Staircases (Part 2) – is it the most taken-for-granted part of the home?

How often have you considered the staircase in your home? Or if you’re looking to buy, do you really take note of the condition of the stairs? Part one of this series of articles looked at the problems we find when surveying stairs – the many structural and practical considerations. It also had a list of definitions which you might want to refer back to when you read this one.

This article explains the issues you must consider when replacing a staircase, or adding one to an extension or loft conversion.

Installing or replacing a staircase

When you’re installing a staircase, the first thing you need to consider is where it is going – it is a general rule that the base of a staircase should be near to the front door and that you should not need to cross another room to reach the stairs from the front door. This is particularly important if there is a third storey to the house, as the stairs will have to act as a fire escape route.

Once you know where your staircase will be fitted, work out the total rise – that’s the height between the finished floor below and that above. You can then work out how many risers are needed. The number of treads is generally one less that the number of risers.

What about aesthetics?

So how do you go about choosing the right materials and lighting. Much of this is down to your own personal preference, but there are things you might like to bear in mind.

Almost any material can be used to make a staircase – concrete, stone, wood, even glass. It all comes down to what you like, whether it is a domestic property, or commercial, and more importantly what your wallet likes. Take a look at this article for ideas.

Whatever material you choose to build your stairs in, make sure you consider the people who will be using them – socks on shiny wood surface is an accident waiting to happen.

If you’ve got a fairly open staircase then lighting at the top and bottom is normally sufficient, but if you have a narrow enclosed staircase, then you might want to consider wall lights or strip lighting. There are some great ideas on Pinterest.

All the while, you need to make sure you follow Building Regs.

The regulations

You’d be surprised how many building regulations there are for staircases – there is a whole document available to read on it. But here are some of the key ones.

  • Spindles: The building regulations state that, a 100mm sphere should not be able to pass through any opening in the balustrade, as such, the maximum gap between the spindles should not be any greater than 99mm. We’ve all heard the tale of a child with their head stuck – with modern regs you’d hope this can’t happen. There’ll always be one though.
  • Rise: Building Regs specify a minimum distance of 150mm to a maximum of 220mm. The total rise is the vertical distance from the floor to the floor of the level above.
  • Going: Building Regs specify a minimum distance of 220mm to a maximum of 300mm.
  • Staircases should have a maximum pitch of 42°.
  • There must be a handrail on at least one side of a flight of stairs if they are less than one metre wide, and on both sides if they are wider.
  • Handrails on stairs and landings should have a minimum height of 900mm.
  • A minimum of 2,000mm of clear headroom is required above the pitch line – that’s the distance between each step and the ceiling above it.
Never a great idea to block the stairs but this is a good example of how two bannisters would work for people with disabilities or for wider stairwells.

Further help

If you have any concerns about your staircase, you’re planning an extension and need advice, or if you’re moving home and need a house survey, get in touch for a free, no obligation quote.

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