Stairs are often only seen as functional, so few people understand the amount of choice you have until those choices are upon you and you have to make decisions fast. This is our quick guide to make sure that you are ready and able to make the right choice of stairs when you need to.
These are the most important things that you need to know:
- Know the Jargon – Knowing the right stair and terminology will help you to quickly understand what is available and what the salesman (or website, in this day and age) is offering you. We have a great (we think so anyway!) guide to help you navigate all the staircase jargon. Have a quick scan through before you start your staircase search and you’ll be “in the know”!
- Space for Stairs – The space that is available is the most important thing when it comes to choosing the right set of stairs. This is the most important limiting factor so this will determine many of the choices you are allowed to make. You must have a reasonable understanding of the building regulations which determine what you are allowed to have. Find out about the critical stair measurements in Part K of the Regulations
- Boring but Important – There are a few things that you will need to comply with when choosing your stairs. Here are some of the most important; you need a handrail on at least one side or on both sides if they are over 1 metre wide. Flights should not exceed 36 stairs without a bend or a landing. The spindles need to be no more than 10 cm apart. You will need to have the stairs signed off by your local building inspector
- Disruption and Dust – It is a big job to change your stairs, so it seldom happens. This means that you should probably try and consider a ‘timeless’ design, and brace yourself for inconvenience and dust. Obviously you will not be able to go up and down stairs while it is being done
- Materials – The materials that you use will have a huge impact on the type and feel of stairs. The most commonly used material is wood, but metal can be used as can other material, particularly glass is incorporated into the balustrades more and more. Wood will provide a much more traditional set of stairs, but other materials will make much more contemporary stairs. In the right setting stone stairs can create a traditional stair case, but in other they can be quite contemporary
- Replacing Stairs – When replacing stairs there is a ‘template’ in the old stairs which you can follow and if you have space, and the budget, you can modify. If the stairs that you are replacing doesn’t conform to the current building regulations you should be able to replace them with the same, or better (in terms of meeting the regulations). Think about adding under stair cupboards to add storage space, or removing the cupboard to create a feeling of space. Using open risers can allow more light through the stairs into the room below
- Stair Carpets – If you chose to have stair carpets you need to ensure that these are firmly fixed and hard wearing; they will get a lot of traffic. Make sure that you don’t pick a carpet with loop pile as this could catch feet possibly causing trips and they do open up (‘grin’) when bent over the top of the step. Always use an underlay on the risers and the treads, and ensure that the pile runs down the stairs, not across them.
- Practicalities – It is important to consider who will be using the stairs. If children or the elderly are likely to be using it, as in most family homes, you should consider this when choosing your staircase. The need to be safe and easy to get up and down
- Made to measure or Bespoke? Nowadays there are two ways to get staircases. You can order a made to measure staircase from a staircase manufacturer. These are built for the space that you have using the measurements that you provide so that the stairs will fit, but you will be choosing from their range of designs and styles. These can be customised by selecting a range of options, but ultimately they are not truly bespoke. To get a bespoke staircase you need to employ a staircase designer to achieve the unique design that you are looking for
- Budget – Last but not least! Your budget will determine much of what you can and can’t do. For example, if you want a bespoke staircase then you will need to start at somewhere between £15,000 and £20,000 and possibly spend much more. A made to measure stair case will typically cost somewhere from £2-3,000 upwards but this will depend largely on the materials used
This should give you a good start to the process of finding the right kind of stairs for your home, however the more knowledge that you have the better so do take a moment to look at our section on stairs.