The stairs are one of the highest traffic areas in a home, but they are often overlooked when the time comes to upgrade or renovate a building. Straight, turned, or spiral; wooden or metal; quarter or half landing? These are some of the decisions that await you when designing stairs for your home.
The staircase needs to be practical, it needs to meet building regulations, and its design should be functional. While a staircase needs to be visually attractive, it also needs to utilise minimal space, maximising your homes floor space.
Bespoke wooden staircases are ideal for those properties with unique or unusual dimensions. Bespoke staircases not only enable you to choose exactly the layout but also have precise control over the design of stairs and stair elements that you want for your home. Homeowners and developers that have sought inspiration from staircase designs in magazines tend to have to turn to custom staircase design, because these unique designs are not normally available off the peg.
- Rise – Total rise is the distance from the ground floor to the first floor. It is essentially the overall height that your staircase will need to be. Individual rise is the total height of a single step. Building regulations dictate that an individual rise must be no bigger than 220mm with every rise the same height. The standard rise of a step is normally 200mm. With a standard total rise of 2,600mm, this allows for 13 x 200mm individual risers from one floor to the next.
- Depth – The depth of a step, from the front to the back, is referred to as the going. Building regulations dictate a minimum of 220mm for the going of each step.
- Pitch – The pitch is the angle of elevation of the stairs. Stairs that are too steep usually have a depth that is too small or an individual rise that is too tall. It may be challenging to create a staircase with appropriate pitch if a building has high ceilings and does not have enough space for an elongated staircase. Quarter and half landings offer a means of ensuring that the staircase has a comfortable pitch, while still meeting stair depth requirements. The pitch of a staircase cannot exceed 42°.
- Width – When it comes to staircase width, there is no minimum or maximum requirement. However, it is generally considered that a main staircase should be between 800mm and 900mm, although if you are severely restricted for space, a building inspector will allow any width of stair providing it was the biggest you could have possibly fitted.
- Balustrade Requirements – There are also rules that govern the balustrades and handrails that are used in the construction of a staircase. The term balustrade includes spindles, newel posts, and the handrail itself. As well as being practical, offering additional safety, and being a regulatory requirement, they can also transform the look of a relatively simple set of stairs. If your staircase is less than a metre wide, then you must have a handrail on one side. If the staircase is wider than a metre, it needs handrails on both sides. The handrails must be a minimum of 900mm from the stairs, and the gap between spindles should be small enough that they will not allow a 100mm sphere to pass through.
Beyond the regulatory requirements, there are design factors to consider too. The actual layout of the stairs needs to be carefully planned. How will the staircase get from the starting position on the ground floor to the finishing position on the floor above?
Staircases usually start close to the front door. This enables people to enter the property and head straight upstairs without having to walk through other rooms in the property. It also allows for easier exit from the first floor, or any additional floors, in the event of an emergency.
If there is enough room in the property, then there may be space to install a straight staircase. Straight staircases are usually the easiest to design and require the least amount of construction work. They tend to be built more quickly than stairs that need to turn a corner, and they are practical because they make it easier to carry furniture and other items up and down floors. In terms of practicality, straight stairs are the best option. However, they may not be an option for your property, and a lot of property owners prefer the look of spiral staircases, Kite winders, or quarter landings.
Quarter And Half Landings
If a staircase needs to turn at a 90° angle, then the easiest option to achieve this is to create two sections of staircase and then connect them with a quarter landing. For those staircases that need to turn 180°, the use of a half landing is the simplest option. Although quarter landings are normally located near the top of the staircase, they may also be added near the bottom floor. Your staircase designer will help determine the best option, per the room and property layout, and staircase design.
An alternative to the use of quarter and half landings is the winder staircase. Three steps turn the required angle while still climbing. This makes it easier for carrying objects upstairs, and it can also give a sweeping and less angular design to the staircase.
Spiral staircases are ideal if you are severely restricted for space, but they can be very impractical. They allow you to make use of more space in the property, they negate the need for winders and landings, but it can be very difficult to carry items like furniture up and down the stairs. Spiral staircases are usually constructed off-site, in two sections, and then put together at the property. This can reduce the disruption that is inevitable when your stairs are being installed.
There are many other choices to make when it comes to staircase design and installation. You should of course be prepared for some disruption when the staircase is being fitted. In most instances, you will not be able to access the upper floor of the property while the installation is underway, but if you work with your joiner or staircase installation company, they will be able