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How to Choose a Staircase Design

by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips

Any house built on more than one level has at least one staircase that serves as its vertical thoroughfare. There are, of course, many different kinds of stairs, differing by their materials, construction methods, general shape, design, and a number of other features.

stairs banisters constructionIn most situations, a staircase is an integral part of the home’s design and style. Stairs may be steep or gradual, narrow or wide, purely functional or grand and showy. Some are built in place by woodworkers, finish carpenters, or stairmakers; others are factory manufactured, shipped to a building site, and installed by carpenters.

A stair’s design is heavily influenced by its function. An entry stairway that handles all up-and-down foot traffic can be very impressive as it sweeps down from the floor above. A staircase that runs straight from one floor to the next is easy to build but takes up considerable space unless the risers are very steep. A staircase that stops at a landing and turns 180 or 90 degrees takes up less space and is safer. A spiral staircase is economical where access is needed to newly remodeled basements or attics or an addition away from the home’s central core, but it is not easy to climb and is not practical for moving large objects from one floor to another.

Regardless of type, all stairs have the same fundamental parts, as shown here. It is how these parts are built and combined that gives a stairway its style and individuality. Of course, not all stairways have all these parts—for example, some stairways have open risers (no risers).

Stairs are built according to basic rules and principles intended to make them safe to use. These rules, governed by building codes, stipulate the permissible heights of risers, depth and width of treads, placement of handrails, and similar concerns.

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