Multi-housing property owners hate to replace stairs more than any other type of repair, but they won’t devote proper maintenance to stairways until it is too late. The average lifespan for present day materials, in the best of conditions, before major repair is necessary, is around 10 years, and 7 years for unfavorable conditions. It is not uncommon for the same stairs to be replaced as many as 3 times in a 20-year period. The repairing and replacing of all types of ageing and damaged exterior stair cases constructed of several types of material, or a combination of materials, is an ongoing expenditure.
Stairways need renovating for a number of reasons, the most important being that the materials themselves become failed products after exterior application utilized in stair treads. The primary reason for material failure of metal, concrete on metal pans, concrete, or wood is the natural elements. Fluctuation of temperature, moisture in the air, salt air, humidity, or lack of sunlight for drying out moisture represents a few of the natural elements contributing to early deterioration.
Another reason for this material failure is man-made chemicals used as protection from cold, ice, or snow. There is no protection against these chemicals, and their excessive use, for the usual materials. There are several types of ‘wonder sealers’ in the marketplace used as a protective coating, but none are adequately effective, especially when stair maintenance is insufficient.
Stair maintenance, such as seasonal prepping and pre-protection, is always neglected. Attending to exterior stair maintenance by property staff is generally non-existent, until it is too late. And, stairway replacement is usually put off until the situation is desperate.
Many times, the materials used in the initial construction of a property was the wrong one to use in that particular location, and it would be very costly to use the same materials in the current use of the property. An example of this would be solid concrete on a hilly terrain that now has mature landscaping. To install the same product would legislate a greater expenditure because, more than likely, you probably would not be able to get vehicles capable of carrying the weight of prefab concrete stairs, or concrete trucks, to each individual location without damaging the landscaping. This, of course, would add more expense. And it might be impossible to even get the vehicles to the location. Pumping concrete in to the site may not be feasible for this same reason.
A wheelbarrow may have to be used if the terrain is bad, or the landscaping is mature. Using this method, you can’t reproduce a complete 13-step stairway, demolish and rebuild, in a timeframe that will not inconvenience tenants for more than a day. The more time spent, the more your cost. The time frame to replace the treads in almost all cases cannot exceed eight hours. Most tenants, whether multi-housing apartments, commercial, or industrial cannot be deprived for more than an 8-hour period.
The demolition of the existing stairs, including the complete stairway and stringers, handrails, and steps will normally take 8 to 12 hours for a complete demolition. The same time frame would apply in removing just the existing steps, their support brackets (usually necessary), along with repairing damage to the stringers, sanding, spot welding, scraping off top rust, prime painting the areas, then add new brackets, and install and level step. Owners tend to try to get by with doing just the step replacement to save time and expense.
Metal stringers and handrails, with attentive repair and upkeep, such as painting regularly, and removing rust while it is still superficial will last for several years. The discrepancy between the longevity of the stringers, as opposed to the steps, is the fact that the stringers don’t hold water and other moisture as long, they don’t normally get chemicals sprayed on them, and they don’t get the traffic or weight abuse.
The use of wood above one flight is prohibited by most new building codes. And, most new codes will not grandfather it in any longer. Wood stringers, even treated wood, due to the elements, and any over spray from chemicals, etc, ages out faster than metal or concrete.
Surprisingly, concrete stringers deteriorate the fastest. The elements, traffic, weight burden, and chemicals break up the composite of the material, and thus greatly lower the integrity of the design, and reduce its strength. Concrete, once it starts separating, decomposes rapidly, and will break with a minimum of stress or strain. Due to this, there have been many more accidents from concrete stairs than either wood or metal.
The cost factor of replacing staircases has even led to the mix up four kinds of materials on the same 13-step stairway. This is certainly not aesthetically pleasing to potential tenants or buyers. If the inspector doesn’t make you replace them, he will make you vacate all the upper floors until they are repaired to code. And then there is the insurance adjuster. If there is a fall, and the stairway condition is the cause, the insurance company won’t pay, you will pay.
Due to all the problems mentioned, clients are begging for anything that will increase life span, decrease maintenance, and improve on the safety issue of exterior stairs. Much research and the consulting of numerous experts went into finding an answer.
Fiberglass seemed to be an ideal material. And, although there are fiberglass steps available, none of them meet the present building codes for multi-level housing or commercial bids. Each state, and even each county, may have variance on these codes; however, they are all similar and workable with a new revolutionary product called ReplacementSteps.