Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Sometimes habits can be broken

When building things it is best to not rely on “habit” to keep things together.

Why these stairs have not collapsed yet can only be attributed to luck and habit.

Looking at the pictures, it should be pretty self-explanatory what is wrong and yet, it certainly was not self-explanatory to whoever built the stairs. The blue line with the black stripe represents the “effective” strength of the stringer that supports the treads. The minimum depth of the remaining portion of the stringer is supposed to be 5” for the given span of the stairs. These stairs, as you can see measure 3-1/2 inches.

Improper stringers

So to begin with the stringers are WAY undersized but then the top was notched to allow for installation of the wrong type of hanger which results in further reducing that 3-1/2” distance to 1-3/4 inches.

Improper stringers

This leaves the “effective” or “functional” strength of the stringer at 1-3/4 inches. To make things even worse at one of the tread's notches that entire 1-3/4 distance is filled by a knot.

There are too many other things wrong with these stairs to go into here but this single defect is enough to require that the entire stairs (actually whole deck) be replaced by someone that makes a habit of knowing what they are doing.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comment balloon 4 commentsCharles Buell • February 22 2016 08:29AM


Nice, MR knotty.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

That is just an accident waiting to happen.  Especially if the wood starts rotting at all. 

Posted by Rob Arnold, Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F (Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc.) about 3 years ago

Hi Charles - While I didn't know the details that make it dangerous, that just plain looks wrong. I'd never have caught it, but that's why we rely on inspectors.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) about 3 years ago

I think mine might not be any more than that.  Hmmm.  I'm going to have to check that.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) about 3 years ago