Top tips for designing your dream spiral staircase
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Don’t let your stairs spiral out of control with our five tips for designing a new staircase
1. Start by deciding on the look of your new staircase - do you want a similar style and materials to your existing one, or something different? While most of us have wooden staircases, don’t overlook other materials, such as metal, glass and concrete, which can work well in a modern property. “When installing a new staircase, we always recommend working with an expert builder or joiner, because aside from the style and design of a staircase, there are a number of building regulations homeowners must comply with,” says Scott Storey, MD of staircase specialist James Grace. “The maximum pitch of the stairs should be 42 degrees, although many people prefer a shallower staircase as it’s easier to climb. There is no minimum width, but in many cases a staircase 86cm-90cm wide is perfect. Anything more than 1m wide will need a handrail on both sides of the stairs.”
2. There are, of course, different types of staircase, including straight, spiral, curved, and cantilevered, where just one side is attached to the wall. Although you’ll probably want to stick to the same type if you’re keeping the staircase in the same place, you may want something different if you’re repositioning it. Moving a staircase is a big and expensive job, but can dramatically improve your home’s layout and flow, so it’s something to consider if the stairs are in the way where they are, or could work better elsewhere.
3. The basic components of a staircase are the treads, which are the horizontal bits you step on; the risers, which are the vertical bits between the treads (staircases without risers are said to have open risers); the handrail; the spindles; and the newel posts, which are the chunky posts that go at either end of a run of spindles. Some staircases have a wall-mounted handrail (without spindles and newel posts), which can be a nice feature in its own right. Changing one part of the staircase may be something you can do yourself - if the original period spindles have been replaced by modern ones that aren’t in keeping, for example.
4. A new staircase can blend in to the room or stand out and make a statement, and it can cost thousands of pounds, so getting the look right and ensuring it’s practical is vital - stairs without a carpet or runner aren’t ideal for young children, for example. “The staircase is a focal part of the home, so it is important to ensure the aesthetic of the staircase fits in with the rest of the decor,” says Storey. “We often find that people forget to consider the space under the stairs, which can be used as additional storage or an open reception area. For halls in need of light, stairs with open risers are the perfect solution.”
5. If your home’s listed, changing the staircase is likely to require listed building consent from your local council, so check before doing any work. And in a leasehold property, you may need the permission of the freeholder (or the other freeholders, if you own a share of it), to significantly alter the staircase.