Long crossover walkway and stairs

How a Catwalk Can Improve Workflow in Your Facility

In a factory setting, the equipment can be difficult to access, leading to dangerous and/or uncomfortable working conditions. Catwalks can be a necessary solution to this problem and OSHA compliance.

What is a catwalk

A catwalk, sometimes called a runway, is an elevated platform or walkway used for observation or to give workers access to hard-to-reach areas within a facility to service equipment, tanks, hoppers, silos, sortation systems, and industrial processing equipment.

Upside Innovations is a stair manufacturer, and this article covers some applications and summarizes OSHA compliance requirements.


Common Catwalk Applications

  • HVAC & generator maintenance platforms
  • Accessing and clearing conveyor belts and sortation systems
  • An observation platform overseeing work areas
  • Rooftops – Air handlers, HVAC equipment, and generators
  • To crossover assembly lines and conveyor belts
  • Tank farm access

Upside Innovation’s Catwalks

Upside manufacturers prefabricated, easy-to-assemble OSHA complaint catwalk platforms.

Upside’s catwalk platform doesn’t just elevate people–it saves money and time. The industrial-grade aluminum components can be bolted together in an endless amount of configurations, making it ready to install upon arrival. With our APEX catwalk system, you’ll reduce costs while also saving time that would otherwise be spent welding the walkway together. If pre-assembled catwalks are not possible for your application, don’t worry! Our team of engineers and designers can customize a solution for any need.

At Upside, we believe that every business is unique and thus requires a different catwalk solution. That’s why we take the time to listen to your specific needs and requirements before craftily designing a plan specifically for you. Our team of experts creates structural drawings of where your catwalk has to be installed, making sure to include all details regarding positioning, elevation, etc., in alignment with your stated business goals. This level of planning and customization helps ensure that you get exactly the right catwalk for YOUR business.

Furthermore, we evaluate how much weight your catwalk can hold. The construction of your catwalk is entirely dependent on its planned use. Therefore, we need to know the load-bearing capacity requirements to design and build a safe walkway for your employees.

Our aluminum catwalks are easy to install in difficult-to-reach spaces and follow OSHA standards so that your workers can safely access elevated areas.

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Steps and APEX Trailer Catwalk at Industrial Facility
These Steps and long APEX Trailer Catwalk Platform were installed at an Industrial Facility.

OSHA catwalk requirements

OSHA compliance stairs platforms

OSHA establishes rules and regulations to follow for equipment operators and maintenance personnel who work on catwalks, which include the minimum width dimensions, minimum load requirements, fall protection requirements, and catwalk opening requirements. Understanding these standards can help create a safe working environment.

The safety requirements for catwalks, or elevated walkways, are located in Section 1910 Subpart D of the OSHA standards. A catwalk is an elevated surface used as a pathway between buildings or along shafting. It’s also considered a type of work platform. employers need to make sure that catwalks are constantly kept safe and up to code.

OSHA Section 1910.22 dictates the primary conditions for walking-working surfaces, encompassing catwalks. To be compliant, employers must guarantee that all walking surfaces are safe from slip and fall hazards, as well as being structurally stable and sound. With that in mind, here are some key standards for workplaces with elevated working conditions:

  • Walking/working surfaces are kept in a clean, orderly, and sanitary condition. (1910.22(a)(1))
  • Free of hazards such as sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spills, snow, and ice. (1910.22(a)(3))
  • Walking-working surface can support the maximum intended load for that surface. (1910.22(b))
  • Employees must have safe means of access and egress to and from walking-working surfaces. (1910.22(c))
  • Walking-working surfaces are inspected regularly to ensure safe conditions (1910.22(d)(1))

Catwalk width requirements

A catwalk or runway must be at least 18 inches wide (Section 1910.28(b)(5)(ii)(A)). When a stairway accesses the catwalk, catwalk width depends on the width of the stairway and stairway landing that serves it. Under OSHA Section 1910.25(b)(4) a stairway landing must be at least the width of the stairway, which has a minimum width of 22″, so catwalks served by a stairway must have a minimum width of 22″ for OSHA compliance.

How wide does a catwalk need to be?

A catwalk or runway must be at least 18 inches wide (OSHA Section 1910.28(b)(5)(ii)(A))

Similarly, IBC-compliant stairs have a minimum width of 36″; therefore, catwalks should be minimum of 36″ wide. Some bigger catwalks might actually be classified as mezzanine structures and would, as a result, need to adhere to the IBC mezzanine egress requirements.

Catwalk load requirements

The maximum intended load is the total weight and force of all employees, equipment, vehicles, tools, materials, and other loads that an employer reasonably anticipates will be applied to a walking-working surface at any one time (section 1910.22(b) Loads)

For guardrail systems around a catwalk requires that handrails and the top rails are capable of withstanding, without failure, a force of at least 200 pounds (890 N) applied in any downward or outward direction within 2 inches (5 cm) of any point along the top edge of the rail. (section 1910.29(f)(7) Strength criteria)

Catwalk opening requirements

Catwalks may have floor holes within the walking surface or vertical openings near the edge of the walking surface. A fall protection system must protect these holes and openings to prevent employees from falling. (section 1910.28)

Hole – Opening or gap in the walking surface.

Examples include drains, large cracks, broken floorboards, chutes, and pits that are at least 2 inches.

