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08 Mar 2021

How to Choose Your Own Staircase

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There’s a lot to think about when choosing a feature staircase. Here, Eric Nicholls, Founder of Spiral UK – the bespoke staircase company – covers all aspects of staircase design to help you decide what would work best for you and your home.

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Staircases may be functional, but that shouldn’t stop them being a feature. Instead, take the opportunity to create a centrepiece that really makes a statement. No doubt, you’ll use your main staircase every day, so don’t let it be an afterthought – take the time to think about how you will be using it and how it will influence the space it is to inhabit.

Decide on the type of staircase you want

Whilst your choice may be budget dependent, there are advantages and disadvantages to different types of stairs other than their aesthetic value.

Spiral staircases

Defined by steps that turn consistently around a central axis, the advantage is they make excellent use of space and can be fitted in almost any location. If you have a tall space to climb and limited floor space, they are usually the way to go with powder coating or cladding customised to match your home.

Curved or helical stairs

Unlike spirals, helical designs do not anchor around a central point, instead curving through a space to dramatic effect. Curved staircases can have the most wow factor, but they do come at a cost, as they tend to have more structural requirements. Floating helicals are a feat of engineering and take additional design work, but the end result is definitely worth it.

Straight stairs

The standard in homes across the country, but you can style them up to stand out with intricate finishing touches or high-end materials. Straight doesn’t have to be boring. Straight stairs can also be:

Dog-leg stairs

A straight stair with a landing to change direction, providing an opportunity to create focal features as an alternative to a spiral.

Spine beam steps

A central beam supports the underside of the steps, resulting in an open, airy feel that can be used in straight or helical designs that suits modern interiors. They are fun to design as you have great flexibility of choice in build materials and finishes.

Cantilever or floating stairs

This trend is staying strong through 2021 with steps only attached at one end so they appear to be floating. The supporting structure is usually hidden in the wall – an impressive aesthetic for extra light to filter through. Alternatively, choose closed treads to create a feature – a more solid floating stair seems to defy physics.

Concrete stairs

Poured and moulded according to the required shape, it’s a versatile material that can be inlaid with other materials such as metal or wood, and dyed or polished to create unique looks – however, do consider weight. It is robust and durable, so a good investment that will not rot, fade or warp over time with very little maintenance. Inherently resistant to fire, they are also quiet with no creaks or echoes, improving soundproofing between floors.

Consider the design components

Manufacturers can often offer samples of materials or visits to their premises to see what is available – do you want the balustrade bolted or welded? How will the handrail feel clad in leather instead of wood? A good company will discuss all options. Here is a guide so you know what they are talking about:

Balustrades:
A railing or wall comprising the balusters or uprights (vertical posts consisting of the barrier in guards and railings), and the handrail (‘the bit you hold’ to give stability and support whilst using a staircase). The design can have a real impact, enabling the diffusion of light or creating privacy. Glass balustrades with stainless steel handrails are popular, however, timber-clad balustrades can be striking, especially on spiral or curved staircases. Spindle designs vary from traditional Georgian to cutting-edge shapes in alternating patterns. Alternatively, sheet metal and handrails can be inset or made in a range of hardwoods, mild or stainless steel and powder coated, and wrapped in materials like rope or leather or left natural.

Tread:
The horizontal part of a stair upon which people walk. The step comprises the tread, riser (the near-vertical spaces between one step and the next on the staircase), the nosing (the edge of the tread that protrudes over the riser beneath it) and the going (the horizontal distance between one step and the next measured from nosing to nosing).

Treads can be clad in almost any material to complement the flooring in your home. Popular choices are timber, stone, glass and concrete. Consider how each will feel underfoot, how it will sound and how often it will be used – for example, carpet is soft, luxurious and quiet, but not very hard-wearing.

Stringer:
This is the housing on either side of a flight of stairs – into which the treads and risers are fixed. This varies depending on the type of stair you choose. It can be subtle or highlighted as part of the design, with an emerging trend being metallic zig-zag on cantilevered solid risers.

Contact an expert

Stairs must comply with complicated Building Regulations, with different rules applying for small private stair, private stair, small semi-public, semi-public and public. Most staircase specialists will have an excellent understanding of how to ensure your staircase meets building standards. Still, it is always worth ensuring they are complying (as not all do). The regulations are there to cover your safety, protection, accessibility and escape. Have a look around for examples of stair designs that you like, get some measurements yourself or from your architect and have a bespoke maker put their experience to good use coming up with a costed solution to suit your home, with a free, no-obligation quote.

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