Is this safe?

15 Replies

Hello!

Recently purchased multi-family and was told by the inspector that the landing structure at the steps isn't attached well to the house and it must be properly secured to the structure to prevent collapse. Not sure where I should attach it to the house, or which part I should attach? Does anybody have any ideas? The overall porch is built very solid. Had a handyman tell me there is nothing wrong with it the way it is so I am not sure. The 2 vertical pieces are what the landing is currently resting and the stairs go straight down to the ground. Can provide more pics if it helps.

Originally posted by @Sam Gad :

Hello!

Recently purchased multi-family and was told by the inspector that the landing structure at the steps isn't attached well to the house and it must be properly secured to the structure to prevent collapse. Not sure where I should attach it to the house, or which part I should attach? Does anybody have any ideas? The overall porch is built very solid. Had a handyman tell me there is nothing wrong with it the way it is so I am not sure. The 2 vertical pieces are what the landing is currently resting and the stairs go straight down to the ground. Can provide more pics if it helps.

 That depends on how the ledger board is attached (hopefully bolted to the rim joist of the house), but based on the picture I don't like it. There is no direct support underneath the rim of that structure other than the two posts at the stairs so your point load is transferring to the ground only through those two posts, the stair connection and whatever fasteners are holding the ledger board in place. If the fasteners are just some nails, or worse, screws, I would want to see at least one post in place to transfer some load directly to the ground. 

At any rate, you might consider another opinion before doing anything, but that looks (in the picture) like it's a long fall if it shears from the building. 

Thanks for your input! The only connection to the house is 2 pieces of wood directly against the house under the landing. Because there are 2 doors under the stairs I am not sure another post would be ideal if it will block the doors when placed closer to the house. Do you have any suggestions for attaching the structure with horizontal/diagonal beams to the house maybe? Since I know nothing at all about construction I'm worried if I brought in a handyman they wouldn't know the proper way to attach it other than to do the actual labor, that's why I posted here. 

@Sam Gad That looks very unsafe to me. The floor joists are running parallel to the house and are only supported by a single member girder that is itself improperly supported. 

You have 2 choices:

1. Tear down and properly rebuild the entire structure. 

2. Hire a structural engineer to specify a method to repair this structure.  There's not going to be an easy way. You'd have to double up those outside girders and attach them to the house with a heavy-duty hanger, etc. 

I would chose #1. It will give you a much better and safer result.  I would not ignore this situation; it is a disaster waiting to happen. 

@Sam Gad This was poorly constructed and needs to be fixed. 

This is what I see.... the outside joists (the joists perpendicular to the exterior wall) are supporting the entire load of the deck. The load then get transferred to the corners of the deck. The corner attached to the wall looks like its toe nailed to a ledger board (no bueno!). The outside corner has the joist benig nailed to another small joist nailed to the post (no bueno!). The stairs might be taking some of the load from the one rafter but its hard to tell in the picture.  

Typically, a ledger board is attached to the floor system/wall framing with lag bolts or special screws then the rafters are attached to the ledger board perpendicular to the exterior wall. These rafters would be attached with hangers on both sides. The posts should be placed on the outside corners with the stairs attached to the outside joist with hangers. This joist is usually doubled up becuase its holding half the load of the deck and the stairs. If you going to knock it down and start over make sure you construct it in a similar way.

Sorry if this all sounds confusing but usually I just have a construction detail showing all this instead of spelling it all out. Either way its not built to code and it needs to be fixed. 

Since you say there are two doors underneath, a possibility (assuming this structure is level with the rim joist) is to slot the rim joist and cantilever 12-16' 2x8 or 2x10s to take the point load at the house, and then locate the outer beams properly. This will create an extremely strong structure, especially if blocking is added at/near the rim joist to tie the joists together. 

Another option is to "bracket" the house connection the same way you would if you were mounting a large window box or shelf unit - you create 2-3 4x4 brackets that can transfer some of the deck load to the walls of the house. Look at this picture to understand what I'm referring to (go to page 2):

http://www.finehomebuilding.com/design/departments/energy-smart-details/second-story-balconies.aspx

Sam

A lot of the replies on here suggest this structure needs work. Whether or not it is safe is one issue. The second issue is whatever the inspector says. Chicago is notoriously strict on decks and rear stairways and the city can cause you a whole heap of trouble in regards to this. You appear to have 2 opinions. Inspector says its not safe your handy man says its fine. Which of the 2 do you want happy ?