OSHA section 1910.28(b)(7) states that where the inside bottom edge of the opening is less than 39 inches above the walking-working surface and the outside bottom edge of the opening is 4 feet or more above a lower level is protected from falling by the use of a guardrail system, safety net system, travel restraining system, or personal fall arrest system. 

Opening – Opening or gap in a wall, partition, or railing.

Examples include openings to access equipment, chute openings, and window openings that are at least 30 inches high and at least 18 inches wide.

OSHA requires that employers provide a means of fall protection around floor holes in a catwalk or other walking surfaces.

Takeaway

Install an industrial catwalk to make your work areas more efficient by providing employees with easy access to equipment and maintenance areas. Catwalks come in many designs, so it is important to consider all variables before purchasing.

Upside Innovation’s APEX catwalk solutions are prefabricated, meaning they are ready to install immediately. The industrial-grade aluminum components bolt together, amounting to never-ending configurations. Contact our qualified stair and platform experts to reduce costs and eliminate time-consuming welding with our APEX catwalk systems. How a Catwalk Can Improve Workflow in Your Factory

Stair Tread Depth vs. Stair Riser Height illustration

Safety with Every Step: Stair Tread Depth vs. Stair Riser Height

Rise and Run for Stairs

Following building codes specific to stairs is essential in any new construction or remodeling project to ensure safety for everyone. This article outlines stair code requirements to make it easy for builders to meet relevant regulations and safety standards.

Building Codes for Stair Tread Depth

The depth of a stair tread is the horizontal distance from the vertical planes of the foremost projection to adjacent stair treads, as seen from a 90-degree angle to the leading edge of a tread. It measures the available surface area for a person’s foot to rest when ascending or descending the stairway.

Stair Tread Depth vs. Stair Riser Height illustration
ComplianceStair DepthRiser Height
OSHA9.5″ (240 mm)
Minimum
9.5″ (240 mm)
Minimum
IBC11″ (279 mm)
Minimum
4″ (102 mm) – 7″ (178 mm)
Minimum – Maximum
IBC Occupancy Exceptions
Group R-2, R-3, and U
(see chart below)
10″ (254 mm)
Minimum
7-3/4″ (197 mm)
Maximum
Occupancy ClassificationGroup
Residential transient – occupancies containing sleeping units where the occupants are primarily transient. Structures like hotels, motels, and boarding housesR-1
Residential permanent – occupancies containing sleeping units or more than two dwelling units where the occupants are primarily permanentR-2
Residential group – occupancies where the occupants are primarily permanent and not classified as Group R-1, R-2R-3
Utility and Miscellaneous – General Buildings and structures of an accessory character and miscellaneous structures not classified in any specific occupancy shall be constructed, equipped, and maintained to conform to the requirements of this code commensurate with the fire and life hazard incidental to their occupancy.U

Standard Stair Tread Depth

The Industrial Building Code (IBC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have varying tread depth specifications for various stair types. In its 2017 revision to the required walking-working surfaces, OSHA added minimum tread depths. On the other hand, IBC has long mandated a minimum tread depth.

OSHA and IBC use research on stairways with varying tread and riser dimensions to determine the minimum tread depths and maximum riser heights.

According to OSHA, a standard stair refers to any fixed or permanent stairway aside from alternating tread stairs, ship stairs, or spiral stairs. Standard stairs must, at minimum, maintain a tread depth of 9.5 inches, or 24 cm, under OSHA 1910.25(c)(3).

IBC 1011.5.2, on the other hand, stipulates that stair treads must be at least 11 inches (27.94 cm) deep, measured horizontally between the vertical planes of the foremost projection of consecutive treads and perpendicular to the leading edge of the treads.

The minimum tread depth must be 10 inches in all group R-3 occupancies, all dwelling units in R-2 occupancies, and all group U occupancies supplementary to either group R-3 occupancies or individual dwelling units in R-2 occupancies. Most multi-family dwellings intended to get occupied permanently must adhere to the standard of a minimum tread depth of 10 inches (25.4 cm).


Building Codes for Stair Riser Height

The upright (vertical) or inclined element of a stair that gets positioned at the rear of a stair tread or platform and links near the front edge of the next higher tread, platform, or landing is referred to as the stair riser height.

Standard Stair Riser Height

Depending on the type of stairway, OSHA and IBC also have varying maximum stair riser height regulations.

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Standard stairs must have a maximum riser height of 9.5 inches (24 cm) following OSHA 1910.25(c)(2). IBC 1011.5.2 stipulates that the minimum and maximum stair riser heights must be 4 inches (10.16 cm) and 7 inches (17.78 cm), respectively.

In groups R-3, R-2, and U auxiliary occupancies, the maximum riser height is 7-3/4 inches.

Conclusion

The purpose of building codes for metal stairs is to ensure the safety of everyone who uses them. Any safety risk will significantly decrease if all steps and stairs have the same tread depth and riser height parameters.

For more than 13 years, Upside Innovations has been creating modular metal stairs and platforms. When it comes to design and innovation for a variety of prefabricated metal stair kits as well as custom solutions, Upside Innovations is unmatched in the industry.

