March 3, 2006 · Print This Article

Bob Kille Acuspect Home InspectionSome times people just don’t get it, for whatever reason. Here I was at a re-inspection of a nice new big custom home at the pre-drywall stage. Our site supervisor is insisting that I shouldn’t ding him for a minor staircase imperfection of 1 inch in height difference between the risers.

With a big smile on my face and my head moving slightly left to right I waded in with the motor skills studies that determined why risers can be no more than 3/8ths difference in height.

His argument back to me was that the tile floor was not yet in place and that should bring up the lower riser by about 5/8ths of an inch, which by the way would put him at the 3/8th inch maximum tolerance from highest to lowest risers.

That sounded logical until I asked if the stairs were going to be left bare, without a floor covering of their own. To this he replied that, the carpet would be minimal in thickness and shouldn’t really be considered because it would only put the risers out of maximum tolerance by just a bit.

So if my math is approximately correct, carpet padding is about 1/4″ and the carpet itself even if on the thinnest of sides would measure at least 1/8″ in thickness, leaving a 5/8th difference in riser heights. Just a bit over the max of 3/8ths, a bit being 60%.

I received the same story again on how expensive it would be to start over to fix the slightly over tolerance issue. My first suggestion to him was to let the sub contractor worry about that and his first concern should be to the safety of the occupants. I could tell that I’d lost him on the safety concern so I put it another way.

Imagine, after documenting the safety hazard at the stairs you fail to do anything to correct it and someone get hurt using the stairs. I wouldn’t want to be the one explaining to a judge that it was just a “little bit” over tolerance would you?

Well, I thought I had em, but site supers can be tough minded and this one was no exception. His reply was that the boss wasn’t going to make him fix the dang stairs anyway as an accident is unlikely, so let’s just move on.

I paused a moment, and asked what’s going to happen when the house is resold and the home inspector declares the stairs a safety hazard? It’s clearly out of tolerance and the Registrar of Contractors Workmanship Standards would clearly dictate that the stairs be made safe, i.e. reconstructed.

Add attorney’s fee’s onto whatever it costs to reconstruct the stairs at that late date and your boss will probably see the wisdom in calling back the sub contractor to fix it now. “Whatever” is the educated response mumbled my way as he saunter off clearly disgusted with me, not wanting to discuss the rest of the list.

Funny how things work out. Not one hour after leaving the site I got a call to do a home inspection on a brand new home in the same neighborhood, same builder, different staircase, same stair problem. Yep, a 1″ difference at the first riser on a real nice all finished wood winding staircase, sides wood paneled with a nice custom Newell post at the first tread.

Whatever happens, and it won’t be coming out of my pocket.

Copyright © 2005 by Bob Kille. To read other home inspection related articles or to view home inspection software and book publications by Mr. Kille, click on this link. www.inspectorsuccess.com


One Response to “Whatever”

  1. Bob Kille on March 12th, 2006 8:38 PM

    Just a brief update. My client ask for another reinspection on the same staircase, this in effect put the builder ( companies owner ) on notice of a possible major issue. The staircase and the two other buildings I was currently scheduled to inspect were delayed to fix the stair cases.

    I don’t know what happend with the staircase in the house that was for sale but I’m guessing it may have had something to do with the change of heart of the site superintendent and owner of the company.