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My house is built on a hill and the lower level is quite dark. In an effort to open it up a bit, the original owner came up with this weird set of stairs (pictured below) with a platform off to the side. This lets a nice amount of light in, and is occasionally useful for e.g putting a basket of washing there when you need to take it upstairs later.

The trouble is that we now have a one year old roaming around the house. Falling down the stairs would be bad enough, but this platform is a straight six foot drop and I think coming off it would be a) catastrophic and b) inevitable, if we don't do something about it.

Stairs

I have a few fixes in mind, but they all have problems. Does anybody have thoughts, or another idea?

  1. Put a big pot plant there in a planter. I think this is a non starter - kids will wiggle around anything.

  2. Put balustrade wire (running vertically) in front of the big drop. Pros: lets light through; there are studs on the edge of the platform floor and the roof straight above it for anchor points. Cons: looks strange. Only lets me secure the long-drop edge; a toddler could just drop off the other open side onto the stairs.

  3. Put an L-shaped plaster wall in along the two open edges of the platform. Pros: Very secure. Cons: Looks ridiculous. Cuts off light to the bottom level.

  4. Same as 2, but with glass. Still looks ridiculous, and costs more, but at least light gets through.

  5. The proper fix. There's no light coming from the right side of the staircase; move the entire set of stairs two feet to the left. The platform is removed; light still comes down; use the new space on the other side for a full height bookcase or something so there's no huge drop. Pros: ticks every box. Cons: I expect that moving an entire staircase and re-tiling is a $5k+ proposition.

Any better ideas?

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  • 1: looks more like 5 feet. 2:infants undertand falling, they won't mistakenly jump off that. 3: those stairs look unsafe
    – Jasen
    Sep 12, 2021 at 1:27
  • Are you really only looking to fix this for a few years, while your young person is in danger? A temporary blockade/balustrade would do the job. Sep 12, 2021 at 2:49
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    If I could find a fix that meant this wasn't an issue for future owners / looked nice, I'd probably do it. I like the confidence that a kid wouldn't go off deliberately but I could imagine a moment of inattention or a game on the edge ending poorly. Sep 12, 2021 at 22:11
  • Jasen, what else looks unsafe about the stairs? Railing on one side only? Sep 12, 2021 at 22:11
  • ... and the drop is 170cm, or 5"6'. So you're right, not quite six feet. Good eye! Sep 13, 2021 at 2:56

2 Answers 2

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How about instead of a single potted plant, you have either: a) a series of potted plants that take up the entire platform or b) a carpenter builds a custom rectangular planter that takes up the entire platform. Plants always do a space some good especially with all that natural light.

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    Agreed. Large plant container (ideally cement or other heavy pot) would make it so they couldn't get out there, would be too heavy for them to move, would be aesthetically nice and wouldn't require any construction to create or to remove in a few years when you are no longer need it there.
    – Mike P
    Sep 29, 2021 at 16:31
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I would wonder why the original builder built it that way. Perhaps there is something under the platform that could not be moved: foundation, load-bearing element, etc.

If there is nothing there and an engineer says the stairs can be moved, that might be a good solution.

However, if moving the stairs becomes not an option due to what is under the platform, I would consider an extension of option 1: build a balustrade in wood along the front between the platform and the lower room's ceiling. Then turn the balustrade along the edge of the platform as a typical over-the-edge balustrade barrier back to the start of the stairs. This would also allow putting a handrail on the other side of the stairs, which may be useful for your soon-to-be toddler to hold onto. The typical balustrade would still allow light through, as well.

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  • Great suggestion - I'll get under there with a torch tomorrow and confirm it's just a void. Sep 11, 2021 at 13:30
  • Torch? what country are you in? Sep 11, 2021 at 15:21
  • Ha, sorry - a flashlight. I'm in Australia. Had a look yesterday and it's definitely clear under there, so no idea what possessed the original architect. Sep 12, 2021 at 22:09

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