CE Course screenshot

Continuing Education – Efficiencies with Prefabricated Stairs, Access Platforms & Ramps

UPSIDE’S Continuing Education

Step It Up: Increased Efficiency with Prefabricated Modular Stairs, Access Systems, & Ramps

Does your project need to step it up when it comes to stairs and safety? Our CE course discusses prefabricated modular metal stairs, access platforms, and ramps that are as easy to reconfigure as they are to assemble. Participants will not only learn about relevant codes from OSHA, IBC, and ADA regarding stairs, ladders, and handrails, but they will also learn how to specify modular stair components and configurations to best facilitate code compliance and increase site productivity.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Compare and contrast conventional stairs versus modular stairs and access systems as they relate to efficiency, sustainability, and productivity.
  2. Determine which modular stair components and configurations will best suit your application for improved flexibility now and in the future.
  3. Identify relevant and updated codes from OSHA, IBC, and ADA regarding stairs, ladders, handrails, and ramps and discuss how modular stair and access systems can help facilitate code compliance.
  4. Illustrate the cost- and time-efficiency possible through the utilization of modular stairs and access systems by analyzing case studies.

Design Category (CSI Division): (05) Metals

Elements-of-a-Wheelchair-ramp

Handicap Ramp Slope and Length Calculator

Our ADA ramp length calculator determines the required ramp length for your project. Our calculator also tells you the number of resting platforms that you need to have to be ADA-compliant. As a guide, the ADA ramp requirements are 1 foot of ramp for every inch of rise for a 4.8° incline.

Handicap Ramp Slope and Length Calculator

Ramp Length Calculator

A. Elevation height
The height from the ground up to the bottom of the door or existing walkway. (How to measure elevation)

B. Ramp run length

C. Total ramp system length in feet
Includes the minimum number of 5′ x 5′ resting platforms and the 5′ x 5′ platform at the top of the ramp.

D. Minimum number of resting platforms
A 5′ x 5′ (minimum) resting platform is needed every 30 feet of ramp.

+ 5′ platforms
A 5′ x 5′ (minimum) platform is needed at the top of the ramp if there is not an existing one already.

1:12 Slope: For every inch of height from the ground, you need 1 foot of ramp length to achieve a 4.8° incline.


Ramp length based on the number of stairs

StepsTotal LengthLanding(s)Ramp Run
1 Step12′5′7′
2 Steps20′5′15′
3 Steps27′5′22′
4 Steps35′5′30′
5 Steps47′10′ ( 2 x 5′)37′
*For reference only. Estimations based on a 7 1/2″ stair height (riser).
Building codes specify riser heights of no less than 4″ and a maximum of 7 3/4″.

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 2 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 20′ (5′ landing, 15′ ramp run)*

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 3 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 27′ (5′ landing, 22′ ramp run)*

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 4 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 35′ (5′ landing, 30′ ramp run)*

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 5 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 47′ (2 5′ landings, 37′ ramp run)*

line level

How to Measure Wheelchair Ramp Ground Slope

ADA Requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires wheelchair ramps to have a slope no steeper than 1:12 so that people in wheelchairs can go up and down without assistance. This means that for every inch of rise in the threshold, the wheelchair ramp must be 12 inches (one foot) long. For example, a door threshold height of 25″ requires a 25′ ramp along with a 5’ x 5’ threshold platform. Any threshold that is more than 30″ off the ground requires at least one resting platform in the middle of the ramp to break it up. Why? Because the ADA requires a resting platform for every additional 30′ of ramp run. Therefore, if the threshold is 32″ high, one resting platform is required; if the threshold is 62″ high, two resting platforms are required.

What you will need

  • Stakes
  • String or twine
  • Hammer
  • Line level
  • Tape measure

Why is it Important To Measure?

In a perfect world, every construction site would be completely flat, but all site workers know that is not the case. Therefore, ground slope measurements are required to make sure that the slope of the handicap ramp is accurate. If the ground is sloping upwards from the door threshold, the ramp will likely require less ramp material than if the ground is flat or sloping downwards. This typically means that the ramp will be less expensive if the ground is sloping upwards and more expensive if it is sloping downwards.

wheelchair ramp measure slope diagram

Diagram 1

The 30″ threshold height correlates to a 30′ ramp because the ground is neither sloping upwards or downwards; it is completely flat.

Diagram 2

On the left side of the building, the ground is sloping upwards, which means that the 30″ threshold will require a ramp that is less than 30′. On the right side of the building, the ground is sloping downwards, which means that the ramp will have to be longer than 30′. It will also require a resting platform in the middle of the ramp that will add an additional cost. A resting platform is required for every additional 30′ of ramp run.

Where to Measure

Slope measurements need to be taken where the wheelchair ramp will sit, so you will first need to figure out the best layout. To determine the best layout:

  • Measure the height of the door threshold
  • Determine the required ramp length
    • For every inch of rise, a foot of ramp run is needed (i.e. door threshold height = 20”, so ramp run = 20’)
    • Make sure to account for the required 5’ x 5’ platform at the door threshold
    • Remember, for every additional 30′ of ramp run, an additional 5’ x 5’ resting platform is required
  • Note any obstacles or space limitations
  • If there are no obstacles or space limitations, the ramp layout does not matter; choose the preferred layout
  • If there are obstacles or space limitations, a switch back ramp or L-ramp would be best
  • If there are two buildings side-by-side, a common platform ramp could be used to maximize space utilization

Once the layout is determined, measure the ground slope every 10′ in the direction(s) that the ramp will travel. To measure an L-ramp, measure from where the threshold platform would sit to where the first platform would sit in increments of 10′. Then measure from the platform down to where the ramp would end.

