Types and Styles of Staircase

 Staircase, stairwell, stairway, stairs - for whatever name you call it; a stair is still a stair!  A staircase can well be the focal point of a room.  Its shape and position depends on the available space. A staircase may be simple or ornate. Straight or curve.  Wood or concrete. Wide or narrow. Gradual or steep. The specifications of a staircase largely depend on the general design and size of a house.

You can't very well expect a curving staircase with flared steps in a compact house. You can't expect a narrow and straight run staircase to fit in an interior large enough to house a tennis court. The design of a staircase is and will always be complementary to the overall style of the house and its allotted space.

Staircase Basics

The design and construction of a staircase is crucial to the safety and comfort of the occupants of a house that a special section in the UK Building Code (section K) deals with the regulations relating to the shape, height, depth, level, pitch and run of a staircase. It also stipulates the allowable clearances and width of landings, permissible details of balustrades, handrails, and other issues like the size of treads and height of risers.

The allowable minimum depth of tread (step) is 220mm from the nosing to the nosing of the next tread or step. The riser (height of each step) should be between 190mm to 220mm. The width of a standard staircase is 860mm. There is no recommendation on the width of a staircase meaning you can have a super wide staircase if you want to. However, logic must be used in designing the width of a staircase. Anything less than 60mm would be quite hard to scale.

The required headroom at the landing is 200mm but in the case of a loft conversion, 190mm headroom at the landing is allowable. The pitch of a flight of stairs should not be more than 42°. Anything more than that would be to steep to climb comfortably. You might as well have a ladder than a staircase!

Types of Staircases

Stairs come in different styles, types and shapes.  The general types are: straight stairs; curve stairs and spiral.  A staircase can either be free-standing or supported.

Straight staircase

A straight staircase is the easiest to construct as it is one straight run from one level to the next. Since a straight run requires a longer length that other styles of staircase, this type is not recommended for small dwellings. A straight staircase is also quite unsafe for there is not landing to break a fall. It the staircase directly faces the front door or the foyer, privacy is compromised because the upper level could be seen from the bottom of the stairs.  To solve these issues, modifications are possible for a straight staircase.

Curve staircase

Curved staircases are best used in bigger houses. The staircase typically sweeps in a broad curve from one level to the next. A curve staircase is also called a circular staircase. Here are the variants.

Spiral staircase

These staircases goes around or "twists" around a central pole. The stairs has a straight pole with the steps or treads radiating out from the pole. The treads are pie shapes to adjust to the pole and the spiraling steps.  A spiral is a total space saver but is not recommended for a main staircase. More often than not, a spiral staircase is used for areas that need to have an element of "fun".

A helical staircase is a variant of a spiral staircase. Imagine a spiral staircase, make the treads wider and take out the center pole and you basically have a helix-style spiral. A helical style stairs when used in residences normally sweeps gracefully from one level to the next in its flowing helix without a center pole or cylinder for support. This stairs is the hardest to design and construct.

A staircase may be supported or free-standing. A supported staircase may have walls on one side or both sides for support. A free-standing staircase (mostly spirals and curves) have no supporting walls on either side and no walls at the bottom of the staircase itself.

Materials for staircases can be wood, concreter or metal. Most complicated designs are combinations of materials like metal for the frame and wood or laminates for the tread.