruct the movement of a hand moving along it.

  65. Willie Havenga

    Good day, I urgently need to clarify the regulations relating to a spiral staircase. According to SANS 10400-M paragraph 2.4.9 does not apply for spiral staircases (including Figure 3). It makes sense because else it will imply that you cannot use a centre pole with a diameter of about 1 meter, to be able to satisfy 4.2.9 (b), minimum going of 125mm. Most spiral staircases use a very small diameter pole and it is practicable impossible to satisfy the requirements of paragraph 4.2.9. Can you please confirm that paragraph 4.2.9 is not applicable for a spiral staircase ?
    Thanks!

  66. Hi Willie,
    The clause says:
    “4.2.9 Any tapered tread that is not a winder and that does not form part of a spiral stairway shall…a)…b)…c)…etc”
    So yes as it says 4.2.9 doss not refer to a spiral stairway.

  67. Can someone please answer this? I appied with the owner of a building (he is still busy building), to hire one of the premises (for a shop). This is a double story with space on the side on top. He told me that I have to pay for the staircase even though I am only hiring the space from him. Also I have to pay for the dry walling. Is this true? When I leave the place after a year or two I cannot take the staircase with me for I have paid for it? Is there somewhere a law which states that the person hiring must also pay for such things?

  68. Nope Erika – no law. He’s trying his luck. It’s all got to do with supply and demand. If he doesn’t have a staircase then the building will not be approved! 😉

  69. Hi There,

    I am leasing two dwelling which form a duplex. The garage forms part of the building, were the there is a stairway leading from the garage to the second level dwelling. It’s about twenty steps up. I have requested the owner to install hand rails, were he said sure you can install yourself. I feel it’s not my responsibility to pay for this, as any additional fixtures will form part of the building, and I will not be refunded. Plus my wife, me and my daughter have now fallen down these steps, and if there were hand rails, it would have definitely prevented this. Were he replies to, can’t you walk standing up?

    Next time, we might not be so lucky…
    Is there a forum that protects me? Regulation that he has to adhere to?

    I am concerned that I am being bullied by being said to it’s our fault.

  70. Etienne, Railings for stairways must be at least 1 m high, and if the flight is more than five risers high it must have a continuous handrail that extend the full length of the flight. It should also be “securely fixed to such wall, screen, railing or balustrade at a height of not less than 850 mm and not more than 1 m measured vertically from the pitch line to the upper surface of the handrail”.
    If you have already fallen down the stairs you already have a claim against the landlord.
    If I were you I would contact the local authority and tell them the story – and ask them to notify the owner that he must by law install hand rails.
    It certainly does sound as if you are being bullied.

  71. Want to build a wooden steps/and steel railings extending over wall with a length of 4.1m and going from the floor to a height of 2.8m in a straight line. Must there be a landing in as well or can it only be the risers?

  72. Doreen Part M of SANS 10400 states: “No flight of stairs shall have a vertical rise greater than 3 m between landings.” i.e. Every 3 m there needs to be a landing. But it can be in a straight line, as long as:
    “Any landing serving two flights in the same straight line shall
    a) have a length of not less than 900 mm, and
    b) have a width of not less than that of such flights.”

  73. Hi,
    I read your comments on the safety aspects of balustrades, cant seem to find any government regulation, not SABS, NBR, NHBRC etc..

    As far as I know, in terms of the NBR, railings and balustrades need to be at least 1 m high, and should not have openings any greater than 100 mm diameter. Other than that I don’t think there are specific requirements.

    My questions is, This basic requirement has been around for some time now, As far as i am concerned is it not for the architect to design and spec? which in turn is a guild only but not a industry standard?

    I have never seen a balustrade which conforms to your specific requirements of 100 mm between openings ? All balustrade manufacturers cant work according to a guild! surly there should be a set standard in place, No compromise on cost?

  74. Graham these are not our requirements – these are the requirements of SANS 10400 Part M, Stairways (the deemed to satisfy rules for the NBR). And we you talk of “a guild” I presume you mean guidelines.

  75. Could you please clarify the reason for limiting the width of a spiral staircase to 0.8m?
    We would like to have a central pole with treads of 1200mm length extending both sides of the central pole.
    Treads will be supported from below.

  76. Celeste we do not set the standards, but it is based on safety options, and an engineer’s specifications. If you want to build something that does not comply you will need an agrement certificate!

  77. Andrea van Dam

    Hi,

    Part M of the SANS 10400 is not clear in terms of the 100mm space between rails for occupancy classification F1 – it indicates that this is not the requirement for this classification – not logical nor practical – is there anywhere in the SANS 10400 where it states that a max 100mm gap is mandatory.

