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I have a rental cottage. It has two stories with a bedroom and bath on the second floor that are accessed by spiral staircase. The bedroom opens onto a 4'x13' balcony which is 16 feet above a courtyard. Does Massachusetts building code require a stairway from the balcony to the ground?

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I don't know about code, but speaking as someone who sat with my coffee on such a staircase for the first time this morning (we've added an upstairs sun room and the stairs to it were built yesterday) I recommend you build them. A four foot balcony is pretty small and the stairs will make it a nicer place to be. Also when you want to get large things in and out the spiral stairs will make you crazy. Stairs are cheaper than balconies, so build them. – Kate Gregory Aug 24 '11 at 10:58

Spiral staircases are allowed if they meet the specs (780 CMR 5311.5.8.1), but as with any bedroom, you have to have a second means of egress in an emergency (Sec. 5310). This can be a window in the bedroom, provided it meets the requirements. I don't see any requirement that a window be under a certain height from the ground. I recommend calling the local building inspector to be sure--your county or city may have more stringent requirements than the state building code.

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