standard wheelchair ramp layouts

How to Measure

  1. Take a measurement from grade to the finished floor at the entrance (FFE (finished floor elevation) = _____ inches)
  1. Hammer a stake in the ground at the entrance door and tie a string to it.
  1. Hammer a second stake in the ground straight out from the building at approximately the location where the threshold platform will end (typically 5’4” away from the building), and tie the string to it from the first stake making sure it is taut.
  1. Place a line level in the center of the string and move the string up or down until the line is level.
  1. Measure the distance from the ground to the string at the first stake (S1 = ______ inches) and measure the distance from the ground to the string on the second stake (S2 = ______ inches)
  1. Calculate the ground level relative to the finished floor elevation (FFE) by using the following formula:  FFE_2 = FFE + (S2 – S1)
  1. Hammer a third stake in the ground approximately 10’ from stake 2 in the direction of the ramp travel.  Tie a string from stake 2 to stake 3 and make sure that the string is taut.
  1. Place a line level in the center of the string and move the string up or down until the line is level.
  1. Measure the distance from the ground to the string at stake 2 (S2 = ______ inches) and measure the distance from the ground to the string at the third stake (S3 = _____ inches)
  1. Calculate the ground level relative to the FFE @ stake 2 by using the following formula: FFE_3 = FFE_2 + (S3 – S2)
  1. Repeat this process every 10’ to the approximate location of where the ramp will end
Where to Place Stakes
Calculating Slope
Calculating Slope

Pros & Cons of the 5 Most Common Ramp Materials

[Infographic] How to Measure for a Wheelchair Ramp

Must-Know ADA & IBC Guidelines

Test Your Knowledge of Wheelchair Ramps

Complete 2010 ADA Guide

IBC Second Story Stair Width

IBC Stair Width Calculation

ARE YOU MEASURING STAIR EGRESS WIDTHS CORRECTLY?

Stair egress measurements are commonly misunderstood and can be complicated because it is determined by the building’s occupant load. Should stairs be measured between handrails since this is where occupants can walk, or is it the entire width of the treads? This article is a simplified version of the IBC codes and addresses common questions associated with stair egress width.

Egress Width Factors

How do I determine my “calculated stair egress width”?

IBC Section 1005.3.1 requires that “the capacity, in inches, of means of egress stairways shall be calculated by multiplying the occupant load served by such stairway by a means of egress capacity factor of 0.3 inch per occupant”.

Exceptions are if there is a compliant sprinkler system installed and equipped with an emergency voice/alarm system for all occupancies other than Group H (High Hazard) and I-2 (Health Care), multiply the occupant loads by 0.2 and 0.15 inch per occupant, respectively, not 0.3.

For stairs serving one floor, multiply the floor’s occupant load by 0.3. For stairs serving multiple floors, multiply the occupant load of the floor that serves the most people by 0.3. These calculations give you the required COMBINED width of all exit stairs serving that floor. However, the minimum clear width between handrails is 44″. If the stairway serves a floor with an occupant load of less than 50, the minimum clear width is reduced to 36″. 


Multi-story stairs

calculating multi-story stair width


Single-story stairs

calculating single-story stair width

Here’s where it gets tricky.

There is a minimum number of exits that is based on the occupant load per story:

Occupant Load Per StoryMinimum Number of Exits or Access to Exits from Story
1-5002
501-1,0003
More than 1,0004

The combined width calculation performed above must be distributed between the minimum number of required exits while still meeting the minimum width requirement.

AND if one exit stairway is “lost” (i.e. occupants cannot access it due to a fire) the remaining stairway width(s) cannot be reduced to less than half the required combined width. This applies typically when there are only two stairways because if you lose one, there is only one stairway left. If you originally have three stairways and lose one, you still have two stairways left.

Summary: calculate the total width per floor you need by multiplying the occupant load by 0.3″ and in some cases 0.2″. Take the largest width that you calculate, and use it for the entire stairway system. Keep in mind, the minimum clear width is typically 44″, but it is sometimes reduced to 36″ for low-capacity floors. Then, figure out how many exits are required by referencing the chart above, and divide the required width between the required number of stairways. That’s it! Reference the IBC codes below to check your work.

Calculating Single-Story IBC Stairway Width

Scenario: We need exit stairs from the second story of a building. There is a sprinkler system, but the system was not installed per code requirements. The occupant loads are as follows:

Floor 1: 175 occupants
Floor 2: 300 occupants

The required total stairway width per floor is as follows:

Floor 1: Not applicable because this floor is ground level.
Floor 2: 300 occupants x 0.3” = 90”

We will need two stairways because we have an occupant load between 1 and 500 per story. The 90″ width can be divided between the two stairways. BUT in case a stairway is destroyed or inaccessible during an evacuation, the remaining stairway needs to be at least half of the required minimum (144″). We cannot have a stairway that is 44” wide and the other one is 46”. Why? If we lose the 46” stairway to a fire, we only have the 44” stairway which is less than half the required width.