Even different city inspectors will give you different opinions on the same deck. I spend a few thousand to repair a deck on a 2 flat. First inspector told me upon re-inspection I was 90% to code and i just needed to finish XYZ. I spend more money per his instructions. Month later a different inspector for second re-inspection told me the whole thing had to come down and be rebuilt, submit plans etc etc. Nightmare. $5K spend and they wanted it all torn down.

Bottom line... while the city inspectors and their methodology are often all screwed up and while of course you are happier to hear the opinion of your handyman...he can not drag you to court and issue you fines and condemn your building and so on.

Don't do anything to your deck without clear instructions from the city as to what they want. and don't rely on an individual inspector. Call their supervisor who can be hard to get a hold of. But get him on your side. Once he sees you are being pro-active and want to have your deck to code and done correctly it will work out better in the long run.

Its a frustrating process and we all wish the handyman had the final say...but this is just one of the many challenges we Chicago owners face. Just better to try to work within the system for a better outcome long term.

Sam,

Ronam is right for the most part but when you have drawings signed and sealed by a structural engineer licensed in your state there is not much they can argue with. As long as you build it according to the plans then you should be fine. This will cost you a few hundred bucks and should eliminate all the back and forth with different inspectors.  

Originally posted by @Sam Gad :

Hello!

Recently purchased multi-family and was told by the inspector that the landing structure at the steps isn't attached well to the house and it must be properly secured to the structure to prevent collapse. Not sure where I should attach it to the house, or which part I should attach? Does anybody have any ideas? The overall porch is built very solid. Had a handyman tell me there is nothing wrong with it the way it is so I am not sure. The 2 vertical pieces are what the landing is currently resting and the stairs go straight down to the ground. Can provide more pics if it helps.

 My 1st reaction- DO NOT LISTEN TO YOUR HANDYMAN.  Only use your handyman for items that do not require a licence to fix or require inspection by the city.  Hire a self certified licensed architect to review the deck.  If changes are required to comply to code, there may also be a requirement for drawings.  Your handyman's not qualified to make that call.    

Thank you all for your input! It really helps as I know nothing about any of this. Surprisingly enough when I purchased the property the city came out for an inspection and said nothing about the structure at all, it passed. I just know the inspector mentioned it as a priority and I would rather get it done right. 

Do you think a contractor/construction company would be the person to ask or should I reach out to some kind of structural engineer who would tell them what needs to be done?

Sam,

For your situation I think it would be best to go through a contractor. They usually have a few structural engineers they work with and they can handle all the communication as to what needs to be done to get it up to code. Also, if the contractor is good, he should know exactly what needs to be done and who to speak with for the building department to approve everything. Good luck!

Most of the replies here are correct if money is plentiful.

What should you do on a budget?  Learn the code and fix it yourself.  Most of these mistakes can be fixed by adding the proper hurricane ties, lag bolts, etc at a fraction of the cost of hiring an expensive engineer and just as safe.

Originally posted by @Stone Teran :

Most of the replies here are correct if money is plentiful.

What should you do on a budget?  Learn the code and fix it yourself.  Most of these mistakes can be fixed by adding the proper hurricane ties, lag bolts, etc at a fraction of the cost of hiring an expensive engineer and just as safe.

 I agree, but for someone who doesn’t know what is going on "Learning the code" is not easy and will take loads of time.

Example: Sam determines the correct hanger/ties he needs to use and where to place them. He calls the inspection in and the inspector fails him because he didn’t use the correct nails the manufacture of the hanger specifies. Now he has to rip all the hangers off and do it all over again. Might not be the best example but little things like this might bite you later on.

Sam- you can go this route if your on a tight budget and have plenty of time to figure this out, but even if you were to build everything to code the building department may still want an engineer to sign off on it.

@Stone Teran

Sam said in his second post

"Since I know nothing at all about construction I'm worried..."

Hence I don't think the DIY route and adding hurricane ties etc etc was an option for him.

Since he has admitted his short comings on construction I think only correct guidance from a local professional and his check book will be his level of involvement.

Looks like it was designed/built by a handy man... Your posts are in the wrong location, the joists are run in the wrong direction and the stairs only have 2 stringers. 

From a contractors point of view the current structure is built improperly at best. I suggest removing the existing structure and build a new landing and stairs. Its probably not going to fall down any time soon but it is a liability. There is no need for a engineer. Any competent contractor could easily build those stairs and landing.

The landing seems fine to me. However the manner in which it attaches to the house makes it possible to be detached and fall over under certain conditions. I imagine the inspector meant for you to bring the support beams for the landing from inside the house framing meaning they should be attached from inside house and only stick out as being cantilevered 

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