THE I-STAIR – A NEW BUILDING CONSTRUCTION HAZARD

I would first like to give a special thanks to the staff at Firefighters CloseCalls for sending this information to me. So I could share it with you all on Green Maltese.

Also a special thanks goes out to Lt Steve Dykema City of Wyoming Mi. Fire Department for being very heads up training officer and bringing this issue to light.

I-STAIRS:

Attached is info on a new type of stair construction for residential buildings, and a safety bulletin that was put out for the City of Wyoming Fire Department. The stairs are constructed using 2x4s for the main support. The triangles shown hold the stair riser and tread in place. The metal on the bottom of the tread and riser is essentially a gusset plate, similar to truss gusset plates.The inventor of the products has passing on the info below. According to him, if the stairs are on the main floor to second floor configuration, the bottom needs to have drywall. If it is coming from the basement in an unfinished area, no drywall or other protection in required. The entire stair assembly is manufactured in a factory and shipped to the jobsite.

The I-Stair is just one of many hazards we as firefighters face. The key to our success on the modern fireground is a good proper size-up, early fast water and a proper Go or No Go decision-making sequence.

For information on the Go or No Go sequence:

Downloaded drill – http://firetrainingtoolbox.com/gonogo.pdf

Video link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7m8TViEUOk

I-Stair FAQ Information from the Inventor:

1.Why is pre-built i-stair better?

Steel stringer brackets. (no 2×12 shrink and split)

Treads and risers are glued and screwed to steel stringer brackets (no squeak)

Installation is simple and fast. (no layout or cutting stringers, treads and risers) Saves frame and finish labor.

Safer: Potential home buyers and clients are safe and not nervous climbing temp treads.

Code compliant immediately at installation. (less liability exposure during construction)

2.How is i-stair ordered?

Framers call with wall and floor height, width and landings along with job location.or stair specs are taken from the plans.

3.When is i-stair delivered?

Usually next day, sometimes 2 days.

4.Is there special framing needed?

Hanger board is not needed. Cut subfloor nosing 1-3/4″ and frame the opening consistent for width.

5.How is i-stair installed?

1. Set i-stair and nail top riser tight to floor-joist header & subfloor nosing.

2. Glue stringers to subfloor and bottom riser to floor.

3. Lag-screw stringers to wall studs. ( lag-screws supplied )

If under stair is to be dry-walled, nail 2x4s between stringers every 2 brackets ( 2′ o.c. )

6. How heavy is a typical i-stair?

About 200lbs.

7.How is i-stair protected on concrete floors?

2 pieces of water-shield are provided to slip under the stringer feet,or water-shield is stapled to stringer feet.

8.Why only 2 stringers?

The Tread-Riser-Gusset form I-beams that span the width of the stair.

( Ultimate failure load test, 2040 lbs.)

9.How is drywall under an upper stair supported?

The framers nail 2 x 4s between the stringers every 2 brackets ( 2′ o.c.)(This is not pre-built because of assembly constraints)

10.How is i-stair finished?

The skirt-boards are installed between i-stair and drywall. (The i-stair treads and risers are ready for pad and carpet)

11.What are the two numbers labeled to the riser?

The 1st is the skirt board bottom length.

The second is the skirt board floor cut angle.

12.Can the tread-riser-gusset weather rain and snow?

Yes I-stair exposed to weeks of rain and snow have had no problems.

13.Is i-stair accepted by the local building official?

Almost all of West Michigan code officials have seen and approved i-stair.

Load Testing performed by Progressive Engineering Inc., ISO 17025 Accredited. Load Test Report by P-E-I is available from MPI Concepts Inc.

Down loadable Drill from City of Wyoming Mi. Fire Department:

step safety bulletin i stairs

Additional Information:

US7946085B2 i stairs patent

P-E-I Certificate for I stairs

i stair brochure

i stair 2011 Test Report 5-06-11

Please share this with your crews. This is just one more of many reasons why we  as the Fire Service needs to advocating for sprinklers every building!

Stay Safe

Lt. John Shafer

 

12 Comments

  • Sean says:

    Well, Cute! Your actually saying that these stairs, because of some steel in them are safer for fires!!! The pictures show OSB, a glued up form of wood chips that was the model for starting the sprinkler issue in homes because of the glue in TGI joists. It was proven by the fire fighters to weaken a floor during a fire so they rallied for sprinklers across the nation. Now builders have to fire code the basements with drywall to satisfy the fighters. I would like Lt. Steve Dykema to actually burn one of them against one of my set of stairs and prove to him that a solid wood stair case is much morelikely to hold in place before that piece of “s#*%”. Tell me something here, what if the customer wants an oak set of stairs with the tread and riser going into an oak stringer that is housed out and where there is no drywall against ornear the tread and riser where theymeet? This is the traditional stair case, one that will live on for eternity and never burn like that crap.