Summary: We calculate the minimum required combined width by multiplying the occupant load of the floor by 0.3″, which is 90″. We need two stairways, so we can divide the 90″ between the two stairs. However, since we only have two stairways, each stairway must be at least half of the 90″.

single story stairway width calculation

Calculating Multi-Story Stairway Width

Below is a scenario in which we calculate the required width of multiple stairways that serve multiple floors.

multi-story stairway width calculation

Scenario: We need exit stairs for a building that has 3 floors that have varying occupant loads. There is a sprinkler system, but the system was not installed per code requirements. The occupant loads are; Floor 1: 40 occupants, Floor 2: 480 occupants and Floor 3: 110 occupants

The required total stairway width per floor is as follows:

FloorOccupant LoadRequired total stairway width
1st4040 occupants x 0.3” = 12” 36″
*Minimum width for less than 50 occupants is 36”
2nd480480 occupants x 0.3” = 144”
3rd110110 occupants x 0.3” = 33” 44″
*Minimum width for a floor serving more than 50 occupants is 44”

What do we do when each floor requires a different width? We use the largest minimum width because we don’t want to create a bottleneck effect where a wide stairway leads into a narrower stairway.

Bottleneck at Stairs

Therefore, we want to use the 144” measurement for the minimum combined stair width.

We will need two stairways because we have an occupant load between 1 and 500 per story. The 144″ width can be divided between the two stairways. BUT in case a stairway is destroyed or inaccessible during an evacuation, the remaining stairway needs to be at least half of the required minimum (144″). We cannot have a stairway that is 60” wide and the other one is 84”. Why? If we lose the 84” stairway to a fire, we only have the 60” stairway which is less than half the required width.

Summary: We calculate the minimum required combined width by multiplying the occupant load of each floor by 0.3″ and using the largest number, which is 144″. We need two stairways, so we can divide the 144″ between the two stairs. However, since we only have two stairways, each stairway must be at least half of the 144″.


Referenced IBC Code:

1005.3.1 Stairways  The capacity, in inches, of means of egress stairways shall be calculated by multiplying the occupant load served by such stairways by a means of egress capacity factor of 0.3 inch per occupant. Where stairways serve more than one story, only the occupant load of each story considered individually shall be used in calculating the required capacity of the stairways serving that story.

Exceptions: For other than Group H and I-2 occupancies, the capacity, in inches, of means of egress stairways shall be calculated by multiplying the occupant load served by such stairways by a means of egress capacity factor of 0.2 inch per occupant in buildings equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with Section 903.3.1.1 or 903.3.1.2 and an emergency voice/alarm communication system in accordance with Section 907.5.2.2.

1005.4 Continuity The maximum capacity required from any story of a building shall be maintained to the termination of the means of egress.

1005.5 Distribution of Minimum Width and Required Capacity Where more than one exit, or access to more than one exit, is required, the means of egress shall be configured such that the loss of any one exit, or access to one exit, shall not reduce the available capacity or width to less than 50 percent of the required capacity or width.

1011.2 Width & Capacity The required capacity of stairways shall be determined as specified in Section 1005.1, but the minimum width shall be not less than 44 inches. See Section 1009.3 for accessible means of egress stairways.

Exceptions: Stairways serving an occupant load of less than 50 shall have a width of not less than 36 inches.

1022.1 Exits Once a given level of exit protection is achieved, such level of protection shall not be reduced until arrival at the exit discharge.

loading dock stairs

Exterior Stairs – 5 Reasons Property Owners Prefer Aluminum

More and more commercial and industrial property owners are switching from galvanized steel to aluminum exterior stairs. Here are five reasons why:

1. Long product life

Unlike steel, galvanized steel, and wood, aluminum will never rust, warp, or rot, so the structural integrity and original appearance remain intact longer than other common materials.

Explanation:

Unlike any other material, aluminum is corrosion resistant; when it reacts with oxygen in the air, a thin layer of oxide forms and naturally protects the material from elemental corrosion. The oxide layer may make the aluminum appear dull, but it does not impact the structural integrity. When damaged, the oxide layer is self-repairing and provides better adhesion for paint primers and glues than other bare metals.

Until the use of aluminum, galvanized steel was popular because it was somewhat corrosion-resistant. A protective zinc coating applied to the material in the galvanization process prevents rusting initially; however, the zinc coating eventually develops a natural carbonate on its surface from the process of atmospheric sulfur dioxide combining with rainwater, resulting in sulfuric acid – the main component of acid rain.

exterior step installation

Sulfur dioxide is emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels, which means there is a higher concentration in highly-industrialized areas (which is typically where these stairs are used) due to the high volume of vehicles. The carbonate on the surface of the galvanized steel becomes brittle and eventually splits, exposing fresh zinc that corrodes. Since the zinc coating is thin, the base metal is also often exposed and corrodes as well.

Takeaway:

In highly-industrialized areas with a high volume of freight trucks, galvanized steel experiences corrosion, while aluminum maintains structural integrity. It’s also a good ADA-compliant material for industrial walk ramps and maintenance platforms.

2. No required maintenance

Aluminum is more corrosion-resistant than any other material and does not require regular maintenance.

Explanation:

The only maintenance for aluminum stairs is to ensure that the pathway is free of snow, leaves, and other natural elements. For snow removal, we recommend a magnesium chloride ice melt because most typical ice melts are too harsh for aluminum and can damage the surface.

This is in contrast to the routine maintenance required for galvanized steel stairs which will begin to rust if the protective zinc coating is scratched. Therefore, it is recommended to routinely apply a protective coating so that the barrier between the water and the metal is maintained. Property owners have expressed dissatisfaction with this required maintenance of galvanized steel. When stairs are located in a region where it snows, removal of ice and snow can be problematic because all ice melts eat away at the zinc coating.

