Whether you’re updating or replacing your stairs, don’t take a step until you’ve read our essential guide on how to buy a staircase
Despite being a major traffic thoroughfare, when it comes to staircase design and decoration, staircases are one of the most frequently overlooked areas of a home. As it’s often the first thing people see when they walk through your front door, your staircase’s visual impact can reflect upon the entire property.
From spirals to spindles, glass to granite, there’s plenty of scope for making a statement, but homeowners looking to transform their space are often unaware of the possibilities. The key to sorting out the design of your home is to understand your options and the impact building regulations may have.
Replacing your stairs
First and foremost, stairs need to fulfil their primary function of getting you from one level to the next. Once this need is fulfilled, you can really go to town on the aesthetics and create something that gives a really great first impression.
In terms of renovation, replacing a staircase is akin to knocking down a structural wall. But if your stairs are badly positioned, oppressive, or hinder light flow through the house, then it’s worth considering, as a new flight can make all the difference.
Always consult an architect or a specialist company, as it’s critical that a new staircase fits in both proportionally and stylistically. A staircase is always interfacing with another area of the house, so there are lots of elements to consider. The middle section of the staircase can be quite straightforward, but the connections to rest of the building should be seamless.
Remember, also, that plans must comply with building regulations, specifically the Approved Document K or Protection, Falling and Impact, and in particular section K1, which deals with stairs, ladders and ramps. You can download it free from staircases.org.
How to plan a new staircase
* Prepare for dust and disruption and remember that, unless you have a second staircase, you won’t be able to access the upper levels while work is going on.
* A standard, straight staircase kit can cost as little as £250, but bespoke designs start at around £3,000. This could rise to £25,000 plus for a bespoke one with real wow
factor. Issues such as access can up the final figure further (installing a staircase on the sixth floor will be more pricey than onlower levels, for example).
* How much space you have will dictate what you can do and, unless you live in a modern building, it’s difficult to go outside of these limits. If you are lucky enough to have more space, it may be possible to reorganise it to make better use of the available inches.
* ‘Ideally, a staircase should be at least 80cm wide,’ says Mark Dyson. The head room (the height between the level of a tread and the structure immediately above it) needs to be at least 2m, and the maximum pitch for a domestic flight is 42 degrees. Straight flights are limited to 36 consecutive steps. If there are more than 36, the flight should make a change of direction of at least 30 degrees.
* Flights should have a handrail on at least one side if they are less than 1m wide, and on both sides if they are wider. The minimum height for a rail is 90cm, and there is no need for one beside the bottom two steps. Spindles should be no more than 10cm apart.
* There is a huge scope for different building materials, from glass structures that appear to float and modern steel staircases in bright, matt or brushed finishes, through to oak or teak. Consider combining materials and think about what will work best in your interior. ‘The trend now is heading towards a more timeless look and I would recommend quality materials and simple details,’ says Richard McLane. ‘You can’t change a staircase even as often as a kitchen, and it’s such a major part of the house that it should transcend fashion.’
If your budget won’t stretch to a whole new staircase, there are some simple updates you can do that are quicker and cheaper.
* Consider removing the understairs cupboard to give a more open-plan feel.
* Replace solid risers with glass to allow light to filter through to the space below.
* Swap solid balustrades or dated spindles for a more modern equivalent. Sheet glass creates a minimal look and allows light to flow more freely. Or choose a beautiful wooden balustrade for timeless style.