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Staircase Building Regulations: Our Comprehensive Guide

Design Ideas

Why are beautiful staircases sometimes overlooked?

They’re the first thing your friends and family will see when they visit your home.

And let’s face it… most staircases we see all look the same.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

To give you some inspiration for what your new staircase could look like. Our architects have prepared this comprehensive guide.

We cover the main building regulations, different materials, and lots of design ideas.

1. Staircase Building Regulations

1.1. Height and depth – staircase building regulations

Staircase building regulations height and depth

Rise: The rise means the height of each step. To meet Building Regulations, the height of all your steps must be the same. The height of any step should be between 150mm and 220mm.

Going: We know this is a strange term, but it refers to the horizontal distance between one step and the next. The going of each step should be between 220mm and 300mm. The reason why there’s a minimum depth is because it gives the user sufficient space to get down the stairs comfortably.

1.2. Angle and pitch – staircase building regulations

Staircase building regulations - staircase pitch

To comply with Building Regulations, the depth (going) and height (rise) of each step should be the same along the full flight of straight stairs. In terms of the angle or pitch, if you’re adding a new staircase, this is classed as a ‘private stair’ where the maximum angle is 42 degrees.

1.3. Is there a minimum width for staircase building regulations?

When it comes to the overall width of a new staircase, there aren’t any minimum or maximum requirements. However, in our experience, the perfect width for most houses is about 860mm. We appreciate that no two houses are the same. If you’re working in a confined space, stairs which are 800mm wide are absolutely fine. If you’re worried about marking your new walls when taking furniture up and down, 900mm is also acceptable from a Building Regulations point of view.

1.4. Landing – staircase building regulations

When it comes to landings, there are four main rules.

1. A landing must be provided at the top and bottom of every flight of stairs.

2. The landing distance in front of the top and bottom step must be longer than the width of the staircase. So, if your staircase is 900mm wide, the landing depth at the top and bottom should be 900mm or more.

3. No door should swing closer than 400mm onto the front of any step.

4. All landings should be level other than the ground floor level which can have a gradient (not exceeding 5%).

1.5. Handrails & balustrades – staircase building regulations

Stairs less than 1m in width:  If your stairs are less than 1m in width, you only need a handrail on one side. If your stairs are wider than 1m, you would need a handrail on both sides to comply with Building Regulations.

Handrail height: Your handrail height should be between 900mm and 1000mm. This is measured from your pitch line, which is essentially an imaginary line joining the top of each step.

Handrail and spindle spacing:  Building Regulations state that a 100mm sphere should not be able to pass through any openings between spindles or any other gaps in the handrail. This is designed to stop small children getting stuck between spindles.

1.6. Headroom requirements – staircase building regulations

Any new stairs should have a minimum of 2m clear head room over the entire length and width of the staircase and landing. This is measured at any point from the pitch line to the ceiling, or from the landing floor to the ceiling.

1.7. Loft conversion headroom

The ideal place for a new staircase leading to your loft conversion is right above your home’s existing staircase. When it comes to Building Regulations, there are two main points your new staircase will need to adhere to.

1. The top of the stairs needs to be positioned at the highest part of the loft.

2. There needs to be 2m of clear headroom over the stairs. The Building Regulations do offer some flexibility to reduce this to 1.8m at the lowest point if your new staircase is under a sloping roof.

2. Who can design my staircase to comply with building regulations?

2.1. Architect

When it comes to most renovation or extension projects, your architect will be the person to design your new staircase. They will understand all the relevant staircase building regulations. To design them, they will first carry out a detailed survey. This involves taking all the necessary measurements of your home. They will then use these to design your new staircase and make sure they meet all the relevant Building Regulation requirements. Your builder will then use the architects plans to build your new staircase.

2.2. Staircase specialist

There are also lots of fantastic companies who specialise in designing and installing staircases. They have designers who will come to your home and take all the necessary measurements. They will also work with you to choose from a huge number of different materials and colours.

As these staircases are completely bespoke, most companies will also have their own installation team. The main advantage is that their team will have lots of experience in fitting their own staircases. They will no doubt fit them quicker and to a higher standard than your builder would. However, do bear in mind that these bespoke options come at a higher cost…. but look stunning to compensate.

2.3. Carpenter

Going directly to a carpenter can be a great option.

  • Carpenters often charge a little less than a company specialising in staircases
  • They will have built hundreds if not thousands of staircases
  • They will also be creative and help suggest something a little different to help your staircase stand out from the crowd
  • Good grasp of current staircase building regulations

3. The best place for a staircase

The first thing an architect will design when working on your renovation or extension project is the staircase. Its location is an important decision. It helps establish the function and flow throughout your home, not to mention the design and aesthetic appeal.

3.1. Traditional placement

Traditionally, staircases are located just inside the front door. This makes sense because your hallway or foyer serves as the easiest space to access all other parts of your home. They’re also very useful to sit on while doing up your shoelaces before you leave the house.

3.2. A modern approach

In recent years, there has been a move to more open plan living with fewer walls. Where all the living areas flow easily from one to the other. With these types of design, hallways are often eliminated. This means the position of your new staircase could be relocated elsewhere.

In this situation, a great idea is to move the staircase to the middle of the house so it’s closer to the living room and kitchen. Just think how often you go up and down your stairs every day. The closer they are to the middle of your main living area, the easier it is.