Takeaway:

Property owners report that steel is extremely hard to maintain, especially in climates where it rains and snows often, and aluminum is much less work.

3. Simple installation

Our product is prefabricated, requiring only a few bolts for assembly. While steel prefabricated solutions exist, aluminum is much lighter, so the aluminum exterior stairs are easier and faster to install and require less manpower.

Check out our dock step installation guide to see how easy it is. Someone without experience could assemble a dock-high stair system in a couple of hours.

Assembly Instructions for Loading Dock Step

4. Optimal strength-to-weight ratio

Aluminum meets the capacity requirements, and it’s easier than steel to install because it is lightweight.

Explanation:

Aluminum is approximately 1/3 the density of steel and weighs much less.

Upside Innovations’ distributed load is 100 lbs. per square foot with a point load of 300 lbs., the load requirements specified by the International Building Code for new construction means of egress. While galvanized steel is stronger than aluminum, aluminum exceeds the requirements for pedestrian access applications and is preferred because of its many other benefits.

5. Potentially cut costs

Property owners can save money upfront by switching from galvanized steel exterior stairs to aluminum. Typically steel stairs are manufactured by small, local companies with less capital, which means higher prices.

Explanation:

One of the world’s largest commercial real estate companies, Prologis, just changed its new construction specifications from galvanized steel dock-high steps to Upside Innovations’ aluminum dock-high steps. Switching to aluminum will save them roughly 20-30% upfront and an additional variable amount from reduced yearly maintenance costs. The cost per unit for the previously used galvanized steel stairs was high because the stairs were produced on a project-to-project basis by local, custom steel fabricators that didn’t have large-scale production capabilities. Upside Innovations has a large-scale manufacturing operation of aluminum stairs for nationwide delivery, meaning that the cost per unit is drastically lower than the aforementioned galvanized stairs.

There are instances when the upfront price of aluminum exterior stairs is not always less expensive than galvanized steel because the raw material is typically more expensive; however, the cost of aluminum stairs over the course of their life will be less because galvanized steel incurs routine maintenance costs whereas aluminum does not.

Takeaway:

Over time, aluminum has proven to be less expensive because galvanized steel requires yearly maintenance costs.

ADA Compliant Logo

ADA Ramp Requirements Outline

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. This includes ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to buildings and facilities. One way to provide equal access is by installing ramps, which allow people who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments to enter and exit buildings.

ADA ramp requirements specify the minimum standards that ramps must meet in order to be considered accessible. These requirements apply to both new construction and renovations of existing buildings. Some of the key requirements for ADA ramps include:

Make sure your wheelchair ramp is ADA-compliant.

1. Ramp Slope

The steepest slope that an ADA ramp can have is 1:12 which means for every inch of threshold rise, the ramp must be at least 12 inches (one foot) long.

If you’re unsure about how to do the calculations, use the ramp slope calculator.

ramp slope

The ramp length is directly related to the height between the ground and the bottom of the door, along with the required slope. For example, the door on your building is 40 inches above the ground. To ensure that your ramp is not steeper than the 1:12 ratio, your ramp needs to be 40 feet long.

2. Ramp Width

ADA ramps must be at least 36 inches wide, which allows people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices to safely navigate the ramp.

3. Platform Landings

ADA ramp requirements include landings at the top and bottom of the ramp. These landings should be at least as wide as the ramp and at least 60 inches long. Landings provide a place for people with disabilities to rest and turn around if necessary.

Number of Resting Platform Landings

Following the ADA ramp requirements, the maximum rise for a single ramp run is 30 inches. That means that the maximum length is 30 feet, so one additional platform landing is required for every additional 30 feet of ramp. Why? Because the landings serve as resting areas, the Americans with Disabilities Act determined that after 30 feet of continuous run, a resting area is needed.

Ramp Length (ft.)Landings Required
0-30None
31-601
61-902
91-1203
wheelchair ramp Landing requirements illustration

Landing Size

  • Width: the landing must be at least as wide as the widest ramp run that connects to the landing.
  • Length: the landing length must be at least 60 inches without obstruction.
  • Change in direction: if the ramp changes direction, you need a landing with a clear space that is at least 60 inches by 60 inches.
  • Doorways: if there are doorways that lead onto a landing, see the following ADA ramp landing requirements.
ADA ramp landings must be at least 60" long and as wide as the widest ramp section

4. Guardrails and Handrails

ADA ramps must have handrails on both sides that are between 34 and 38 inches above the ramp surface. Handrails help people with disabilities maintain balance and stability while using the ramp.

Railing extensions

If a railing is present along the side of a ramp, it must extend at least 12 inches beyond the top and bottom of the ramp. This helps people with disabilities maintain their balance while using the ramp.

Clearance between handrails

The minimum clearance between the ramp handrails is 36 inches so that a wheelchair can fit between the handrails with ease. View all ADA ramp handrail requirements, including length, perimeter, location above the walking surface, and more.

Baluster spacing

Balusters are required on ADA ramps to protect against falling. The balusters must not be spaced farther than 4″ apart from one another so that a child cannot slip through the space.

Guardrail

The guardrail, which is different than the handrail, must be at least 42 inches from the walking surface to prevent people from falling over the side of the ramp.