  78. Hi Penny,

    I have the same situation as Etienne and appreciate your reponse – where in the South African Building Regulations can I quote this to my agent?, i.e. which para of the regulations are these specific requirements stated.

    Thank you

  79. Hi Natalie, Penny has been away for a few days, apologies. The answer to your question is SANS 10400 Part-M chapter “4.3 Prevention against falling”

  80. David Townsend

    My client wants a spiral stair. The diameter of the hole is 1450mm so we could fit a steel & timber stair of 1400mm diameter which gives us tread widths of 650mm (after subtracting the 100mm diam. centre pole). The floor to floor height is 3370mm.

    When trying to get a stair that works in terms of headroom under the landing I get risers of about 241mm and tread with a depth of 220mm (measured at 250mm from the inside edge of the handrail). This means the line that one is likely to walk is steeper than 45 degrees! If I put in more steps on the stair I quickly get a headroom problem as one goes under the landing at the top of the stair.

    Before we issue the drawing to manufacture the stair I need to know if SANS 10400 or any other reg. give riser and tread dimensions for spiral stairs?

    Thanks!

  81. David Townsend

    Seems like a regulation that has not been well thought out and there are no guidelines of how to achieve a workable spiral stair. The are plenty of examples of spiral stairs that are wider than 800mm and, in my experience, these have been comfortable and safe to use.

  82. phil ridgwell

    hi, your comments about the April 2011 legeslative changes indicates; Part T ….. disallows the use of spiral stairways… We wanted to instal a spiral staircase in a holiday home in the mageliesburg hills, near rustenburg. are spiral staircases now forbidden, or are they still alowed for domestic living situations.

    thanks
    phil

  83. Hi Phil, The Regulations Part M – Stairways says:
    4.2.10 Stairways incorporating winders shall be permitted only in dwelling houses and within
    individual dwelling units…
    A guest house it would seem is classed as occupancy “H5 – Hospitality” and in that case is not allowed.
    Part T – Fire protection does not allow any spiral stairway to be used as an escape route.

  84. Hi David, I have seen a few spiral staircases with the dimensions that you have given. I am not an expert in this field so if you don’t mind I will put you in contact with someone who I am sure will help you. Rob & Sandra Blackbeard of Steel Studio – Sandra@steelstudio.co.za

  85. We have installed stainless steel balustrades to an access staircase in a parking garage at a height of 950mm off the nose of the treads and 1000mm on the landings. Am I right in saying that this falls within the regulations?

  86. Hi Andrew, PartM of the SANS 10400 in paragraph 4.3.3 b), states:
    b) securely fixed to such wall, screen, railing or balustrade at a height of not less than 850 mm and not more than 1 m measured vertically from the pitch line to the upper surface of the handrail, and…
    So as far as I can see, yes you are within the regulations.

  87. Hi

    I was wondering if you could tell me if it is possible to use a ladder, or a steeper incline for loft spaces ? I see the uk regs allow for this, is there anything in sans ?

    Thanks

  88. Hi Andrea, Frans of steelstudio has a short reply:
    As F1 is not mentioned it would be excluded.

  89. Hi Byron, I do not see anything directly related to this nor could I find any vague reference to it. I’m sure that for access to a storage area a ladder will be fine. If you want to make permanent stairs, the regulations do say that the rise (height) of any tread should not exceed 200mm. And the going and width of any tread will not be less than 250 mm, provided that where the stairway does not have solid risers, each tread shall overlap the next lower tread by not less than 25 mm. Now the steeper you go then the treads overlap dangerously so what they do is make a cut-out on each alternate step (shaped like a sort of paddle) so that your foot does not get caught on the way up or slip off a narrow ledge on the way down. See the picture below:
    (Pic courtesy Karina stairs Canada)

  90. I notice that you do not mention the exclusion of occupancy H3 and H4 from requiring a handrail. Has this been removed?

  91. Keith, I presume this is the clause you are referring to… It has not been removed.
    4.3 Prevention of Falling
    “4.3.2 Any flight of stairs which contains more than five risers shall be provided with at least one continuous handrail extending the full length of such flight, provided that this requirement shall not apply to any building classified as H4, or within individual dwelling units in an occupancy classified as H3.”

  92. Thanks Penny, that is what I am referring to, but I see that it is not mentioned on this website. Quite a significant omission.

  93. Keith, this website is here to guide people through the Building Regulations, not to replicate them!

  94. Miles Hollins

    Is there any regulation that defines the minimum height of a riser?

  95. Yes Miles there is and you will find it on this page.

  96. Miles Hollins

    Hi Penny.

