How Do I Know If My Stairs Are Too Rusty To Be Safe?

Unsafe, Rusty Stairs

When you’re a kid, some things – like stairs and heights, can be really scary. As an adult, perhaps not so much. Yet there are few things scarier than stairs that have not been properly maintained and are on the verge of collapse.

We recently had a project in Central California’s Salinas Valley that involved rusted stairs. These stairs led up to the second story of a large apartment complex.

The stairs were very wobbly, and possibly close to collapse, which was of major concern. A collapse would almost certainly cause serious injury to any tenants that were on or near them. A collapse could also affect access to the upper floors of the building.

Helfrich-Associates reviewed the stairs and determined the exposed supports at the base of the stair case had rusted and were crumbling due to corrosion over many years.  In fact, drainage from the roof had actually been allowed to fall onto the stair case, allowing water to drip down the metal supports to the base of the staircase where it puddled around the metal anchor feet of the staircase. Over time the anchor feet rusted and corroded.

This could have resulted in foundation problems, which tend to occur when there are unstable soil conditions, excessive moisture or construction defects. Ignoring poor drainage or ponding, as was the case here, can be expensive to repair and more expensive the longer it is ignored.

For this apartment complex, this was a case where three problems were at work. First, there was a poor original design with no rain gutters to direct the rain falling on the roof away from the structure’s stair case. Second, the metal stairs were not constructed of galvanized metal to resist corrosion. Finally, there was poor maintenance where the metal stair supports should have been annually scraped for rust, coated for water resistance and repainted with a water-resistant paint.

Rust eats metal and poorly coated or weather-exposed metal stairs or structural supports when improperly maintained can literally crumble away.  Outside staircases in multi-story apartment buildings, also the case here, are of a particular concern in some areas. That’s why frequent attention must be paid to rust removal and repainting.  When roof repair needs are ignored, water can enter buildings from roof leaks and wreak havoc on metal supports or trusses.

For these folks, our recommendation was heavy repair and restoration to cut out the rusted metal supports for the stair case and replace them.

After we did an inspection of the rust and corrosion problems at the complex, consisting of more than 10 buildings, our team recommended all affected areas be repaired within a three month to two-year period. This involved not only repairs to the buildings and staircases, but also repainting of the stair supports at several of the buildings. In addition, we vigorously recommended that all of the exterior exposed parallam beams, which support the stair landings, be repaired immediately as continued moisture penetration could lead to a sudden collapse; a life safety concern.

Have you ever had to deal with stairs that were close to collapsing? What was the end result? Let us know about your experience in the comments section, below.

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Need help with your property’s rusty stairs? Don’t delay! We can help.

 

 

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One Comment

  1. Im at an Apartment complex where the stairs are falling apart. My brothers leg fell thru the stairs n was out of work for a month but the landlord said dont use that stairs n painted over the rust. What can be done to prevent it from falling down again. The said its ok.

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