5. Surface

The surface of an ADA ramp must be slip-resistant and smooth. This is important for the safety of people with disabilities, as well as for those who may be pushing strollers or using other mobility devices.

6. Edge protection

Edge protection is required along the edges of an ADA ramp run and landing. There are two types of edge protection to choose from:

  • Extended ground surface: the ramp and landing walking surface must extend at least 12 inches past the inside edge of the handrail
  • Barrier/kickplate: you cannot have a gap larger than 4 inches between the ramp or kickplate and the bottom of the guardrail.

It is important to note that these are the minimum requirements for ADA ramps. In some cases, additional features may be needed to make a ramp fully accessible. For example, a ramp may need to have a wider landing at the top if there is not enough space for a person using a wheelchair to turn around.

In summary, ADA ramp requirements are designed to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to buildings and facilities. By following these requirements, building owners and designers can create ramps that are safe and accessible for everyone.

We get all of our information from the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Metal Handrail for Stairs

A Simple Guide to ADA Handrails

1. Located on both sides

Handrails must be on both sides of the stairs and ramps. For OSHA stair handrails, however, it can be just on one side.

2. Continuous

Handrails must be continuous through the full length of the stair flight or ramp run. They cannot end or break at any point within the bounds of the steps or ramp. This guideline applies to all handrails, including the inside handrails on switchback or L-shaped stairs and ramps; they must continue through the platforms.

handrail heights for stairs, ramps and walking surfaces

3. Positioned between 34″ to 38″ above surface

The top of the gripping surfaces must be between 34″ and 38″ above the walking surface. For a set of steps, the height of the handrail is measured from the edge of each nosing to the top of the handrail. For ramps and platforms, the handrail height can be measured at any point along the path. Handrails should be at a consistent height for the length of the stair flight or ramp run, including any platforms

4. Minimal obstruction

Handrail gripping surfaces should have minimal obstruction. They cannot be obstructed along their tops or sides, and the bottoms should not be obstructed for more than 20% of their length. This guideline ensures that persons using the steps or ramp can easily grip the handrails. This also a reason why aluminum stairs must be free of dirt and must be kept clean at all times.

5. Be “graspable”

ADA handrails with a circular cross-section should have an outside diameter between 1.25″ and 2″. ADA handrails with a non-circular cross-section should have a perimeter dimension between 4″ and 6.25″ with a maximum cross-section dimension of 2.25″.

minimum step and ramp handrail perimeter

6. Extend past the length of the ramp and/or stairs

Ramp handrails should extend straight and horizontally above the landing for at least 12″ beyond both the top and bottom of ramp runs. If the ramp does not continue after the landing, the extensions should return to a wall, guard, or landing surface. If it does continue, the handrail should be continuous.

Stair handrail parts should extend horizontally for at least 12″ beginning directly above the first riser nosing. Extensions should return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface if there is no adjacent flight of steps. If there is an adjacent flight, the handrail should be continuous.

At the bottom of a stair flight, the handrails should extend at the slope of the stair flight for a horizontal distance at least equal to one tread depth beyond the last riser nosing. The extension should return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface or should be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight.

Handrail extensions for ramps
metal handrails gripping handle
standard ADA handrail tread depth

7. No sharp elements

Handrail gripping surfaces and any surfaces adjacent to them should be free of sharp or abrasive elements and should have rounded edges.

8. Should not rotate within their fittings

Handrails that are connected with fittings should be secure and not rotate. 

Render of APEX Stairs with Cleaning Products

How to Clean Aluminum Stairs

Cleaning Untreated Aluminum Steps

Aluminum is a light but strong material that is common for outdoor applications because it is weather-resistant. It is weather-resistant in the sense that it doesn’t rust, but it does form a natural layer of oxide through the process called “oxidation.”

The galvanizing process protects other metals, wherein a zinc coating envelops the base metal like iron or steel to slow down oxidation.

Oxidation can be a baffling occurrence because it is a natural chemical reaction. Unlike corrosion that occurs on other metals, it does not weaken the aluminum – it actually strengthens the material. This makes aluminum a superior metal compared to others because of its inherent quality.

Oxidation creates a protective barrier against water and rust, but it can make the aluminum less attractive over time. If you know how to properly clean aluminum stairs, it will decrease the chances of severe oxidation.

Step 1: The first step is to ensure that all debris, including mud, dust, and leaves, is cleared off the steps. To do this, you must start at the top landing of the steps with a stiff-bristled broom and sweep all the debris over the side of the platform or down the steps one by one; the stringers that run along both edges of the steps may make it difficult to push the debris over the sides. The stiff-bristled broom is recommended to clean out the grooves of the step treads, but don’t try to scrub the treads with the broom as it might scratch the aluminum.

Step 2: After sweeping the debris off of the aluminum stairs, rinse it with water and a mild detergent such as dish soap. Use a generous amount of dish soap over the length of the staircase, and put a concentrated amount on tough spots. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Next, hose off or lightly pressure wash the steps to remove the soap and dirt. It is suggested to use filtered water if possible because unfiltered water may contain sulfur, chlorine, fluoride, and other minerals that could damage the aluminum over time. Make sure that all dish soap is washed off before the steps are used because the soap and water make the aluminum slippery.

