Every six minutes, a child ends up in the emergency room because of a stair-related injury. And these visits aren’t just about scraped knees – three out of four of those kids suffer head and neck injuries! To protect your family, take fifteen minutes to check the safety of your stairs. If you discover any issues, contact a professional contractor to help resolve the problem.
Note: New homes are by no means immune to danger, but older homes are more likely to have problems. If your home is more than ten years old, it’s important that you check your stairs at least once a year to make sure they stay safe.
Need a hand? To hire a professional to safety check your stairs, visit Angie's List to find a professional in your area.
In the house. Most stair-related injuries (for kids and adults) occur on the home’s main set of stairs. Check the following things on your staircase:
Clutter. If your family commonly sets things on the stairs to bring them up and down, it’s time to break that habit. Small items on the stairs are dangerous, especially if a young one is racing to the dinner table! Instead, place a basket near – but not on – your stairs and put items destined for another floor in the basket.
Stair treads. Check the length of your stair treads. Are they deep enough for the whole foot of the largest-footed person in your home? If not, they’re a potential fall hazard.
Balusters. If you have small children in your home, this is especially important. Use the “tennis ball test” to make sure your stair balusters (also called spindles and stair sticks) are safe. If a tennis ball can fit between the balusters, a small child can also fall through that space!
Light switches. Does your home have a light switch on the top and bottom of the stairs? If not, a late-night tumble could happen. In the United States, building codes require light switches in both places if the staircase has six stair treads or more. But some older homes may not be equipped with both switches.
Handrail. Give the stair’s handrail a hard tug. Does it move at all? If so, it should probably be tightened up.
Uniformity. Stand at the top of your flight of stairs and look down. Do all the stair’s edges – including the very top landing – line up? If any stair is misaligned, it’s a fall hazard. Note: This is a relatively common problem in new homes.
On the porch or deck. Many porches don’t have enough steps to require a handrail, but we recommend installing one regardless. Think of it like safety insurance for every person that walks onto your porch or deck. Bonus: A stylish handrail can increase curb appeal!
In the garage. One third of all garage-related ER visits are from stair slips and falls. If your garage has stairs (even short ones) do all of the stair checks you’d do for indoor stairs. Also, make sure they’re easy to see, even at night. Add reflective tape to the edge of each step.