Do I need stairs at all exit doors from a mobile home?
Friday, September 21, 2018
Yes, you must provide a safe structure to walk down to the ground from every exterior door, the details of which are specified by the local building code where the home is installed. The example below is not acceptable, and especially if the door has been permanently secured, because it eliminates one of the two required emergency exits for a mobile home.
According to how many steps down it requires to get to the bottom, the structure will be classified as either “stairs” or “steps.” Stairs have four or more risers. A riser is defined as a vertical section between treads. Three or less risers qualify as steps, and have fewer safety requirements—but a mobile home is rarely that low to the ground.
Each local building code is slightly different, but here are the generally accepted standards for manufactured/mobile home stairs, per International Residential Code (IRC):
- Minimum three feet wide. If door is wider, the landing must be at least the width of door.
- Landing at top of stairs minimum three feet deep.
- There should be a railing on both sides of the stairs that is a minimum of 34” high, with pickets not more than 4” apart—a spacing that does not allow a small child’s head to get stuck between them.
- There must be a handgrip on at least one side of the stairs. The handgrip must be small enough to easily wrap your hand around. If it is separate from the railing, then the ends must return back to the railing cap, wall, or end post so that it is not possible to snag a handbag or sleeve on the end and tumble down. Handgrips must be between 34” and 38” above the nosing (front edge) of the treads.
- Risers should not exceed seven and a half inches high, with not more than a quarter inch variation in height between risers. The first and last risers are where we typically see any change in riser height.
The stair structure must be freestanding. It should not be connected to the mobile home in a way that the home provides structural support for the stairs.
Because there is less risk of falling, steps have no railing or handgrip requirements. Although a landing is not required at the top of steps by some codes, it is a recommended safety feature, especially where a door opens out over them.
Also, while it is not specified by the building code, there should be a ratio between the height of the risers and the width of the treads that makes it comfortable to walk the stairs or steps. A generally accepted standard is that the sum of the width of one tread and height of two risers should be between 24 and 26 inches.
One defect we occasionally find is a sliding glass door that has both sections moveable, but stairs across only one side. Either one door panel should be permanently fixed in place, or the stairs should span the entire width of the door.
Falling down even a short run of stairs can cause serious injury, and falls are the leading cause of hospitalization for children and the elderly. So we urge you to take the safety of your stairs and steps seriously, and check them regularly for any damage or loose connections.
Here’s an example of the typical requirements, from the city of Core d’Alene, Idaho.
Also, go to our HUD-CODE FOR MOBILE HOMES page for a listing of our other HUD-code articles.
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