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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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  • What size does a bedroom egress window have to be?
  • How many person(s) are allowed per habitable room?
  • What are the stair riser and tread requirements?
  • When is a handrail required?
  • When is a guardrail required?
  • How long is a permit valid?
  • How much frost protection should I have?
  • What R-Values should I insulate to?
  • What Ground Snow Load and Wind Speed?


What size does a bedroom egress window have to be?
Every sleeping room shall have at least one (1) operable window or exterior door approved for emergency egress or rescue. The units must be operable from the inside to a full clear opening without the use of separate tools. Where a window is provided as a means of egress or rescue, they shall have a sill height of not more than 44” above the floor.

All egress or rescue windows from sleeping rooms must have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 sq. ft. The minimum net clear opening height dimension shall be 24”. The minimum net clear opening width dimension shall be 20”.

To calculate the square footage of the opening, multiply the width of the opening in inches by the height of the opening in inches and dividing by 144. This measurement should be 5.7 minimum.

How many person(s) are allowed per habitable room?
Floor Space requirements

Every dwelling unit shall contain at least one hundred (100) square feet of floor area per occupant.

Every sleeping room used for sleeping purposes shall contain a minimum of seventy (70) square feet of floor area and at least fifty (50) square feet of floor area per person with all measurements based on the total habitable room area; provided that the occupancy of any dwelling unit having more than one (1) habitable room shall not exceed an average of one and one-half (1 1/2) persons per habitable room: and provided further that for the purposes of this section, a child under ten (10) years of age shall be deemed to be one-half (1/2) person.

What are the stair riser and tread requirements?
In residential use, the maximum riser height is 7 3/4” and the minimum tread depth is 10”. Tread depth is measured horizontally between the vertical planes of the foremost projection of adjacent treads and at a right angle to the reads leading edge.

In other uses, maximum riser height is 7 3/4” and minimum tread depth is 10”.

There shall not be a variation exceeding 3/16” in the depth of adjacent treads or in height of adjacent risers. The tolerance between the largest and the smallest riser or the largest and smallest tread shall not exceed 3/8” in any flight of stairs.

The minimum headroom in all parts of a stairway shall not be less than 6’ 8” measured vertically from the tread nosing or from the floor surface of the landing or platform.

For winders, spiral, circular, and other types of stairs - call for requirements.

Stairway width and landing width for one and two family dwellings shall not be less than 3’.

When is a handrail required?
A continuous handrail is required on both sides of stairs except a single family dwelling unit with three or more risers is required at least on one side. Handrails are required so that all portions of the required width of stairs are within 30” of a handrail.

The clear space between handrail and the adjacent wall or surface shall not be less than 1½”.

All stairway handrails shall have a circular cross section with an outside diameter of at least 1 ¼” and not greater than 2”.

1) Any other shape with a perimeter dimension of at least 4” but not greater than 6¼” with the largest cross-sectional dimension not exceeding 2¼”
2) Approved rails of equivalent grasp ability. In one and two-family dwellings handrail should have a minimum and maximum heights of 34” and 38”, respectively, in all other uses, 34”. Handrail heights should be measured vertically above the nosing of the treads or above the finished floor of the landing or walking surfaces. In residential use, if a handrail is used also as a guardrail, it should be a minimum of 34” measured vertically above the nosing. Except for stairways within a dwelling unit, handrails shall extend at least 12” beyond the top riser and at least 12” plus depth of one tread beyond the bottom riser. At the top the handrail shall be parallel to the walking surface, at the bottom the handrail shall continue to slope for a distance of the depth of one tread from the bottom riser, with the remainder parallel to the walking surface.

When is a guardrail required?
Porches, balconies, or raised floor surfaces, open sides of stairs located more than 30” above the floor or grade.

In one and two-family dwelling, guardrails shall not be less than 36” in height for porches, balconies, or raised floor surfaces, and open sides of stairs 34” minimum measured vertically from the nosing of the treads. If guardrails are also going to be used as handrails, see handrail section.

In most other uses, guardrails should be at least 42” in height measured vertically above the leading edge of the tread or adjacent walking surface.

Open guards shall have balusters or other construction such that a sphere with a diameter of 4” cannot pass through any opening.

Exception: The triangular openings formed by the riser, tread at the bottom rail at the open side of a stairway shall be of a maximum size such that a sphere 6” in diameter cannot pass through the opening.

How long is a permit valid?
A building permit issued shall become invalid if the authorized work is not commenced within six (6) months after the issuance of the permit, or if the authorized work is suspended or abandoned for a period of six (6) months after the time of commencing the work. A building permit is good for one year from the date of issuance.

How much frost protection should I have?
Foundation systems should be four feet (4’) minimum below grade to protect from frost.

What R-Values should I insulate to?
Ceiling: R-49
Exterior Wall: R-21
Floor over basement/crawl space: R-20
Basement Wall: R-11

What Ground Snow Load and Wind Speed?

GROUND SNOW LOAD        50             WIND SPEED       90 (mph)