The Feet Know What The Eyes Can’t See

This article by my associate James Quarello shows a problem that carpenters are trained to prevent. Some don’t understand this and the results are like what we have here. I wrote a similar article this past January.

You’re walking down the side walk along your street, gazing about, taking in the sights and boomp! You stumble. You look around to see what caused this interruption of stride. You see that your toe caught a rise in the walk that your eyes never saw. Your feet have detected what your eyes were unable to see.

Nice looking stairwayPart of the reason for that is our stride is basically run on auto pilot. It is really quite even and consistent, so when an undetected variation in the terrain occurs, you stumble.

This science of the stride is the reason why stairs need to be constructed with a consistent height. Some slight variation is allowed (a maximum of 3/8″), but the rise from one step to the next should be very close to even. There is also a maximum allowable height. Here in Connecticut that would be 7 ¾”.

On a recent afternoon I pulled up to my inspection and noticed that the home had a beautiful stone wall and stairway leading to the front entry. Once I got myself situated I head for the stairs. Taking the first step I almost had to lift my leg with my hand it was so high. As I continued to ascend my feet were having convulsions trying to find a rhythm to the stairway.

Obviously my feet knew what my eyes failed to see.

Too highTaking out a tape measure it was no surprise I found the stairs height varied greatly. That first bottom stair was 12 inches from the driveway. Much too high as my feet had known all along. As I continued measuring I found stair heights of 10″, 9 ¾’ 9 ½”, and 7 ¾”. I did not find any two stairs exactly the same height. And as you see only one was of the required height.

My guess is these beautiful stairs were constructed by a homeowner or a poorly skilled contractor without permits. Unfortunately to fix these stairs will require some extensive rebuilding. Leaving them as they are will have the feet of those who use them out of sync and stumbling like a groom after his bachelor party.

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
2010 – 2011 SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC


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Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post