Inasmuch as staircases are one of the main focal points of a house – especially when you first enter – they are one of the least acknowledged areas of your home until something goes wrong! Whether you consider your staircase to be just a functional item in your house or something which compliments your decor, it needs to be maintained in a safe, secure manner.
London landlords in particular will be aware of the implications of damaged stairways, and our local tradesmen are happy to offer advice regarding any repairs that are required, and also offer suggestions about alterations to create more space in your home. For the more adventurous DIY-er, cracked, creaking and ill-fitting stairs can normally be replaced in a few hours, and you can review our project advice on how to make small repairs if you click here. More bespoke items, such as decorative newels or balusters, may require the services of a local tradesman to manufacture and fit your individual item.
The term “stairs” can apply to the staircase within your home that provides access from floor to floor, an external passage to your front door, steps up to decking in your garden or into your attic, and can be made in any number of designs and from a variety of materials. If you are considering new or replacement steps in any part of your property, please consult with one of the recommended tradesmen in our tradesmen’s directory, who will be pleased to offer a no-obligation builders quote for repairs to an existing staircase or installation of a new stairway.
Different Types of Staircase
Straight Staircases are found in most older homes. They are literally what they say – a straight staircase rising from the floor level of the ground floor up to the landing area of the first floor. As many straight staircases tend to be as old as the property they were initially installed in, they are usually well worn and in need of repair or replacement. Some minor work can be done yourself, however if you are contemplating replacing an entire staircase you should use the services of a recommended tradesman.
A Quarter Landing Staircase is one where the lower stairs start at a 90 degree angle to main staircase. Normally there are four or five stairs leading to a small landing, where after a “quarter turn” (hence the name) is required to continue the ascent/descent of the staircase. Winder Staircases are similar to Quarter Landing Staircases inasmuch as they involve a 90 degree turn during the ascent/descent, however the change in direction is more natural and influence by angled stair risers rather than a dedicated landing area.
Half Landing Staircases are staircases with a landing half way up/down. These staircases normally require a change in direction of 180 degrees when ascending/descending, and are good for shorter, wider hallways where a full straight staircase may not fit in, or would mean that the gradient of ascent was much steeper. You could speak with your local builder about converting your existing straight staircase to a narrower Half Landing Staircase to create more space in the entrance to your property.
Spacesaver Staircases have alternating treads and are a particularly viable option for people who have a limited amount of space in their house and want to create more. These are particularly recommended by our highly rated builders for use in loft conversions, however are right on the limit to comply with building regulations in terms of their gradient and are unsuitable for the elderly. It is also recommended that you add a supporting handrail to these staircases for additional safety.
Spiral Stairs not only give a room a modern appearance but create a considerable amount of space compared to a traditional straight staircase. You may want to consider consulting your local builder about replacing your existing staircase with something more space efficient, as this will not only vreate space on the ground level but also on the first as well. They can also have an attractive external function – possibly leading down from a first floor balcony to a patio or garden.
Ultimately, the type of staircase you have in your home is only limited by your imagination and budget. If you have an idea for a staircase, you should discuss your proposal with a local builder who will be familiar with the Building Regulations in respect of new staircase installations and will advise you accordingly. For some initial guidance, please review the section below regarding regulations for domestic staircases.
Planning Permission and Building Regulations
Your local builder would advise you that planning permission for new or replacement staircases is not normally required unless part of conversion or extension that would require planning permission anyway. However, Building Regulations apply to all alterations and installation of internal and external stairs carried out by your local builder, with the relevant sections being-
Part K – This section relates to the design, construction and installation of the stairs.
Part M – This section is only applicable in certain circumstances (e.g. Spiral Staircases or Ships Ladders) where access for the disabled may be required.
You can download each of the documents by clicking on the bold link, although the key points of Part K in respect of domestic staircases are listed below-
- The tread size (horizontal part of each stair) must be a minimum of 220mm from front to back, with the riser (height of each step) between 190mm and 220mm.
- A staircase with open risers (vertical gaps between each step) which is likely to be use by children under 5 years of age must be constructed in such a way that a sphere of 100mm cannot be passed between the open risers -effectively, it stops kids getting their heads stuck!
- Similarly, where children are involved, balusters (stair-railings) cannot have a gap of more than 100mm for the same reason.
- Although there are no recommendations for minimum staircase widths (the domestic standard is 860mm), there must be at least one handrail if the staircase is up to a metre in width, and two handrails if over a metre.
- There must be clear headroom of two metres above a domestic staircase, with a staircase landing provided at the top of each flight of stairs.
- One very significant regulation concerning the construction of new staircases is that the gradient or angle of ascent/descent must not exceed 42 degrees. This regulation influences the height and depth of step that you may be intending to install.
Further information relating to stairs can be found in our “Inspirations” section and our blog on “Improving the Value and Appeal of Your Home”. For minor repairs to existing staircases, please see our “Project Advice” or consult with one of the highly rated tradesmen in our “Tradesmen’s Directory”.
Banister – another term for handrail.
Curtail/Bullnose Step – This is a term relating to the bottom step of the staircase which normally protrudes out to the front and side creating a larger first tread. Also useful for inserting a gate to prevent small children and animals accessing the stairs.
Fascia – The vertical board beneath the edge of an exposed landing.
Finial – An ornamental decoration placed on top of a newel post (The obstacle that prevents children sliding down the banisters).
Newel Posts – The vertical, stronger post inserted in a turn, or at the end, of a handrail/banister.
Risers – Risers are the vertical side of the step, or the term may relate to the gap between treads when an open space is left between stairs.
Spindles/Balusters – These are the vertical posts which are attached to the outer strings which supports the handrail.
Strings – The strings are located either side of the staircase. The inner string is situated against the wall of the property, while the outer string is the side of the staircase which is open to view and into which the balusters and newels are placed. May also be known as “Skirting”.
Treads – These are the horizontal part of the step.
Wedge – A block (usually wooden) which secures the riser to the tread.