Contractor Tips: Step Up to a Safe, Stylish Staircase

Contractor Tips: Step Up to a Safe, Stylish Staircase

A staircase is a very simple and elegant way for people to move between floors. The layout, design and implementation by the builder all play a role in determining how safely and comfortably a stair accomplishes this task.

Lingo to understand:

The flat plank you walk , usually at least 1 inch thick
Riser: The vertical board between treads
Newel: The post to the railing is attached
Runner: A carpet with woven borders which covers the middle of the treads and risers
Stringer: The supporting structure of the stair

Tim Cuppett Architects

Safety First

The horizontal distance from the front to rear of the tread is known as the run, and the vertical space is the rise. Since you will have noticed in the staircases you have walked , the rise and run may vary.

Rise-to-run ratio. The overall of the rise and run ought to include up to 17 inches. Practically speaking, this means that since the run gets shorter, the rise ought to get steeper to your stair to feel comfortable as you walk. There are limitations, of course. A rise of more than 81/4 inches will be too steep for many people.

Mark English Architects, AIA

Consistency. Even more significant, the ratio of rise to run must be consistent. If you stumble or trip on a staircase, it’s probably due to a tread or riser that isn’t the same size as the others. Our bodies put in a rhythm when climbing or descending, and also an inch of gap can be enough to throw us off.

If you are considering adding flooring on top of current flooring where it satisfies a staircase, bear this in your mind. The treads might need to be adjusted also.

Another factor which produces a stair comfortable to use is really a tread overhang. Although some contemporary staircases omit this detail, an overhang will keep heels from scuffing risers on the way down and help you find your footing on the way upward.

Panache Interiors

Another modern-style detail would be to omit the riser entirely. You’ll still have an increase, of course (you wouldn’t get upstairs without it), but it is just empty space instead of a board. Building a stair this way means you will not be able to conceal the supporting structure of the stair: the stringer. In the stair pictured here, the stringer is made of steel.

Most wooden staircases have two or three wooden stringers, angled lumber with sawtooth cuts in which the treads and risers attach. For safety, a stair which doesn’t have a riser needs to get a thicker tread, such as the one shown. This decreases the distance between treads.

Most codes won’t permit an open riser unless the opening is 4 inches or less. Although you’ll see stairs that don’t follow this rule, a child could crawl through a bigger space, so for safety’s sake, assemble to code.

Witt Construction

Ceiling height. The space in the highest tread below a ceiling should be at least 80 inches, or 6 feet, 8 inches. As a 6-foot-3-inch person who lives in Philadelphia and spends a whole lot of time in historical houses, I will tell you that this rule was not regularly followed in the time before creating codes. Don’t make the same mistake.

On the way up, people will bump their heads if the ceiling is too low. On the way down, it is hard to judge ceiling height, therefore people will duck if it looks too close. Give people a lot of space whenever possible. A stair is a more hazardous spot for a collapse, and the codes regulating stairs are designed to prevent just that.


Stair Style

Although the hints above are not sufficient to instruct you how you can construct a stair (that is among the most complex things a carpenter does)they will help you realize how and why they are laid out how the are.

Now let’s discuss how stairs seem. In the end, there is beauty in the function of a staircase — a well-designed stair may be among the most stunning forms on your house.

A staircase has many parts, and because many are made of timber, among the questions you’ll face is whether to add a clear coat or paint it. Conventional stairs often have a blend of both.

To paint or not to paint? My advice is to prevent paint treads and banisters. These receive the most wear, and paint shows wear much more readily. When the treads are painted before, or if you want that look, we’ve had good success with Fine Paints of Europe.

Buckminster Green LLC

Balusters are the jewellery of a staircase. Contrary to your favourite necklace or ring, though, you will often need more than 30 fitting balusters to make a set.

This means the cost of a fancy turned baluster may accumulate quickly, so contemplate archiving balusters. Architectural salvage shops often rescue a complete collection from a Dumpster, and you can obtain a style which isn’t readily available now.

The picture is of balusters in Re-Store, among my go-to salvage places in Philadelphia. Frequently, older fashions were thicker and made of hardwoods, unlike the softwood balusters you normally find now.

If they are coated with several layers of paint, locate a local paint stripper who will dip them for you. This is a quicker, much safer and much more environmentally friendly way compared to doing it yourself, to strip paint.

Brownhouse Design, Los Altos, CA

Here we see two different elements that may dress up a stair. One seems functional but is not, and one seems decorative but performs a significant function.

On the face of the stringer, below the fold, are carved tread brackets. Though they seem like they’re holding up the treads, they are implemented moldings. If your staircase do not have tread brackets and you want to add some flair, gluing or nailing on brackets is a good DIY project.

The wainscoting on the walls is really a nice way to follow the line of the staircase on the walls, mimicking the angle of the railing. Since stairs get as much traffic, wainscoting is a good way to protect the walls. Wood paneling will hold up much better than drywall here.

Rachel Reider Interiors

Newel articles are just another stair part you might be able to find salvaged. Salvaged or brand new, the newel anchors the railing. Any time you’ve got a building element that is secured to a wall only at one end of the span, you’ve got the capacity for wobble.

Many stair railings go up several floors in a constant loop before they reach a wall. A firmly anchored newel post is important to making sure that your railing is secure.

If your present newel post is wobbly, you can purchase a kit in the hardware store which contains angle brackets to anchor it to the floor, and wood trim with distance routed out so it hides the brackets. When it is painted or stained, then it is going to look like a part of the post.

When the post is on the first floor and you’ve got a basement, you can conceal the screws by coming up from below with lag screws.

ARTifact Interior Design

If you can not locate a solid newel post you want, or you need something more massive, a box newel can be made from inventory boards and implemented moldings, developing a post such as the three pictured here. Since the interior framing is going to be covered up from the finish carpentry, it’s easier to anchor this kind of post.

Additionally, observe the recessed step lights across the wall. We began this ideabook talking about safety. Fantastic lighting is crucial, and lighting centered on the treads permits you to illuminate the stairs safely without overlighting the rest of the space. The runner pictured here additionally protects the staircase and makes them less slippery, reducing falls.

Security first, safety last. Happy climbing!

More stair guides:
How to Get Your Stair Runner Right
10 High Designs to the Handrail
Cantilevered Stairs: Walking on Air
Artful Stairs: Continuity in Steel

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