  • Greenmaltese says:

    Sean first off thank you for stopping by the site and your comment! However I am not sure if you read the whole article? I am in no way saying it safer!! The Title of the post indicates that this is another HAZARD for firefighters and if you read at the bottom you will see I say it just one more reason why we need to sprinker all buildings. Now as far as the FAQ that was information provided by the inventor. This web page is a page written by a firefighter for firefighters!
    Thanks and Stay Safe
    Lt. John Shafer

  • Jreeten says:

    The above mentioned “FAQs”, aka company
    propaganda, does not cover any testing of the unit under load of demolition
    (fire), and the preparation for the test, as illustrated by Progressive
    Engineering Inc., indicates the stairs were not properly installed into a
    Stairway Riser Space, but were supported by some type of box construction under
    the stairs, however, the photos do not show any open space under the stairs.

    I have personally been part of the TJI, GNI, and whatever
    else I-Beam Trusses were called, testing as far as the life span of these
    trusses unloaded and under load while exposed to fire. They failed prior to the
    five minute mark. The I-Beam Trusses were originally tested using the ASTM
    E-119 Test. Now I foresee the same problem with these stairs. The main problem
    will be the evacuation of the residents, if the stairway comes under attack
    early in the incident. If the unit comes under attack later in the incident, we
    might as well just ladder the structure, if we need to go in at all.

    Chief Vincent Dunn use to say in his classes and
    presentations; Never trust a Truss! This is particularly true now. We now
    have stairways made of the very same materials which have collapsed in five
    minutes or less after exposure. Now this stuff is in areas of Egress. Find out
    where these things are and mark them in your dispatch centers, map books, and
    MDTs so that you may know where they are. Therefore, you will be able to make
    an educated guess if you think these stairs will hold you in a fire scenario.

    Be Safe! Return Home in as good or better condition than
    when you left to answer the call or go onto shift.

  • I would like to see UL perform a load test under fire conditions as compared to traditional construction. I would suspect they would fail just as easily as engineered I trusses. Pretty scary…

  • BigWhiteDog says:

    Somebody is going to die because of these…

  • Lori Pepper says:

    The first thing that comes to my mind is how fast these metal plates are known for causing problems including roof collapse in fires of wood frame structures, ordinary structures and similar exterior structures such as outbuildings. Why would they approve this use with what looks to be OSB wood holding it all together when the stairway is usually the easiest and safest way to egress for the residents and aids us in extinguishing and saving life and property and is such an important part of rescue? Worse yet it the probability of collapse as someone is actually using them! I seen that they performed weight testing, but what other testing has been done with heat and fire?

  • Colradon8v says:

    I can see using these during construction phase. I remember we usually had one staircase that we would build during the early construction, but it was always replaced by finished stairs in the end. Both were the traditional wood frame construction…a little costly and time consuming but it beat hauling everything up ladders. I would never have thought looking at this that it would be to code for a finished building! The materials are shoddy at best…that stuff warps so easily and if you live in damp areas…ya and fire no way! Scares me to think someone actually thinks this is a good safe product.

  • Chief B (ret) says:

    John,
    Thanks for posting this. Yet another glaring example of why today’s wood frame constructionhas become”disposable”. Stay safe brother.

  • Chris Huston says:

    @ Sean, please re-read the post. I read this several times and in no way was this post stating these are safer from a Fire Service perspective. You are exactly correct, they are “sawdust and glue” just as all the other new lightweight building materials. They are replacing geometry and engineering with mass. In my opinion it looks like these can be used as a temporary staircase as the home is being bulit. Realtors, the owners and others can use these to access upper/lower floors during the construction process. However, with additonal upgrades that can be left in place as permanent stairs. Once covered with carpet and finished will we be able to tell the difference? Using basic assessment skills will most likely be the best approach to these stairs. What really sucks for us, when using stairs of legacy construction, if a step failed we could distribute our weight against the stringers if needed for egress. With these you get a thin piece of aluminium….that will get somebody in trouble. Thanks to John Shafer for getting this out there…share it, pass it on and pay it forward!

  • Roy Poteete says:

    OSB for stair plates and risers? FAILURE under water and fire conditions are even greater and faster. OSB is chip board and glue…….unlike plywood is made from sheets of wood plys and glue. OSB will fail and fall apart under water conditions. OSB has a FLAME SPREAD that is around 150…..very fast…..faster then gasoline. I do believe that BOCA Building Codes call for solid stair plates and risers (kick Plates)

    http://sfm.dps.louisiana.gov/doc_flamespread.html

  • John Wall says:

    Well it seems good of using steel in stair but there is some wood chip that is enough for fire that you using during the new Building Construction. So, i think if you want to use steel in stair then use totally.

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John Shafer

An 18 year veteran of  the fire service, and currently a Lieutenant and the Training Officer for the Greencastle Fire Department.  An Indiana regionally recognized instructor on building construction, fireground search and command management, he has traveled throughout the State of Indiana delivering specialized training programs on building construction, fireground search and firefighter safety.

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