Three weeks ago I missed a step going downstairs. There was a terrifying crunch from my left foot and within no time I was lying on the basement floor in shock, spewing curses and hoping the pain wouldn’t get worse. I can walk now, but my foot still aches. I stubbornly refused to get an X-ray, confident that my bones don’t break that easily. I’ve only ever broken one bone, a cracked finger due to a hockey mishap. Don’t ask. But a sprained foot is bad enough. It is amazingly difficult to get around with the use of one leg, I have learned.
I blame the poor design of the stairs in my house for the accident. Of course it wasn’t MY fault! It was the ARCHITECT’S fault. These stairs are built thus: the rise is 7 1/2″, the run is 10″, with a 1″ nosing in addition. The nosing is fine for going up, as it allows for an effective tread of 11″. Going down however, which I am 110% certain is the operating direction of most stair accidents, the tread is still 10″ long. Now look at your feet. How long are they? Mine are longer than that. This means that when descending stairs my toes generally hang out beyond the tread nosing. If you overstep a little too much, as I did, it’s very easy to miss the step entirely, and then WHAM!
In architecture we had manuals giving standards for things, like chairs, tables, closets, doors,ramps, stairs and a thousand others. The old rule for stairs was 2R+T=25″. That meant 2 times the rise plus the tread length should equal 25″. The stairs here conform to that old saw, i.e. 2 (7.5) + 10 = 25. I am living proof that rule is not good enough! I always thought it wasn’t, to which end in my working life I have endeavored to make stairs less steep than that formula allows. I have measured and observed lots of stairs, and here’s my conclusion: ideal stairs should have a 12″ tread, with 6″ rise. Per the formula: 2(6) + 12 = 24. I have measured and tested many stairs as I said, and I can confirm that 6 x 12 is both comfortable and very safe. You can practically run down stairs of that slope, but don’t try it. Note the slope difference here: 6×12 is 50%, while 7.5×10 is 75%. Both conform to the old rule but within that rule you have the possibility of slope variance factor of 1-1/2. When descending stairs you should: 1. hold onto the handrail, and 2. watch your step. I was doing neither when I fell, as I was carrying a ladder using both arms, and couldn’t see my feet. It will be a long time before I make that mistake again.
Lesson over, here are some photos from my walk/limp around the lake the other day. The bushes were teeming with birds, and many more were deep inside brush, chirping, hopping, flitting, pecking, eating and doing what birds do. They do seem to be very active these days, full of spring fever.