Advances in Building Stairs / Staircases / Deck Stairs Provide Superior Structural Integrity and Safety.

Let’s walk through the most important issues that have ‘tainted’ the decking industry and quickly highlight the major improvements that have provided new economical and efficient solutions that have effectively addressed the ‘trouble’ spots.

With the rapid increase in new material options such as composite material there have been excellent improvements in long lasting ‘color stabilization. When many of the composite manufacture’s first came on the scene they lacked sufficient UV (Ultra Violet) stabilizers in the custom color coatings they applied. Terrific new color options became available to builders, however, significant premature ‘fading’ was seen and customer complaints were common. Now, unlike the first generation of composite, new advanced UV color coating provides long lasting color consistency. In addition to the early problems of inadequate UV stabilizers, the initial cost was hard for many installers to swallow too! Now that the market place has encouraged more competition-the price of composite has come down and has become a very affordable, long lasting option versus traditional redwood, cedar and pressure treated lumber.

The whole topic of pressure treated lumber has also been an extremely controversial issue during this last decade. When the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) banned the use of arsenic and changed the main pressure treatment to ‘copper they failed to realize the major implications that would arise. Arsenic was eliminated due to the potential harm it exposed children to on playgrounds all across the nation. The new pressure treated solution now approved by the EPA and presently being used contains a high level of copper.

This relatively new approved pressure treatment when it comes in contact with galvanized-zinc coated steel accelerates corrosion at a rapid level. This set the stage for a dramatically different safety concern – with the earlier Arsenic pressure treatment the danger was possible poisonous ‘ingestion’¬¬ – now with the new, high copper content pressure treatment, widespread deck collapses and premature corrosion are the real safety concerns. Scrambling to quickly respond to the potential safety and liability concerns, manufacturers of steel hangers, fasteners (screws/nails etc.) immediately improved their products by adding hot-dipped galvanization to all anchors, hangers and fasteners and in many cases, adding epoxy powder coatings in addition to increasing the levels of hot-dipped galvanization. This so far, as been ‘perceived’ as an adequate solution. However, galvanic corrosion created between the high copper content of the wood and the galvanizing has shown to be so severe that the normal industry standard of G90 galvanizing will corrode in as little as 12 months and G185 can be seriously compromised with 24 months. Surprisingly, the G185 with no engineering testing available, has been the industry default for code officials. Without a barrier between the pressure treated wood and galvanized hardware, serious corrosion is inevitable. More work still needs to be done in safely addressing this EPA approved pressure treatment.

Standard, traditional deck installation and construction as a whole has come under great scrutiny within the last decade too. Many structural solutions have been advanced to improve deck attachments and stability. Highly publicized deck collapses have focused a spot light on safety issues but have missed the target on the major cause of fatalities and injuries. Deaths resulting from deck collapses although tragic are less than 40 per year across the US. However, statistics provided by the National Safety Council show fatalities on stairs approaching 2,000 per year- which do not include the serious injuries that have additionally occurred. (National Safety Council Injury Facts 2011 Edition).
The above injuries are a result of slips and falls on the most dangerous area of any deck or home: stairs (deck stairs, wood stairs, exterior stairs, interior stairs). Substandard construction practices have led to unstable railing and the inability to provide adequate grip as a person traverses a stairway. For years building codes have existed requiring rail posts to withstand 200lbs. of lateral load. Until just recently, there have been no solutions which allow standard wood stair construction to meet these criteria. Traditional poor construction methods are a direct cause that has led to these above statistics.

There have been just a handful of manufacturer’s that have made serious efforts at addressing various lateral load deck safety concerns for safer stair railings. One of these manufacturer’s, EZ Stairs,Inc. makes an adjustable bracket that can also be used as a vertical deck stair rail post attachment for deck stairs. Also read how ICC-ES has recognized EZ Stair’s stair rail solution.

Unfortunately, until such time as adequate code enforcement is required the above unnecessary fatalities and injuries will continue and many feel given the large number of reported injuries, it is grossly negligent for Building Inspectors not to require tested and validated products. The ICC-ES does an adequate job of informing the code official community of code tested solutions but they are largely ignored and sadly expose the general public to hazards that are unnecessary.

EZ Stairs Inc. is not only a easy to install two stringer stair system for risers and treads, but also functions as a vertical rail post attachment (rail safety bracket) that exceeds current code by 2.5x giving you safe, reliable stairs. Build exterior deck stairs up to 7′ wide or 9′ wide interior stairs with only 2 stringers- saving labor and materials. Since the riser acts as a load bearing joist, you get an incredibly strong stair that doesn’t squeak. With the patented adjustable dual-purpose exterior/interior brackets EZ Stairs won Pro Sales Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for new product innovation in the construction industry. In 2005, it introduced its composite deck compatibility solution and was chosen for LBM Journal’s ‘Hot Products’ Award at the International Builders Show, and again voted one of the fifty ‘Hot Products’ at more recent International Builders Shows. EZ Stairs is code approved and recognized by the ICC-ESR 2295.
For more information, and to view 3D demos, visit the website, or call 866-693-9570.

