82°Partly Cloudy

So That’s How The Stairs Get Installed

by Prince Of Petworth April 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm 35 Comments

I know there’s been some interest on Roof Decks getting installed so I wanted to share these photos. I stumbled upon the finishing touches of an installation in Columbia Heights.

It’s interesting how they built the deck over/around the chimney. I guess no more fires for that fire place…

  • anon

    whoa, thats a lot of stairs to go up and down everytime you have to pee. Could be some traffic jams if you are having a party. Gotta say I’m envious but I would be a little peeved if I was the neighbor to the left. Those stairs give a great view into their second story windows. Not to mention great access for burglars.

    • Kev29

      “Not to mention great access for burglars.”

      Exactly what my first thought was

  • Gumpper

    And that chimney seems to be for the neighbor on the left, which seems to make for quite a fire hazard. I’m just guessing that someone doesn’t have a building permit.

  • saf

    That looks like a furnace chimney, not a fireplace chimney.

    • ah

      Chimney is a chimney. Question is whether the flue is solely for a furnace/boiler/water heater or whether it has a flue for a fireplace as well.

  • Mark

    Hope the owner has some good homeowners insurance, There will def. be some falls and friends will end up enemies in court. A bit too much for such a small rooftop deck.

  • Jamie

    A roof deck with only outside access? What the eff? I’d like to say someone cheaped out, but I can’t believe a 3-story wrought iron staircase would cost less then a little access hole or door of some kind from the roof. This is pretty weird. And probably highly illegal, especially with that chimney business, but whatevs.

  • the verbotten one

    Those stairs are super scary. I sure wouldn’t want to climb them after having 3 or 4 Coronas!

  • Yeah

    Im seconding the call for a permit review. That can’t be up to code. That’s basically two and a half flights of spiral stairs with no break. They should have done a double decker deck off the back to break it up a little. As it is it seems not so functional. a little bit dangerous. and not much to look at. Makes me wonder if this is a flip job?

  • PW neighbor

    My fear of heights would very likely take over in that long climb to the top! Though I do love the idea of a rroftop deck.

  • Popupowner

    Jesus… that entire operation screams shenanigans.

    Terrible deck execution. That and those are some seriously expensive stairs.

    Captcha “have majors” as in have majors problems…

  • Cranes come in mega handy. That’s how my neighbor got the beams and subsequently, the hot tub, on top of his roof.

  • This is begging for a stop work order. Somebody tweet this to DCRA. There are multiple violations of the code on this deck. IF, and that’s a big IF, they got permission to build a deck like this, someone needs a stern talking to about safe deck design.

  • Eli

    No way would I climb up that. And I certainly wouldn’t want to have any rooftop parties with alcohol…

  • Where’s that guys eye protection? The other guy is welding right in front of his eyes!!

  • If anybody has the address or even street, email to michael.rupert (at) dc.gov. We went looking this morning with no luck. Any help (promise anonymity) would be appreciated.

    Mike, DCRA

    • ontarioroader

      Tell you what Mr. Rupert – I’ll gladly give you the address if you give me back the multiple days of my life wasted in DCRA offices while you people lost then screwed up my paperwork.

  • @ontarioloader,
    I apologize for any issues. If you need anything from us in the future, I will do everything I can to make it a better experience. We received several emails already and will visit this site tomorrow. Thanks again to Pop for alerting us.

  • 8th and Varnum St

    IF Sincliar Skinner had no license to do millions of dollars of city work then why should any single resident have to comply to DCRA?
    Poor home owners here, a simple mention on a blog and there goes the DCRA into action… People calling for the DCRA to jump into action. Nastst, nasty. Call OSHA, the EPA and the DCRA and sit back and watch. Then call homeland security too.

    DCRA – How about this to explain the photo:Vincent Grays house and Sinclair is his contractor. Sinclair also did the work for free but after it gets in the papers then he will happily pay for the work! Oh and they also contributed to the Fenty campaign so no harm done.

    • DT

      I agree it stinks that they (may) have been caught by DCRA. However, if you operate above the rules, you’re subject to enforcement. It doesn’t matter that it’s on POP or not – DCRA could have stumbled upon then while out and about. That’s the chance you take when you work without a permit; a neighbor (or a neighborhood blog) may rat you out.

      • Anonymous

        I completely agree with this… they’re right off of a fairly busy street and all of the work is readily visible, so they HAD to know they were taking the chance of someone noticing. And if they didn’t know they needed a permit or that there were code standards for roofdecks, well, that’s the price of failing to do your research. It’s not like they were doing electrical or plumbing work inside that no one would ever see. This is as obvious as it gets.

  • boo

    PoP, I’m guessing this is not what you intended to happen when you posted… what’s your take on this?

    If it’s not up to code, anyone could have noticed, including DCRA – and the homeowners should have done it the right way – but something feels kind of icky about this whole episode.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      You are correct boo, I just thought it was interesting how the stairs were installed and how the deck was built around the chimney no more, no less. I had no idea this was a violation when I took the photos.

  • 8th and Varnum St

    My post does not blame Pop in anyway for the lynch mob or the “SUPER HERO” DCRA springing into action. Pop probably expected to get “cool stairs”, “I want one”…
    But instead we have a hunting party out to get the address. I do not know Pop but he does not seem like a hysterical torch holding lynch mob leader in anyway.

