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[This is the second installment of a series of blog posts that cover useful tips and interesting topics about architectural, wayfinding, and ADA signage.]


Tip #2: What you should know about stairs


stair landing sign


As one would expect, there are a lot of regulations surrounding egress and stairwell signs.  Signs are required for interior exit stairways that connect more than three stories. In general, monumental staircases do not require signage, although they can often benefit from a directional sign.

The 2012 International Building Code now mandates a tactile and Braille identifying sign inside the stairwell, so for each stair doorway, there are now typically three signs needed:

  • Stair identification sign in corridor. This is a tactile and Braille sign next to the door leading into the stairwell and provides stair identification. If there is more than one stairwell in your building, the stairs are usually given letter identifications to differentiate them from floors. A separate requirement  calls for a sign identifying doors to exit stairwells.  So, a typical message on this sign is “EXIT STAIR A”.
  • Stair/Level identification within the stairwell. This is a tactile and Braille sign next to the door leading out of the stairwell and provides level identification. A typical message on this sign is “LEVEL 2”.
  • Stair Landing Identification. These are signs for use by emergency personnel and building occupants during an emergency. These signs are large with large type, and provide stair and level information, as well as indicate where and in which direction to find the emergency exit (since, in some instances, the way out requires a user to go up the stairs).  This sign also indicated the range of floors served and the availability of roof access.

A good rule of thumb is that if one of the standard illuminated EXIT signs is present at a stair, then that stair needs to be identified

One other stair related requirement that you may encounter is the need for photoluminescent signs within the stairwell. Codes will require that “high-rise” buildings include “glow-in-the-dark” stair landing signs under certain conditions. The need for these signs is dependent on the occupancy classification (A,B,E,I,M,R-1)  – a typical application is for hotel towers.  Whenever luminous egress path markings are required, a photoluminescent Stair Landing Identification sign is required as well.

One Response to “Stair Signage 101”

  1. Monica Chavez

    It’s interesting how you point out that if one of the standard illuminated exit signs is present at a stair, then that stair needs to be identified. It must be super important to have exits and staircases adequately marked so that they can be easily identifiable in case of an emergency. I wonder what the most effective way of marking an exit is.


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