    Thanks for getting back to me! But I can’t seem to find the answer “on this page” though…

    Possibly you misread my question: I was asking if there is a MINIMUM requirement!

    I know that Part B refers to a maximum riser of 200mm and requires twice the riser plus the going to be between 570 and 650mm. And that Part S refers to a maximum riser of 170mm.

    I can’t find a regulation that states what the minimum riser may be. So, I have assumed that as long as the riser/going calculation stays between 570 and 650mm, it will be acceptable.

    The case in point requires four steps with 141mm risers and the going is currently 300mm. The riser/going calculation results in a figure of 582mm. Also: this is not for an internal or external staircase forming part of a building. Rather it is stairs on a dedicated pedestrian route on the site between residential buildings.

    Regards,

    MILES

  97. Miles Hollins

    Sorry: not Part B. I mean Part M!

  98. Hi Miles, Load shedding got in the way a bit today 🙁 I have double checked with my Inspector contact and there is no minimum riser height. So for instance if you have a 2 metre length with a total height of 200mm then you can have 4 x 50mm risers with a going on each of 500mm. Hope this helps 🙂

  99. Hi There

    Can you please tell me what the building regulations say for stairs that the public
    use. I need to know the tread, height and the width ?

  100. Hi. Are the occupants of a building permitted to use an external fire escape stairway on a daily basis as a means of moving between different floors when there is no emergency?

  101. Lindy I can’t find anything that says this is not permitted. I imagine the most important issue would be maintenance.

  102. Anne it’s all on this page – with drawings.

  103. Hi

    Can anyone tell me what the SANS regulation is for the contrasting on stair treads to make them visual for the partially sighted.

    Thank you
    Lee

  104. Lee there are several related references that might help you.
    C.2.4 Visual information
    “By creating clarity in the built environment, a level of safety that helps to minimize the risk of injury to persons with visual impairments can be achieved.”
    Only one para refers directly to stairways:
    “Colour, tone and luminance contrast should be used to aid the identification of critical surfaces. Externally, critical surfaces include guiding walls, steps, rails and textured guidance surfaces. Internally, critical surfaces that require an effective LRV level are ceilings, walls, floors, stairways, doors and significant fixtures and fittings.”
    This appears in another section:
    “Uneven surfaces, steps with irregular risers or open risers on flights of stairs are likely to cause persons with visual impairments to trip and injure themselves. Quality of workmanship is extremely important in avoiding gaps between surface finishes, raised thresholds, and to ensure that all steps have uniform risers.”
    And this is the part that refers directly to stairways – though it doesn’t answer your question I don’t think. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of SANS 784 referred to.
    4.9 Stairways
    4.9.1 Stairways shall comply with the requirements of SANS 10400-M, SANS 10400-T and the
    following requirements:
    a) the width of any stairway, measured to an enclosing wall or balustrade, shall be at least 900 mm;
    b) a landing that serves two flights of stairs in the same straight line shall be of length at least 1 100 mm;
    c) the rise of each tread step shall be of the same height and shall not exceed 170 mm;
    d) solid risers shall be provided in all accessible routes;
    e) a stairway shall be provided with handrails on both sides of the stairway in accordance with the requirements of 4.10;
    f) Themaximumheightallowedinaflightofstairs,betweenlandings,shallnotexceed1,530m;
    g) The stairway shall not include any winders (as defined in SANS 10400-M);
    h) No spiral stairway shall form part of an accessible route.
    4.9.2 Nosingsshalleffectivelycontrastwiththeirimmediatesurroundings.Theminimumdimensionsof each nosing shall be 40 mm × 40 mm.
    NOTE Further guidance on contrast and methods of measurement is provided in SANS 784.
    4.9.3 Outdoor stairs and outdoor approaches to stairs shall be so designed that water will not accumulate on walking surfaces.
    4.9.4 Tactile guidance, where provided, shall be in accordance with the relevant provisions of SANS 784.”

  105. Hi

    Are there any regulations prohibiting the use of access control doors in a staircases? Example being between for instance floor 1 and 2, if floors 2-4 are occupied by the same company.

    As an extra note, the door will only be access controlled going upwards and quick release mechanism going downwards.

    Thanks

  106. This is not a Building Regulations issue. It sounds to me like a security issue that needs to be sorted out between those using the building – and the landlord or building owner.

  107. Thanks Penny, my mistake I should have mentioned that my concern is regarding the regulation for installing access control in a staircase which is also used as a fire evacuation route.

    I have found the answers I needed.