Improved solution to building safer stair railings.

Current IBC® and IRC® codes require guard rails to withstand a lateral load of 200 pounds, applied 36 inches above the nose of the stringer. This isn’t adequate protection for your stair railings or you. Imagine having a group of people on your deck stairs and someone trips and falls against the railing. Imagine if it were a large adult. Imagine if those were aging deck stairs prone to structural weakness anyway.

A newly redesigned adjustable stair bracket provides an innovative solution to this  stair rail  safety concern. It was designed specifically for stair construction and code compliant rail post support. The standard stair bracket was modified and tested for lateral load stair rail post support for cut stringers, angle stringers and for other applications. In more than twelve individual tests, all brackets withstood a load of 500 pounds applied 42 inches above the nose of the tread (an IBC requirement for non-residential applications), with some tests approaching 600 pounds before failure.

The National Safety Council shows slips and falls on stairs, result in 2,000 fatalities each year, making stairs the most dangerous area of the home. Once the hand grip or hand rail becomes unstable, safety is greatly compromised. This is particularly evident with persons over age 65. NSC statistics show that the leading cause of death and serious injuries for persons over age 65 are slips and falls.”

Secure hand and guardrails are critical for stair safety and there are many viable solutions for securing handrails. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for guardrails, specifically when they are attached to wood stairs. Guardrails are normally secured to rail post supports, which in turn are attached to a stringer. Some within the building industry have expressed concern that the standard installation methods used for rail post attachment fall short of meeting the lateral load capacity required by code. Products, such as the bracket evaluated in ICC-ES’s report for code officials and professionals in the construction industry: ESR-2295, helps ensure that current and future construction meets this requirement.

How do most code officials tend to test stair rail safety? Far too often, it’s a ‘tug and bump-the-rail’ test and if it seems solid, it passes. In some traditional construction, stairs are built with three or more cut stringers. Stairs may have both risers and treads, or treads only. The guardrail is normally 36 inches high for residential construction and is secured via posts bolted to the cut stringers. Often, the rails themselves are strong enough to meet code, but the attachment of the post to the stringer is the weak link.

An IAS accredited testing facility was engaged to test the load capacity of this traditional construction practice. A stair was constructed, with three 2×12 cut stringers and two 2×6 members for each tread, using dry, #2 Douglas Fir. Three 48-inch-long posts were attached using two 3/8-inch galvanized bolts. The top bolt was attached through the triangular cut portion of the stringer (normal practice) and the bottom bolt passed through the uncut portion of the stringer. A 3/8-inch eye bolt was attached 36 inches above the nose of the tread as the load point. The load was applied to each post and measured using a dynamometer. In each case, the bolt pulled through the cut, triangular rise/tread tip of the stringer at a load of just 20 pounds. As the load was increased to 50 pounds, severe longitudinal cracks were seen along the length of the stringers, breaking all triangular tips and resulting in complete failure of both the stringer and the rail post support.

All three tests consistently showed significant structural failure occurring at minimal loads and several reasons for the early failure were identified. The post acted as a lever against the stringer, magnifying the load on each bolt. A 20-pound pull at the guardrail level resulted in a 120-pound force at the base of the post and caused the top bolt to pull through the stringer. Once the top bolt had broken through, the bottom bolt was left to resist the entire load. The mechanical advantage was further amplified by the lower position of the bottom bolt, and the final 50-pound pull on the guard rail became a 1,200-pound force at the base. This was enough to twist the stringer and cause it to crack longitudinally.  The tests were conducted on isolated posts without railing. Often, a continuous rail is used, which can help to distribute the load to other posts, decreasing the load effects on the bolts at a single post attachment. However, the test was designed for worst case scenarios, which were correctly reflected in the above testing.” Guardrail failure is unnecessary and the consequences can be tragic.

The new ICC-ES evaluated EZ Stairs® rail post attachment technology which affords a simple and efficient, code compliant solution to this very serious issue.

Look up report ICC-ESR 2295.

EZ Stairs® has been voted ‘Hot Product’ of the year at the International Builder’s Show over and over.  The system has won awards for innovation in the construction industry. It is the only adjustable bracket system anywhere and can be used to meet all building codes for any interior or exterior (deck stairs, wood stairs and concrete formwork stairs) application and can now double as a code compliant rail post support attachment ICC-ESR 2295. See a 3D video demo of how it works.

Build Safe Stair Railings with Closed Posts.

Build Safe Stair Railings with Closed Posts.


Build Safe Stair Railings for Open Post Stairs

Build Safe Stair Railings for Open Post Stairs