Guide To Staircase Design

Plan The Ideal Staircase

With our help, you too can have the perfect staircase in your home.

Play Audio ArticlePrintable PDFShow Article Contents

It doesn't matter whether you are planning to convert a piece of your home. Such as the loft or basement, or you are planning to build your home from scratch. If a hallway redesign is on the cards, or the addition of a new floor to the house is about to be underway. You need to think about how to design your staircase. 

Stripping back your property to its shell is exciting, and you should be able to plan your home however you want to, but there are things to consider when planning a new staircase.

There are cost predictions to think about, and you'll need some inspiration regarding the design. There are also safety considerations that have to come into it, too. 

The good news is that this staircase design guide is going to cover all of that for you. Getting you up to speed on the many aspects of designing your own staircase for your home. In this staircase design guide, we're going to cover the following:

  • Why staircases are important

  • Understanding staircases

  • Staircase designs

  • Staircase styles

  • Building regulations and safety

  • Costings

Timber spiral staircase with glass panelTimber spiral staircase with glass panelTimber spiral staircase with glass panelTimber spiral staircase with glass panel

Make full use of your floor space with a sweeping curved staircase

Why Staircases Are Important

If you overlook the design of your staircase, the aesthetics of the whole house do not work

The staircase design is one of the most overlooked pieces of the architectural puzzle for new builders, and yet the way that the staircase is designed is as vital as any other design concept in the home. 

If you overlook the design of your staircase, the aesthetics of the whole house do not work. You could also be looking at a house with lower value, all because you didn't think about the space you had to work with or the materials used.

Without staircases in your house, you cannot get from floor to floor. Sure, you can install a slide into the basement, but how would you propose to get out again? How would you escape the loft in the event of a fire if all you have is a ladder? 

Staircases take up floor space in your home, which is why compromising on your staircase design is not a smart option. It's not just the type and size of the staircase that matters, but the materials that you choose to use, too.

Hundreds of exciting and aesthetically pleasing staircase designs will work to make your house the unique one on the street, and the beauty of building it yourself is that you can make it as individual or as blended into the rest of the house as you like. 

Planning your staircase has to be stable before the build goes ahead, as the very last thing that you want to do is have to rip the whole thing out and start again.

Exposed timber staircase against white walls  Exposed timber staircase against white walls  Exposed timber staircase against white walls  Exposed timber staircase against white walls

These floating steps look incredible against a plain white wall

Understanding Staircases

If you are working on a budget, think about your materials carefully. Solid oak staircases are beautiful, but they're not always budget friendly

Every house with more than one level will have a staircase or two. Before you can design a staircase for your home, you need to understand the various components that make up a staircase. Let's take a look:

The Tread. This is where you step.
The Riser. The vertical piece between each tread that, in some designs, is left open.
The Strings. These are the boards that support each step.
The Nosing. This is the edge of the tread.

The Bullnose/Curtail. The shape of the first step is often rounder and larger than the rest. And this is referred to as the bullnose or the curtail.

The Spindles. The vertical posts that hold up the bannister.
The Balustrade. The spindles attached to newel posts at the top and at the bottom of the stairs are referred to as the balustrade as a whole item.

Staircases are generally wooden, but you can choose other materials such as steel or concrete - it all depends on your vision for your staircase design in your home. Balustrades for the stairs can be wood, glass or metal and they can be carved in a vast range of shapes and sizes to suit the ideation of your staircase. If you want to be bold, consider mixing your materials and have a more extensive choice of options. 

If you are working on a budget, think about your materials carefully. Solid oak staircases are beautiful, but they're not always budget friendly. Combining simple white spindles with an oak bannister and newel posts can make a massive difference to your home, while not ruining your budget. Softwood staircases are also a good option when you are looking to save some cash.

Your staircase choices should be smooth, with a straight grain so that it looks great in the house rather than sticking out in a way that looks ugly. If you want to make your new staircase a focal point in the home, consider thicker spindles, different materials for the treads and handrails. 

Volute handrails, for example, are an attractive option for your staircase, and it refers to the curled ending on a bannister that creates a dramatic look.

Measurements count when it comes to staircase installation, so you need to get this right when you are in the planning stages. Straight flights may look straightforward, but the staircase space must be correctly measured, or you will end up with an incorrect fit - which is unsafe.

White staircase with steel and timber ballaster railWhite staircase with steel and timber ballaster railWhite staircase with steel and timber ballaster railWhite staircase with steel and timber ballaster rail

Does your property need a more traditional style of staircase?

Different Staircase Designs

If your home is currently reminiscent of the 1930s, it's highly unlikely a metal spiral staircase in modern chrome is going to fit the style

When you embark on the planning stages of your staircase design project, you'll quickly notice that there are more designs for staircases than you imagined. These staircase designs are functional and yet still fit with the family home. Some of the most popular staircase designs that you could come across include:

The L-shaped Staircase

Comprising of two flights of stairs, this has a straight run with a large landing leading to the next staircase and floor. It forms an L-shape in the house, which allows you to really maximise on your space and give your home the wow factor.

Single Design Staircase

Some homes benefit from single design staircases. In these, there is a proper view of the top floor from the bottom, which can bring light through the house and are very appealing to look at from upstairs or from the downstairs living room.

