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Can You Put a Door at the Top of the Stairs? (Explained)

Our houses are the most important locations in our daily lives and so we tend to get a house that suits our needs. However, not all houses have all the parts and components that are just like how we want.

This drives us to pay attention to many parts of the house that we add, modify or remove in order to improve the overall looks, usability or convenience.

Can you put a door at the top of the stairs?

You can put a door at the top of the stairs and it is legal to do so. But according to IRC, you must include a landing at the top of the stairs if the door swings over the staircase. However, if the door is not immediately after the stairs such as into a hallway then a landing is not required.

Modern houses come with lots of features and segments that require staircases to reach such as the basement, attic or in duplex houses, there can be multiple staircases that connect different parts of the house with each other.

However, the more the staircases, the higher the risk of danger for households that have children and toddlers who might have an accident on one of those staircases.

For most multi-story homes, installing a door at the interior staircases becomes a necessity not only for the safety of children running around but also to provide privacy.

Other popular reasons for including a staircase is that they save on energy by acting as an insulation that prevents heat or cooling loss.

Due to all these benefits, doors at the top of staircases are commonly used in homes and you can do it on your home too since the International Residential Code (IRC), which regulates the standards for construction and modeling of homes, has approved of it – with some restrictions.

However before you consider installing a door at the top of your staircase, it is necessary that you check the local code and standards of your state as well as contact your local building inspector to approve your modification plans.

With the legal procedures out of the way, the primary restriction the IRC puts is that your door cannot be left swinging over the staircase. There must be a landing area just above the top step that signifies the transition from the floor to the staircase.

This landing should be large enough for a person to stand safely. But if the door is not immediately over the staircase and has plenty of plain landing area before reaching the door, then you do not need to install additional landing space.

Is it safe to put a stair gate at the top of the stairs?

Stair-gates are small gates that are installed at top of the interior staircases to prevent accidents of children falling off. For all concerned parents of children, installing a stair-gate is a necessity for their homes to keep their children safe.

If there are unrestricted stairways, chances are your child might have an accident when left unsupervised – but with the help of stair-gates, that risk can be mitigated.

These stair gates are designed in such a way that these can be installed to prevent your toddlers from getting in harm’s way – with them commonly used at the top of staircases but they can also be used on kitchen doors or garage doors.

Once installed, it cannot be accessed by children alone and requires adult supervision in order to cross the gate.

Therefore, not only is it safe to put a stair gate at the top of the stairs but it is also highly recommended if you have children or toddlers at your house.

3 reasons why you can put a door at the top of the stairs

Below are the common reasons why you can put a door at the top of the stairs:

To ensure safety of children:

Staircases pose a risk of falling if you have children in the house. If they are left unsupervised, they might get into an accident from an open staircase – which is why you can put a door at the top of the stairs to ensure that the staircase remains restricted.

To maintain privacy:

Multi-story houses often lack individual privacy due to open staircases. Therefore, a door at the end of the staircase can create a barrier of privacy on both ends as well as muffle noises coming in or going out.

Cut down on energy costs:

Installing a door at the top of the staircase can also lessen your bills by cutting down on energy uses. Whether you’re cooling or heating your house, the door at the end of the staircase can provide decent insulation to prevent the loss of heat or coolness.

Safety factors to consider for placing a door at the top of the stairs

There are several safety factors that you need to keep in mind before you install a door at the top of the staircase:

Landing at the top of the stairs:

There needs to be an appropriate landing area along with the staircase right after the door to ensure that the door does not immediately lead to the staircase – which might be risky and result in fall accidents.

Door need to be from away the stairs:

The door must be able to swing freely above the landing without hitting anyone standing in front of the door. So the door needs to be significantly far away from the stairs to be safely opened while maintaining an ample space in front of it.

Therefore, you need to ensure that the landing area measures at least 36 inches far away from the edge of the landing area to the door’s edge while open.

Keep the door is clear of obstacles:

If the landing is greater than 36 x 36 inches, you might place items, furniture or decorative objects around the corners but it is crucial to make sure that none of those decorative items become an obstacle on the door’s path.

In case one of those items falls over the landing space, it could pose a potential tripping risk or block the door from swinging properly.

How close can the door be to the stairs?

The door at the stop of the stairs should not swing above the staircase and must have a landing and appropriate spacing in front of them. The distance must be enough to prevent any collision with anyone on the landing space.

But not too far to make the landing look unsightly and unnecessarily large. Therefore, the minimum safe distance between the door and the stairs that you should maintain is 36 inches.

What to put at the top of a staircase?

Below are the list of things you can put at the top of a staircase:

Decorative items:

Items such as artwork, antique items or other showpieces that take up minimal space are suitable if the landing area is small.

Plants, sofa or chair:

You can place from small plant pots to even a sofa on the landing area if it has ample space and does not get in the way.


You can put small furniture like bookshelves on the top of the staircase if you have the door sufficiently far away.

How to install a door at the top of the stairs?

Follow the step below to install a door at the top of the stairs:

Do the measurements:

Use a measuring tape to measure the height and width of the door frame. The height of the door however should be 1 inch smaller to make sure the door fits smoothly.

Adjusting the lumber according to the door frame:

Take a ½ lumber and cut a section of it according to the width and height previously measured. You can fit the door frame on the lumber section to check the dimensions.

Placing the latch plates:

Mark the latch positions on the door according to the hinges on the door frame. Then cut a 1-inch hole for the latch at the side of the door and then screw the latch in place.

Attaching the hinges:

Hook the door to the door frame by the hinges and screw it tightly on the opposite edge of the door.

Finishing up:

Once the door is in place, remove the lumber section and swing the door to ensure that it moves freely. Finally install the knobs and latch assembly and tighten their screws.

Final Thoughts

It is legal for you to install a door at the top of the staircase as long as the door does not swing over the stairwell, otherwise IRC requires a landing at the top. A landing, on the other hand, is not required if the door is not immediately after the steps, such as into a hallway.