Challenges Maintaining Exit Stairs During Construction

During renovation projects it is imperative to maintain the fire-resistive rating of the exit stairs. Improperly maintained stairs may allow for smoke and fire spread between floors and impact larger portions of the building, including other floors under construction or other occupied areas of a building. Some common deficiencies and challenges to maintaining exit stairs during construction are outlined below.

Missing or Inaccurate Floor and/or Stair Identification Signage (780 CMR 1023.9)

When new stair signage is included in a renovation, it is critical to not remove the existing signage prior to the installation of the new signage. Stair signage provides important information for egressing occupants to understand how to exit the building in an emergency. Additionally, stair signage allows the fire department to communicate their location within buildings during emergencies.

New Penetration Firestopping Installation

On some projects it may be necessary to create additional penetrations into the exit stairs. When this is done, these new penetrations should be firestopped with an approved UL system to maintain the rating of the stair. Without an approved firestopping system in place, fire and smoke can enter the stair through the annular space between the wall and penetrating item.

Doors Propped Open (780 CMR Chapter 10 and NFPA 80)

Especially during construction, stair doors are often left propped open to facilitate movement between floors within the building. Similarly to propped open doors, stair doors on floors under construction are often left with damaged or modified hardware which prevents the door from closing and latching properly. This compromises the rating of the stair and may allow fire and smoke to infiltrate the stair and can also compromise the operation of a building’s smoke control systems, where provided.

Pull Station and Smoke Detector Not within Five Feet of Every Exit Doorway

As required by NFPA 72, where a fire alarm system is installed, a pull station is needed at the entrance to each exit stair. If the stair contains a smoke control system, a smoke detector must be installed within five feet on every level. These items are sometimes removed or relocated during construction to mitigate false alarms or to install large mechanical equipment. These devices must be left in place to allow for fire alarm system activation and safe egress out of the building.

These important building features are provided to protect occupants, construction workers, and aid the fire department when responding to emergencies.

If you have challenges with maintaining your exit stairs during construction, contact us at for more information.

Application of any information provided, for any use, is at the reader’s risk and without liability to Code Red Consultants. Code Red Consultants does not warrant the accuracy of any information contained in this blog as applicable codes and standards change over time. The application, enforcement and interpretation of codes and standards may vary between Authorities Having Jurisdiction and for this reason, registered design professionals should be consulted to determine the appropriate application of codes and standards to a specific scope of work.