With a range of designs and materials to choose from your staircase can become a showstopping focal point. 

grand designs staircase - buyer's guide to staircases - home improvements - granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Arquitetural Nacionaltransformed a flat in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with a helical staircase. Positioned in the centre of the room, it leads to a mezzanine bedroom. The design, supported by the steel structure for the upper floor, doesn’t touch the floor.

A staircase can have a huge impact on your home, setting out a design statement and affecting the way everyone moves around the house. It's also one of the most complex elements to design and construct, so seek advice from an architect or specialist company at the planning stage of your self-build or renovation.

What is permitted?

Everything about the staircase must meet stringent building regulations. This includes the height and depth of each step, the permissible gap between open treads, the rake, or angle, the headroom – usually two metres – and the requirements for a handrail. When replacing older stairs that might not satisfy modern regulations, find a solution that meets current standards. But, there is an exception to this rule 'if the space is restricted, such as in a mews or cottage, then it is permissible to replace like with like' says Richard, design director at staircase manufacturer Bisca. 

Design choices 

black unique staircase design - buyer's guide to staircases - home improvements - granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Interior design project by Nina Magon, Contour Interior Design

A straight flight is the simplest and most cost-effective option. Fitted to the wall, this design has the advantage or providing room for under-stair cupboards. Prices for a kit with balustrade start from around £400. Add winders, which are angled tapered treads, to negotiate turns in direction. By contrast, you could spend upwards of £20,000 on a luxurious bespoke design.

For an open, contemporary look, a contilevered stair with open or closed treads can be fixed into the wall at one side, appearing to float at the other. A helical design winds around a central void. This will take up a fair bit of space but is an impressive architectural highlight. 

A spiral staircase, winding around a central support pole, could be the answer for a limited space such as a mezzanine area. Another efficient design option is to have compact alternating treads.

What's it made of?

timber stair design - buyer's guide to staircases - home improvements - granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: As part of architect De Rosee Sa’s renovation for a Victorian mews house, this bespoke design with open oak treads was built in situ. Its stringers form the support for the whole stair. The house has no windows at the rear so open treads bring light down from the roof light.Photo: Alexander James Photography

Timber can be used for all elements of the stair, and for both simple modern forms or more elaborate designs. Classic turned wood spindles, a polished handrail and a shapely newel post are supremely elegant. Less-expensive woods can be painted while hardwoods can be oiled or polished. Steel is a durable and contemporary option. Strong, yet with a lightweight look, it can be fitted with wood or glass treads.

A cast concrete staircase will lend an industrial edge to a scheme and can also be clad in timber or stone. For a truly grand impression, a sweeping cantilevered stone stair is hard to beat. Glass offers a streamlined look, bringing natural light to dark areas. 

Canti-levered stairs 

nature humaine cantilevered staircase in modern house - grand designs

Image: This wall-hung canti-levered stair case from Canadian architects _naturehumaine is fitted with a glass baulstrade for a minimal look that meets safety standards. 

This type of staircase appears to float as it is only fixed on one side by means of an anchoring plate set within the wall. Treads – which can be open or closed – are supported by load-bearing steel bars attached to the anchoring plate. The wall is used as the main support in the vast majority of cases. Generally, it must be solid, although we have worked with light block walls. A floating impression can also be achieved by setting the treads between glass panels, in which case they can be supported by the glass rather than a load-bearing wall. A similar effect can also be achieved by creating a cantilever staircase suspended by steel bars anchored into the ceiling. 

A balustrade is necessary to meet building regulations, although it could be made from glass to maintain an open design. The staircase width dictates whether a balustrade is needed on both sides. Cantilevered staircases usually cost around 30 per cent more than a standard installation.


Do you have stair renovation plans? Let us know by tweeting us @granddesigns or posting a comment on our Facebook page



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