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BCC Ruling No. 96-54-537

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IN THE MATTER OF Subsection 24(1) of the Building Code Act, 1992.

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence and Article of "the Building Code" (Ontario Regulation 419/89 as amended by Ont. Reg. 183/88, 581/88, 11/89 and 115/89)

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Herbert M. Green, Chairman, River Oaks Homes Inc., North York, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Frank Asta, Chief Building Official, Town of Oakville, Ontario concerning whether a secondary spiral stair which has a rise exceeding 200 mm provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence and Article of the Ontario Building Code at the River Oaks Subdivision, Oakville, Ontario.


Mr. Herbert M. Green
River Oaks Homes Inc.
North York, Ontario


Mr. Frank Asta
Chief Building Official
Town of Oakville


Mr. Demir Delen, Chair
Mr. Michael Steele
Ms. Susan Friedrich


Toronto, Ontario


December 12th, 1996


Mr. Herbert M. Green
River Oaks Homes Inc.
Oakville, Ontario
The Applicant

Mr. Don Pugh
River Oaks Homes
Dale and Larry Shipway
Shipway Stairs
Randy Guthrie
For the Applicant

Mr. Frank Asta
Chief Building Official
Town of Oakville
The Respondent


  1. The Applicant

Mr. Herbert M. Green, Chairman, River Oaks Homes Inc. is a person to whom an order to Comply was issued under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a single unit house as part of the River Oaks subdivision, Oakville, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The subject building is a single unit house 2 stories high with a living area of 208 square metres (2,235 square feet). A spiral stair serves a second floor loft office which has an area of less than 20 square metres. The proposed spiral stair has rise and run dimensions that do not comply with Article The building contains a primary staircase that complies with the Building Code requirements.

  1. Dispute

The dispute between the Applicant and the Respondent concerns sufficiency of compliance with Sentence and Article of the Ontario Building Code. At issue is whether the rise and run of the spiral stairs provide sufficiency of compliance with the Building Code.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Sentence Rise and Run of Stairs

  1. Except for stairs to areas used only as service rooms, interior stairs within dwelling units and exterior stairs serving dwelling units shall have a maximum rise of 200 mm (7- 7/8 in), a minimum run of 210 mm (8-1/4 in) and a minimum tread width of 235 mm (9-1/4 in).

Sentence Curved Stairs not in Exits

Except as permitted in Article, a curved stair not required as an exit shall have an average run of not less than 200 mm (7 7/8 in) and a minimum run of 150 mm (5 7/8 in) and shall have risers conforming to Article

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the Building Code does not adequately address the installation of spiral stairs in either a primary or secondary application and that the stairs as installed are unable to meet the sections specified. The Applicant further submitted that the stairs do not pose a life safety risk, that the egress requirements are for the second floor are met by the primary stairs, that the rise of the stairs are necessary to accommodate tread width and headroom, that the spiral stairs have been successfully used in many applications, that other building standards specifically allow spiral stairs even in exits, and that the stairs are largely an architectural feature.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the stair does not comply with the Building Code and would be unsafe.

  1. Commission Ruling:

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed stair provides sufficiency of compliance with Article of the Building Code provided a gate with a latching device, swinging away from the stair is installed at the top of the landing.

  1. Reasons:

    1. An October 1977 Building Code Newsletter published by the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations reports an earlier Building Code Commission decision allowing a spiral staircase as a second stair in a dwelling where the main stair complies with the Code. The OBC had similar provisions at that time.
    2. Proposed amendments to the Building Code regarding live/work units exempts stairs to mezzanines not more than 20 square metres in area from the rise and run dimensional requirements.
    3. Evidence was provided that spiral stairs are allowed as the only means of egress in several U.S. Codes.

Dated at Toronto, this 12th day, in the month of December, in the year 1996, for application number 1996-65.

Demir Delen

Michael Steele

Susan Friedrich