A staircase is definitely one of the most important parts of a home and often a part that’s overlooked.
Whether you’re looking at exterior staircases or interior ones your staircase can be used as a powerful design element or focal point for your home.
At the same time though it’s functional, people will be using it and traveling through the space multiple times every day.
When it comes to designing your staircase you definitely need to take some time and plan out exactly what you want to do.
It’s needs to be functional, safe, fit your space and look great all at the same time.
The amount of options you have can seem overwhelming but this post will help break everything down and tell you everything you need to know to get started.
First up we’re going to talk about the definitions of some common staircase terms that you might not be familiar with.
Tread: the tread is the horizontal part of the stairs that a person walks on.
Riser: the riser is the vertical distance between each tread.
Run or Going: this is the distance horizontally from the front of each tread to the riser.
Balustrade: a balustrade is a row of columns topped by a rail. This is essentially the stair railing and is important for safety and can also be used to make things a bit more private.
Stair Carriage: the carriage is the inclined beam that runs along the bottom of the stairs and supports each step.
String: a string is the panel on either side of the stairs. If the string is between the stairs and a wall it’s called a “Wall String” and if the string is on a side that’s open it’s called a “Cut String” or an “Outer String”.
General Stair Measurements
Measurements are incredibly important as the amount of space you have in your home will have a dramatic impact on your options for a staircase.
The general rule in the United States is to have a 7 inch riser and an 11 inch run.
You don’t want to go any higher than 7 3/4 inches for the riser and any lower than 10 inches for the run. If you start to go higher or lower than these amounts the staircase becomes a lot less safe.
In general the longer your run and the lower your rise the safer and easier to climb the stairs will be.
It’s also super important to double check all your dimensions if you plan on adding carpet or some kind of flooring to your stairs. This will take up more space and you need to factor it into your design.
How Much Space Do You Have?
Now that you know the general measurements of stairs you need take a look at your floor plans and see how much space you have.
Do you have enough space for a large grand staircase? If your staircase is in a foyer or hallway you’ll probably want something larger and more impressive.
If you only have a tiny amount of space to get up to somewhere like a loft a small spiral staircase might be your best option.
You can check out some fantastic examples of spiral staircases on the Fontanot Shop.
You can also get collapsible or folding staircases which are perfect for accessing an attic.
If you plan on having a U or L shaped layout you also have to take into consideration space for a landing.
Finally, if you have a set of stairs just going down to a basement, tucked away at the back of your house then you don’t need something super large or fancy.
Your budget is also going to play an important role in deciding what kind of staircase to build.
There are tons of beautiful options but unfortunately using materials like glass, stone or fancy balustrades is going to add up.
If you’re on a limited budget one of the best quick, cheap and easy upgrades you can make to your staircase is to simply upgrade your balustrade.
Safety is another very important consideration. Depending on who is using you stairs that will further limit your options.
Do you have elderly parents, young children or pets? If so you’ll want a nice safe set of stairs and you’ll want to avoid things like spiral staircases which can be hard to climb or glass railings which can easily get destroyed by kids fooling around.
Closed treads are always safer than ones with gaps as there’s no risk of slipping or dropping objects through the gaps.
You definitely need to have a good solid handrail with a good grip.
Carpet is a nice soft and safe material to use although something like wood could work too, just make sure you put a no-slip coat on each tread.
There are tons of different things you can with the treads.
Closed treads are very common. They’re lower cost and you have the option to hide storage areas underneath them. They’re also excellent if you have small children because they’re safer.
If you go with closed treads using carpeting is a very good option. Carpet lessens the noise and increases the slip resistance.
Using carpet on your stairs can also save you money on the stair construction itself because the wood part doesn’t need to look super beautiful. As long as it’s functional and built properly you’re all good.
The other major option you have are open treads. These have space in between each tread and usually look a lot more modern and beautiful.
There are a lot more options here for creating a beautiful staircase too.
Open treads help a lot more natural light get into your space and they’re really great at making smaller spaces appear larger.
You have lots of options for your balustrade as well. You can do a simple half wall with a regular frame and dry wall with a wood cap on top.
That’s probably the least expensive option.
Or you can create something absolutely beautiful with glass or stainless steel or wrought iron bars.
You can even mix and match a bit. If you have a half wall with regular drywall you can easily cut windows in it and fill those windows with bars or glass.
This again can be one of the easiest and least expensive ways to give your staircase a makeover.
People don’t normally think of lighting when it comes to staircases but it’s very important.
Having a good amount of light over your stairs makes everything much more safe and showcases your amazing staircase design.
If you have a staircase on an exterior wall you probably want to have a large window beside it. If you have a landing that’s the perfect place to put your window.
Even if you have a staircase in the middle of your house you can always add a beautiful skylight over top of it.
If you don’t have the budget for a skylight you can always buy a type of LED light that mimics a skylight and has natural looking light shining down on your stairs.
If your stairs are acting as a major focal point in your foyer definitely consider getting some beautiful pendant lighting or a large chandelier to hang down over the centre of your stairs.
I’ll provide light and also look amazing.
Finally, consider adding LED lighting strips under your hand rails or treads. It’s a simple little touch, easy to pull off and it looks amazing.
Hopefully this post has given you some great inspiration that you can use in your own home.
If you’re looking for more staircase ideas check out the staircase archive on our blog.