    Regards

  108. What was the answer? I don’t think there’s anything to stop one using a staircase that is used as an exit route, providing nothing blocks it and all the other regulations (width – exit doors etc) are complied with.

  109. Johann van Heerden

    We are acting on behalf of an Owner who is handicapped whereby his left leg and arm are very weak as he suffered polio at very young age.

    He owns a Flat in Portobella Place, Morning Side, Johannesburg which he as owned for many years which he utilizes when visiting Johannesburg as he is based currently based in Rwandu.

    His mobility of recent has deteriorated, and he is experiencing difficulty when using the staircase to reach his Unit which is situated on the 3rd Floor. The person is now 60 years of age.

    We have approached the Trustees with a request to please install Handrails on the staircase which will allow safe access to and from his Unit.

    Their initial response is negative and rude in that they are asking why he purchased the Unit on the Third floor rather than a ground Unit in the first instance! The fact is that when he bought the Unit many years ago he condition was of such that he was able to use the staircase without the difficulty which he is now experiencing.

    Your advise in terms of Regulations Governing such a situation would be greatly appreciated.

    With kind Regards,

    Johann van Heeden.

  110. In process of building house. We planning a floating staircase which carries both architect and engineer’s approval. It has solid wall with required hand rail on one side. Is it possible to have the floating/cantilevered side open?

  111. Apologies for the delay in replying. It would seem on the face of it that they have no right to make comments like that or to be rude in any way. They are in contravention and must rectify the situation. Please read this post: facilities-for-disabled-people

  112. I do not think that you can. But your architect is supposed to know the SANS so the design they give should not violate the regulations and he is the best one to answer the question.

  113. Hi
    I was wondering…is it a legal requirement to have signs affixed where there is a flight of stairs?

  114. I have just bought into a sectional title complex and the property is on a slope which means that our garden is about 2m above the road. From the garden there is only a very low wall (+/- 500mm) which according to the information above it is not compliant as potentially someone could trip and fall over the wall.

    Seeing though this is a historical structure does it need to be compliant?

    Thanks
    Julia

  115. Hi Julia, It is very difficult to answer a question like this without seeing the wall itself. Each property has its own unique set of problems and the only one that can give you an answer would be the council building inspector. Please give your local planning office a call and request that they come and inspect.

  116. minimum width of fire escape stair

  117. Part T – Fire Protection – of SANS 10400 says that the rise and tread of any step forming part of an escape route must comply with the requirements given in SANS 10400-M – which is the part that covers Stairways. It also says that steps must have solid treads and risers.
    Part M states that the width of any tread shall not be less than 250 mm.

  118. Signs in public buildings are covered in the OHS Act, not building regs. There is no need in private buildings.

  119. Section 12.3.3 in The Red Bood by SAISC states that stairs forming part of an emergency escape route in the case of a fire must not have a width of less than 1.1m (Clear distance between stringers or handrails)
    Based on SANS 10400 Rule TT20

  120. What is the requirement regarding rails at steps at a retirement home…? We have stairs outside about three meters plus high…..there is a wall on both sides…but no rails….and the stairs are 2m plus wide. ??

  121. Hi Sandra, This is against many of the Regulations one of them “Stairways-Part M” you can read about the minimum heights etc. here: “Prevention Against Falling”

  122. What is the change point in regulation for the use of a stair or a ladder? What does access frequency mean?

  123. I have no idea what you are talking about Bert. Houses utilise stairways and not ladders – unless the ladder is portable and used to gain access to a roof space or similar. The term “access frequency” is not used in the regulations, but I assume it means how often an area or space is accessed.

  124. How strict can the council be in applying the rule of the 250 mm going if there is is simply not enough space. I have a situation whereby I only can have a going of 240 mm. The building inspector is adamant not to allow it.
    There must be some exception to the rule in the case of refurbishing existing homes I presume.

  125. Don’t presume anything Lukas! But if you are only “refurbishing” why do you need plans?

  126. Johan van Jaarsveld

    Hello.

    Is there a regulation which states “that where a staircase ends on a walkway the staircase should begin or end with a flat tread”. ?

    Thank you

  127. Hi, I am a University Of Johannesburg Architecture student. We have been given a project to design a staircase for a two story house. I am thinking of design a half landing staircase with glass balustrades, can you help me with the requirement, what materials can I use for the staircase and type, size & finishing can I use for the glass.

  128. Sorry we don’t do assignments for students!

  129. Not in SANS 10400-M, Stairways! In fact neither “walkway” nor “flat tread” appear in the Standard

  130. Question maximum height of single step or riser for public safety

  131. There are drawings with dimensions for steps in the article above. I don’t have any additional information.

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