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re: steel stairs

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Taylor,
 
We perform specialty engineering for a couple of steel and aluminium fabricators, and some of the most popular items are guardrails, handrails, and stairs.
 
These have loading criteria in the Florida Building Code (Chapter 16, available online for free), but I would assume the IBC or ASCE would have similar guidelines. For guard rails it is 50plf or 200lb, applied in any direction to the guardrail, whichever creates the worse case situation. They are NOT to be applied concurrently. The loads have to be taken down to the main structure, which is by the EOR. This is a gray area that is often overlooked, but should be coordinated by both parties.
 
Stairs are exitways normally and we use 100psf. We will also sometimes throw a 300lb point load if that creates a worse case. Then the pickets have to be designed usually for a 4" sphere test (spacing to avoid children getting their heads stuck), as well as 50lb lateral and some type of PSF loading, off the top of my head. Nearly never an issue...
 
When we do school projects this criteria is also in their specs, and sometimes they are greater then the FBC requirements.
 
Be careful if these are aluminum, it is hard to make the allowable stress work sometimes with the post spacings, especially when the base is welded as this reduces the allowable stress...
 
HTH,
Andrew Kester, P.E.
Principal/Project Manager
ADK Structural Engineering, PLLC
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