Stairs – The Ups and Downs of Staircase Design

Our stairs are generally governed by the type of houses we have. In smaller terraced houses the stairs are often steep and are built between walls, which means the “strings”, the main frames of the stair construction are not seen from the side. These stairs are often carpeted and have a separate handrail attached to the wall.

The usual style of stair found in most houses is -one string visible and a wall enclosing the string on the other side- there may be handrail with spindles, or it could be completely paneled on the open string side. There is also the possibility that the string has detailing rather than just being plain. Contemporary designs on this theme can have treads but no risers so the user can look through the stair, some treads are cantilevered so the stair appears to be anchored to just one wall, and the use of glass, with timber and metal, gives a light and spacious feel.

The third type of stair is one associated with grander houses, and is very much a focal point. The stair can be viewed from different aspects and so must look good from all angles. Many stairs have landings which lead in opposite directions and give a feeling of space. The use of turned spindles and ornate carvings, generally in solid Oak and once the preserve of the rich, are now more accessible to the average man in the street. A little bit of luxury should be afforded to all- who said that- I just did!

There are lots of choices when it comes to constructing your stairs. A simple softwood string with MDF treads and risers is an option, especially if it is an area that won’t be viewed, and the treads/risers can be carpeted.

The use of Oak strings is always popular- and they can be both traditional style or more contemporary depending on the style and finish. Veneered boards with real wood veneer can also be utilised and give the required look without the expense of solid timber.

The spindles or infill area between handrail and string can add or detract from the overall look. The building regulations state that the gap between any spindles or posts (guardings) should not be wide enough to allow a “100mm sphere” to pass through. This also applies to stairs with open “risers”, the same sphere should not be able to pass through the gap. Make sure that your stair supplier knows the regulations!

Spindles can be plain or highly turned and decorative, spindles can be just timber or timber with metal, or even glass balustrading is now popular.

Handrails are available in Oak,Ash,Maple,Hemlock and Walnut- again its personal choice coupled with design requirements. Softwood can also be used especially if the spindles and handrail are to be painted-Hemlock is a good choice.

Treads can also be in Oak or any hardwood- softwood can be used if the stairs are to be carpeted but MDF is just as good and cheaper.

Any good supplier will want to come out and measure the site before fabricating the new stairs. Many stairs are supplied ready built with only minor adjustments on site. Access to your premises will need to be discussed if the delivery of your new stairs is to go without a hitch.

So if you are planning a whole new stair or need some advice, check the link below for good honest answers.