The U-shaped Staircase

For excellent space saving, this is an option that has both return and straight staircases. Midway through, there is a U-shape formed when you look at it from the bottom.

The choice is yours when it comes to the staircase design that you want, but the way you build the staircase into your home has to fit the design of the house and the existing style. For example, if your home is currently reminiscent of the 1930s, it's highly unlikely a metal spiral staircase in modern chrome is going to fit the style. 

Your home decor should all complement each other, and this includes the staircase.

White walls with white ballaster and red wood stepsWhite walls with white ballaster and red wood stepsWhite walls with white ballaster and red wood stepsWhite walls with white ballaster and red wood steps

Rustics timber treads and risers show strength in a period property

Different Staircase Styles

We've given you some insight into the typical designs of staircases today, including the L and U-shape designs that people choose from. Staircase designs are innovating as time moves forward, with new concepts and materials that continue to be considered for home builders everywhere. 

Building your staircase is going to be a big job, and getting the style right is essential. Let's take a look at some of the most popular staircase styles of today so that you can make the best possible decision for your house.

Straight Staircase

This is the most popular style around and continues to be so today. The straight up and down staircase is a space-saver, and it usually has a smaller landing as standard at the top, and often the direction of the stairs changes with each landing. These are the easiest to build as you can buy them in kits and the design is simple enough to construct.

Floating Staircase

A more modern design, a floating staircase reduces the need for structural members that are usually found in a staircase. These create an illusion of space, making it look like the stairs are "floating" up to the next floor. It's an elaborate illusion. Where the structure of the stairs is concealed in the wall next to the staircase. 

You could choose to add a single stringer in the centre to support the treads of the staircase, and these are often the choice for those looking for a modern and chic look for their home. The whole look encourages weightlessness and contemporary style.

Alternate Staircases

Another popular staircase design is alternating stair treads. This is an excellent option for smaller spaces so if you're choosing basement stairs or stairs to your loft conversion; this is a great option for you. There is one tread for every foot as you move up or down. But it is a complicated option if you're planning to go up and down with furniture or laundry baskets. 

While alternate stairs save some space, you should map out your lifestyle before this kind of installation.

Spiral Staircases

Excellent in smaller spaces, spiral staircases look great, and they're an economical way to spend your budget. You can make these from steel or wood, with aluminium options out there, too. You can also buy a spiral staircase in a kit and put it all together yourself. 

However, this is a complex build, and they're not particularly practical when you need to carry furniture up and down the staircase. It's a good option for homes that are smaller, and you need to save as much space as possible.

No matter what design you choose for your staircase, you should consider both your preferences as well as the shape of your home. Aesthetics are important; planning carefully can help you here.

Glass and steel ballaster with timber stairs and white wallsGlass and steel ballaster with timber stairs and white wallsGlass and steel ballaster with timber stairs and white wallsGlass and steel ballaster with timber stairs and white walls

Timber stairs combined with modern glass and steel 

Building Regulations: A Snapshot

There isn't a huge list when it comes to the building regulations for your staircase, but there are some points of note that you should pay attention to in your planning stages for your new staircase. Below, you'll find a snapshot of everything you need to know for your staircase building:

  • There is a maximum rise of 220mm for staircases, and the maximum pitch is 42°.

  • Staircases should always have a bannister on one of the sides if the staircase falls under 1m in width. If your staircase is wider than this, you need a bannister on both sides for safety purposes. 

  • There is a height limit on the bannisters, and this should be a minimum of 900mm.

  • Above the pitch line of the staircase, there should be a minimum of 2,000mm of headroom.

The safety and comfort of your staircase does depend on the building regulations that you adhere to. By following the rules, you know your staircase design is a safe one. These are the very basic building regulations that should be adhered to before you get started.

Staircase against black wallsStaircase against black wallsStaircase against black wallsStaircase against black walls

This is such a chic colour and material combination on this staircase

What Will This Cost?

Consulting an architect is always a smart idea before you knock down a staircase, as it's akin to knocking through a structural wall

When it comes down to it, the most significant part of your whole plan will be in your budget. It's essential to understand the ballpark figures that your staircase design will cost. Because the design of the staircase, will be different depending on the extensiveness of the work. That is required as well as the finish that you want. So, let's take a look at those price predictions:

Renovation

Renovating a staircase is always the most inexpensive option for the home as changing out the balustrading or replacing treads and risers is a good solution. DIY renovation kits can be as cheap as £250 to £300, but this is for a basic kit. If you choose to use glass or heavy metals as your material, the cost will soon climb.

Repositioning Or Redesign

If your current stairs are unsafe and require you to reposition them, it could be worth moving them altogether. Consulting an architect is always a smart idea before you knock down a staircase, as it's akin to knocking through a structural wall. For the basic MDF option with plywood for a straight staircase, or a spiral staircase made of basic metals, you could be looking at anywhere between £200-£500 depending on whether you choose to go for a softwood design.

Self-assembly kits are very popular for the self-builders out there, and these range in between £1,000-£2,000 and the modular stair designs are higher, at £2,000-£5,000. Everyone loves bespoke staircases, but these are an option that ranges between £20,000-£90,000 depending on the installation and materials. It also takes you out of the equation and as a self-builder, this option may not be for you.