4. Design configurations – staircase building regulations

4.1. Straight

This is a very common design and features a straight flight of stairs with no change in direction.

Staircase building regulations - straight design
Straight staircase design

4.2. L-shaped (a.k.a. quarter-turn)

In this design, the straight staircase will lead to a 90 degree turn either going left or right.

staircase building regulations: L-shaped design
L-shaped staircase design

4.3. Winder

The term ‘winder’ refers to stairs that have non-parallel front and back edges. They are often found where staircases change in direction with no landing (to save space). At the point at which they turn, the steps will have a roughly triangular shape.

Winder staircase design
Winder staircase design

4.4. U-shaped (a.k.a. half-turn)

U-shaped staircases are made up of two stair flights that have a 180-degree turn. These are more complex to build when compared to traditional straight stairs. They also have the advantage of taking up less linear floor space.

U-shaped staircase design
U-shaped staircase design

4.5. Spiral

A spiral staircase is a round stair system in which the individual steps connect to a central column, forming a complete circle.

Spiral staircase
Spiral staircase design

4.6. Curved

A curved staircase leads users upstairs in a beautiful flowing arc. Unlike spiral staircases, a curved staircase doesn’t require a fixed central column.

Curved staircase design
Curved staircase design

5. Staircase lights

Lighting up a dark stairway is easy, but to make it look tasteful and stunning is a little more challenging. A stairway has the potential to become a beautiful focal feature as you enter a house. Good use of lighting is one of the best ways you can achieve it.

5.1. Multi-drop pendant

This is my favourite way to bring a little glitz and glamour to a new staircase. By leaving a gap between your staircase and landing you can introduce a stunning multi-drop pendant. These create a fantastic focal feature in your entrance hallway. They are also on show as you walk up the stairs and can be seen from all floors.

Multi drop pendant lights
Add the wow factor to your new staircase with these incredible multi drop pendant lights

5.2. Wall lights

Your hallway is the first thing people see, and it sets the tone for the rest of your home. It’s a great opportunity to put your personality stamp in that area. What better way to do it than with some subtle and beautifully designed wall lights leading up your staircase. This will intrigue your guests at what else you might have upstairs. As stairways can be narrow, try and go for a design which is flush to the wall.

Staircase lights
These elegant wall lights will brighten up any staircase

5.3. Incredible stair lighting – staircase building regulations

Staircase lighting can be dramatic, subtle, functional, or all of the above.  Stairs are often a key focal point in a house and lighting staircases can accentuate this. Leading your eyes from one space to another. They are also useful at night to help you see the stairs without turning all the lights in your house on.

Staircase lights
For something a little more subtle why not opt for these beautiful stair lights?

5.4. Niche down lights

Why not add these stunning lit niches to help add that little bit of theatre when going up and down your stairs?

Wall niche downlights

6. Wooden Staircases

Wooden staircases have been the most popular material for hundreds if not thousands of years. Here are some of the pros and cons of this type of design.

6.1. Pros of wooden stairs

Design: With so many shapes and different types of wood to choose from, the design possibilities are limitless.

Cleaning: As most wooden staircases are lacquered, they’re very easy to clean.

Maintenance: Any scuffs or marks can easily either be wiped off or sanded down and re-varnished. To keep them looking as good as new all year round.

6.2. Cons of wooden stairs

Cost: Wood is not an easy material to work with so they can be expensive to install.

Slippery surface: If you opt for exposed wood with no carpet, it may be a little slippery.

7. Glass staircases

The use of glass in home renovation and extension projects is becoming increasingly more popular.  As it’s made of sand, it’s also a renewable and eco-friendly material.

Glass balustrade staircase
A glass balustrade is the perfect way to jazz up your staircase

7.1. Pros of a glass staircase

More light: As glass balustrades are transparent, they make the narrowest of hallways appear more spacious. For those dark and gloomy stairways, glass balustrades will help bring in as much light as possible to this hard-to-reach space.

Super stylish: Glass balustrades create a modern and luxurious feel.

Easy maintenance: All you need to do to keep glass balustrades looking like new is to give them a wipe every now and then with some glass cleaner.

7.2. Cons of a glass staircase

Lots of cleaning required: The beauty of glass is that perfect transparent finish. If you have children, you may be wiping away those hand marks and streaks more often than you would like.

Price difference: Glass balustrades are usually bespoke, making them more expensive than some of the timber counterparts. They can also take longer to fit, potentially needing a specialist.

8. Metalstaircase building regulations

Metal stairs can emphasize the originality of the interior and add a sophisticated elegant appearance to any home. They can also offer a contemporary sleek look and a certain feeling of grandeur.

8.1. Pros of a metal staircase

Sturdiness: Most metal structures are stronger than their wood, glass or stone counterparts.

Malleable: Metal staircases can be perfect for small spaces as the material is easy to mould and shape.

Lightweight: Due to its strength, you need far less metal when compared to the equivalent amount of wood to build the same staircase, which means they’re lighter.

8.2. Cons of a metal staircase

Professional installation: Installing metal stairs requires professional expertise in welding and riveting joints together, for a stable structure.

Cost: Metal is a more expensive material when compared to wood.

Noise: Sometimes metal staircases can creek when kids are running up and down.

If you’re looking for design ideas to help transform your staircase…our team always have lots of creative ideas.

Feel free to call one of our architects anytime.

We’re always here to help.

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