    My own house can be cited for many a code violation. Come over and count them. Most of us live in houses with code violations. I am sure DCRA folks have themselves “lived above the law”. I could cite every official for a home with a code violation. I would bet my last dollar on it.

    I just do not get the DCRA holding the non government side to a higher standard than their own top officials.
    Why is the Gray building permit issue being raised now?
    Why is the Fenty and Sinclair issue being raised now?
    POOR HOME OWNER! Blind sided! And for what? Anyone sure there was no permit? Anyone sure the decks not built properly? Anyone sure they are legal residents of the US? ARIZONA!!!

  • KevinH

    I have to side with DCRA on this one. Sure, sometimes folks make some small repairs without getting every last permit, but this is a 30-foot spiral staircase. When I was house hunting last year, I visited a couple homes with something similar, and I remember thinking to myself that after a couple of beers, most folks would end up falling down the stairs. Walking up is one thing, walking down those will be a bitch. Overall, a bad idea, but I think it’s the execution of this bad idea that has DCRA concerned.

    It’s quite shady that the deck has intruded onto a neighbor’s property. You simply can’t do that, and it seems like a dick move. My guess is this whole house is under renovation, for a quick flip this summer. They probably thought a roof-top deck would add to the resale value. Oh well – they likely have a well deserved STOP WORK action coming their way.

    Mike R: Can you please update this post with your findings on this. Long term, I’m actually interested in adding a roof-top deck myself, but it would be nice to know what violations, if any, there are, so we know to avoid these ourselves.



  • Anonymous

    It is a cool roof deck, staircase seems kinda dangerous but what the heck.. let the homeonwer enjoy it.

  • carn

    You permit narcs are ridiculous. Get a hobby, get a life, mind your own business. The people in this town, I swear..

  • West Kansas

    Nice to see the “don’t snitch” mentality at work.

    I’d rather see a well deserved “stop work” order issued, than see that whole row go up in flames when the neighbor uses his fireplace, or have to read about the tragic 30-foot-fall of some kid on those stairs.

    This isn’t rule enforcing to settle a score, or to feel superior. This is rule enforcing because IT’S A LIFE SAFETY ISSUE.

  • 8th and Varnum St

    Hey pop, you need to give me back that picture of me running through my house with scissors in my hand.
    “Live and let live” sounds better than “don’t snitch”.

    How about those folks who saw code issues and gave up the address would have given the home owners the heads up first before getting on the DCRA band wagon. Twitter this and twitter that but a simple knock on the door if you knew the address would have avoided a very costly delay for the home owner.

    And when did flipping houses become a crime? Nothing wrong with gutting a house, fixing it up and selling it. And if you can make a load of cash then good for you. There is a market out there of folks that want a “no weekend fix it house” and they are happy to pay for one.

    By the way metal spiral stairs are not against the code. There may have been a discussion on the fire place with the neighbors who removed it on the interior. I have 3 on my roof that are removed from the interior. Although I am not the expert on the code given that I am a very simple contractor by day.

    I hope these home owners have an approved plan review and legit permit. DCRA aybe you should spend some time on the violations on your own vacant buildings. You can hassle the residents and landlords half the time then spend the other half looking in the mirror.

  • Ned

    What exactly is in violation of code here?

    • The plumbing stacks are obstructed, the chimney (whose chimney isn’t clear) is obstructed, the deck may possibly rest on the chimney (for which it isn’t engineered), the railings widths do not meet requirements, the foundation for the stairs are not visible, but would require an engineers approval. The deck appears to lack the proper wood connectors. You need your neighbors permission to build on the party wall. It’s hard to believe that this use of the staircase meets the manufacturers intentions as well. Should you not snitch when this staircase comes crashing down on the neighbors house?

    • A window in that proximity to a stairwell should be safety glass, the deck may not meet the required fire separation distance, the deck material may not meet the combustibility requirements. The condenser isn’t visible, but may be obstructed by the deck, if so, is the electrical disconnect obstructed as well? What are the egress requirements for roof decks? Are the stairs illuminated as required? If so, where is the light activation switch? Do the treads meet the the IRC min/max for exterior stairs?

  • Ragged Dog

    The city has a vested interest in keeping it’s residents safe. We all live in row houses, not in some settler village 30 miles from your nearest neighbor. There are nationally recognized codes created by electricians, plumbers and mechanical engineers that prevent actual human deaths. It’s one thing to put your own life at risk, it’s another to put your neighbors at risk. I’m not saying this staircase is dangerous or not, but I support DCRA even if they are a pain in the butt sometimes.

    Homeowners are permitted by law to do a limited amount of their own electrical.

    Homeowners are not permitted to do anything plumbing wise which is patently ridiculous given the lack of a threat of danger posed by plumbing work. I assume this is a gift from Plumber’s Local…

    DCRA really needs more inspectors. The problem with the permitting is that a contractor can still royally screw everything up and you’ll still have legal permitted work.

    Now, talk to me about the “Historic Commission” and I’ll support firebombing.

  • victoria

    Anyone know whatever became of this?

  • dc_publius

    \When I was house hunting last year, I visited a couple homes with something similar, and I remember thinking to myself that after a couple of beers, most folks would end up falling down the stairs\

    So what? Whatever happened to personal responsibility in this country? Snitches *should* get stitches when it comes to minor offenses that don’t affect anyone else.


Subscribe to our mailing list