Some homes have more than one level. Depending on the height difference the different levels are connected by steps. There could be only one or two steps for small level differences, or they could be a flight of stairs going from a ground floor to a second, and even a third floor. Some homes have grand staircases which create a statement and add to the feeling of opulence of the home. Stairs take up space and so are often squeezed into awkward spaces. Regularly steps are poorly designed and they are hazardous, or at best inconvenient. Every year countless people are seriously injured falling down (and even up) stairs. None of us would like to see a family member injured, but equally important is to ensure the safety of visitors. Poorly designed stairs can make the house less saleable.
Stairs should be designed and placed so that they’re an attractive feature, while being practical and safe.
Flights of stairs connecting one floor to another could be in a straight line, they could turn through a right angle part way up, they could turn back on themselves, they can gently curve, or they may form a tight spiral. Ladders are often used to access storage attics.
Steps can be solid and in some cases it’s possible to fit small rooms or toilets under the staircases which means that space isn’t wasted. Alternatively the staircases can be ‘floating’ over the room.
Stairs can be constructed from concrete, timber, steel, glass and aluminium. The stair treads can be covered with carpets, tiles or timber, or the treads can be glass or punched metal.
Sometimes stairs are useful to allow external light to penetrate to a lower level. This could be from a skylight over the stairs, or from windows on the stairs.
In general, stairs shouldn’t be located in the middle of the room where they not only disrupt the layout of the room, but they could create an unexpected trip hazard.
Stairs are a problem for the elderly and those with mobility problems. Consideration may have to be given to constructing your home on one level. Where it’s necessary to have one or two steps going to a lower level consider replacing these with a ramp, although a ramp requires more space. When budgets and space allow, it’s possible to include a lift or elevator for moving from the ground level to upper floors. Note that even with a lift, stairs are still required as an alternate access in an emergency. Alternatively consider designing your staircase so that it’s wide enough and with suitable balustrades so that a chair lift can be added now or in the future.
In the next article we will discuss what you should consider when designing stairs.
Read Ensure the steps in your house are not a hazard or a nuisance
Learn more about renovating and building houses
This article is adapted from information in the book 'An Introduction to Building and Renovating Houses Part 2: Finding Your Ideal Property and Designing Your Dream Home' by Paul Netscher.
Paul Netscher has written 2 easy to read books 'An Introduction to Building and Renovating Houses - Volumes 1 and 2'. An Introduction to Building and Renovating Houses Volume 1 deals with Hiring Contractors, Managing Construction and Finishing Your Home. and Designing your ideal home Volume 2 deals with Finding Your Ideal Property and Designing Your Dream Home.
("Great for those that DIY. Very helpful in home renovations!" said a Reader on Amazon.com 5*****)
I’m a construction professional, author of several successful construction management books, and a home owner. I’ve made mistakes in construction management, I’ve seen others make mistakes, but importantly I’ve had multiple successful construction projects and I’ve learned from the mistakes. I want to share these lessons and my knowledge with you.
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