Step 3: If there is still dirt on the stairs, use a towel and dish soap to scrub the area. Do not use steel wool or scouring pads because these materials can scratch the aluminum and give it a dull appearance. Do not use harsh cleaners like baking soda or alkali-based cleaners, as these can cause discoloration. If you want to try a new type of cleaner, test an area on the underside of the staircase to see if it discolors the aluminum.

Step 4: If the aluminum has already oxidized, try spot-treating the oxidized areas with an aluminum cleaner like Aluma Kleen or Aluma Bright.

Cleaning Powder-Coated Aluminum Steps

The process to clean aluminum metal stairs that are powder-coated is similar, but the powder-coating is a little more delicate than the aluminum. If the aluminum steps are powder-coated, there is less chance of oxidation because the powder-coating provides an extra layer of defense. However, if the coating is scratched, oxidation spots can still form.

Aluminum switchback ramp with powder coating

Step 1: Brush off the steps, moving from top to bottom, with a stiff-bristled broom. Do not try to scrub the steps with the broom, as it might scratch the aluminum.

Step 2: The most efficient way to clean outdoor aluminum steps with a powder-coated finish is with a pressure washer using filtered water at low pressure. Use a mild detergent such as dish soap, and DO NOT use chlorine or harsh cleaning solutions. High water pressure and harsh cleaning products can damage the powder-coated finish. The commercial cleaning solutions will clean the surface, but they also remove micro-layers of finish. The layer might later become hard and crack while losing its protective barrier.

Step 3: As stated above, use a soft brush or cloth to clean the surface; do not use anything that has hard bristles or a scratchy pad.

Step 4: To keep powder-coated steps looking nice, try a high-grade, non-abrasive car wax that contains a U.V. blocker and/or U.V. inhibitors. Be sure to wipe off residual wax because it could bake in the heat and cause permanent staining. It is recommended, as with any other product applied to the staircase, to make a test area on the underside of the steps.

Malden Housing Authority - Commercial housing - Upside provided 9 ramps that amounted to 296 feet of ramp and 18 step risers

Top 8 Free Construction Project Management Tools

Many aspects of managing a construction project can be overwhelming, such as budgeting, planning, scheduling, bid management, reporting, etc. Even more, stress can be incurred from the amount of money spent on tools to keep track of everything.

Construction management software can be your ally in ensuring safety within your commercial establishment, especially when planning industrial stairs or wheelchair ramps. With this technology, architects and engineers can reduce risks of injury and help workers stay safe onsite. Software help maximizes productivity by providing accurate measurement and a detailed layout that reduces errors commonly found in manual calculations. Regarding worker safety, it pays to “invest” in a good construction software solution – it protects your worker’s well-being and helps you build better projects faster and more efficiently!

Using too many different software options isn’t recommended, but the following free and open-source construction management software quick fixes can patch up your manual construction processes.

2-Plan Desktop

2-Plan is an integrated project management software that combines several tools for project planning and project execution. It is particularly good for construction companies because it can handle complicated projects. 2-Plan Desktop syncs with iOS, and there are free extensions such as cost management, risk management, and project materials management.

OpenDocMan

This software is for the more technically inclined because companies must self-host on LAMP or WAMP. Users can use the OpenDocMan for multiple functions such as hosting unlimited files, file expiration, revision history, and detailed search.

Efficient Calendar Free

This free scheduling software allows you to maintain a calendar, track tasks, and manage projects. It can run on Windows, Android, and iOS, but it does not import .ics files which may be a drawback.

Estimate

Estimate is a web-based cost-estimating software designed for medium and large civil construction and engineering procurement and construction companies (EPC) but can be used by other companies within the construction industry. This analytical tool can help you estimate the length of your project, analyze costs and spending, and tender evaluation. There are even industry-specific calculators for specialty construction companies.

Estimator Application

This cost-estimating software is a bare-bones, simple spreadsheet with pre-filled equations commonly used by contractors. Companies typically use this tool to estimate larger projects and use that data to produce proposals. This software does not offer much in terms of support, but it can be useful once you learn how to use it.

GenieBelt

This software provides an overview of all your projects, tasks, visual displays for project progress, space for drawings, document management, and in-app communication features. This app is helpful because it is accessible on Android and iOS and can be accessed while in the field.

CurrentSet

CurrentSet is a free drawing management software that offers unlimited sheets and projects. It helps construction teams collaborate on project drawings, giving them the power to view, mark up, and share plans. This cloud-based program also syncs with a mobile app to keep all of your drawings in one place and to help you save money on printing costs and labor. Project managers can get the most out of the tool when paired with project management software.

BuilderStorm

This cloud-based software was designed to help construction companies manage their day-to-day tasks, including scheduling, procurement, document and drawing storage, and operative tracking. The software can be easily accessed from various mobile devices, making it ideal for your construction team in the field.

Are you looking to integrate worker safety into the design of your ramps and stairs? Look no further than Upside Innovations! Our ramp length calculator helps you comply with ADA requirements and makes it easy to incorporate safety when designing these structures. Still trying to figure out where to start? No problem – our experts are on hand to help you through every step of the process. Go ahead and give us a call – we’re already gearing up for a productive breakthrough.

Our Services

Our team designs, manufactures, ships, and installs ADA & IBC-compliant stairs, ramps and canopies to fit YOUR custom project. Our experts will work with you throughout the project to ensure your installation is correct to your specifications and code compliant.

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