Stairs -Size, materials and design

Sizing up and safety


Stairs are tightly governed by building regulations as, being a major form of access, they need to be easy to use. Risers must be 220mm maximum height, the ‘going’ (depth) of the treads must be at least 220mm, and the stairs must have a maximum pitch of 42 degrees. There must be at least 2m of headroom above the staircase. If you use an experienced joiner or buy a kit, you can be confident your stairs will comply. Copies of the building regs (it’s Part K you need) are available from the RIBA bookshop.

Materials and finishes

Timber has always been the most common material for stairs, and ready-made parts are widely available. Alternatively, a staircase fashioned entirely from metal can make a bold standalone feature. Adding glass, timber, acrylic or stone elements will soften the effect.

Design elements

Stairs comprise treads and risers which are fixed between two stringers, or they can be cantilevered from a central support underneath.

Open risers (where there are gaps left between the treads) allow more light through. Closed risers are safer for children to climb, and offer hidden storage below the stairs.

Glass, acrylic or steel treads look contemporary but can be slippery or noisy. Traditional closed balustrades, which ‘box in’ the stairs are giving way to lighter open designs.

The scale of the task varies wildly, but shop around and you could be treading a new set of boards that will transform your home.


Words: Fiona Sibley

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