How Do I: Decide On Replacing A Staircase

Now I know this isn’t a weekend project type article, but with more and more of us extending into lofts and cellars to create extra space in our existing homes, rather than moving, the conundrum of what to do with our staircases isn’t as rare as it once was. I’ve written a short article for Real Homes about some of the issues you might face and I hope you find some of the information useful.
It might not be a very sexy article but if it’s stair porn you’re after then you need to get the regs right or a strict Building Control person will be insisting you rip your sexy steps right out. Try Stair Porn or Dezeen for inspiration, it’s where I found the beauties below.
When renovating a property, the location of the staircase is often pretty much fixed, or moving it is cost prohibitive. However if building from scratch, making radical alterations or installing a loft/cellar conversion, a new or moved staircase might be required. The three main things to consider are safety, comfort and design.
Safety and comfort are dictated by building control regulations. There’s no fee or contact  required to replace like for like, however, for everything else, building control approval will be required to ensure the stairs are well designed, safe to climb and navigate, and give a comfortable experience for the user. Google Part K Building Regs, for details.
The most important measurement is the total rise: the finished floor to finished floor vertical distance. This dictates the number of ‘rises’ or verticals, and ‘goings’ or flat steps. The ‘rises’ must all be the same height, between 190mm and a maximum of 220mm. All goings must be a minimum of 220mm. Say your total rise is 2600mm (a fairly standard staircase total), then this divides into 13 steps at 200mm high, so you can see you can have a little play with measurements.
The maximum pitch of a staircase is 42 degrees, compling with a minimum head height of 2m at all points on and off the staircase (slightly less for loft conversions) and landings provided at the top and bottom which are wider than the staircase width.
You need a handrail on one side for stairs less than 1m wide and guarding for anything over two risers. There is no minimum width for domestic staircases, though most are a standard 860mm. Very narrow secondary staircases can be allowed, but must be passed by building control, with their decisions varying from person to person.
If you’re totally baffled by measurements, don’t panic and keep reading, help can be at hand.
Design is next! If your existing staircase blocks the central core of your home in a full back to brick renovation, moving it may totally open up a fantastic ground floor. What you don’t want is to open up downstairs, but dramatically reduce bedroom space upstairs. Good design incorporates practicality at all times.
Consider carefully the age, style and interior design of your property before making decisions. Is it traditional or contemporary? Timber, glass, metal or concrete are all options but not all may be a good design fit. That spiral staircase might be cottage wonderful, but will you get a bed up it? Does an industrial copper clad staircase really fit in a 1930’s semi?
Maybe you’ve seen an amazing staircase in a magazine, then what? Firstly, check your budget. Stunning staircases are often architect designed, fab for a high budget, but cantilevering is only for daydreams if not. An expert staircase company for design and build is an excellent mid-range option. Low to mid-range budgets can be ticked by using your on-site joiner or your own skills with an off-the-shelf purchase online. Some of these companies offer gorgeous DIY options in oak and wrought iron, you just need to be absolutely sure on measurements. Most DIY sheds or timber merchants also sell affordable full staircases ready to be ‘pimped’ by a clever homeowner, maybe with locally made glass panels or reclaimed spindles.
  • Simple or elaborate, pick the style perfect for you & your home, not just what’s fashionable this year.
  • Think about noise levels on bare metal or hollow timber stairs. Sound echoes around quiet houses at night.
  • Specialist balustrading can make the simplest of stairs look amazing – get googling!
  • Don’t forget all-important lighting. In a new staircase, maybe build LED into the design to light up your flight.
  • An off-the-shelf staircase in pine can look amazing with a funky carpet runner and painted on trend deep grey or light enhancing white.
  • Don’t be fooled by those fancy pictures of staircases without handrails, in the UK you need one!

Good luck climbing your way to stairway heaven 🙂 x



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