Staircase:  Corridor & hallway by Sanskriti Architects

7 tips for measuring the staircase

Asha Bogenfuerst Asha Bogenfuerst
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The reason why some staircases are easier to use than others is mainly to do with measurements. Although building laws have regulated staircase design and set a minimum for the width of the staircase, a wider staircase width is often more ideal and sometimes even necessary, depending on the structure of your home and your needs. Other important architectural elements of the staircase design that you need to consider are railing dimensions, headroom (so that you don't bump your head on the ceiling) and landings (so that you don't trip and fall). Let's get to it, shall we? 

1. Treads and risers

One of the most important elements to effective staircase design are the height of each riser and the width of each tread. The risers should be exactly or almost the same height. Stairs become difficult to ascend or descend when there is too much of a variation between riser heights, and it becomes awkward and clumsy because our natural rhythm we use to ascend steps is broken. However, don't worry too much about it, slight variations (less than ⅜ inches per step) will not cause a big problem. 

2. Staircase width

According to building regulations in India, staircase width should be at least 36 inches. However, whether this measurement is wide enough depends on how the staircase will be secured, either with railings or enclosed walls. It also depends on function of the stairs, of course. Will there be enough for you to help grandma up the stairs… don't forget to think of your personal needs or you will regret it.

Just increasing the staircase width by 4 inches to 40 inches can make life a lot easier on the stairs. However, if both you and another person need to go up or down the stairs at the same time, the ideal staircase width would be about 48 inches. We wouldn't recommend anything wider than that as it will become unnecessarily expensive and be a waste of space.  

3. Headroom

Local building regulations mandate the minimum head clearance for staircases to be 6 feet and 8 inches, which is actually rather low. We recommend allowing as much headroom as possible, and 7 feet at minimum. However, if you live in a two-storey house, you don't have to worry about headroom at all. 

For buildings with three floors or more, the best solution if to stack the staircases, meaning that set of stairs is right above the other, as pictured here. This design is not only space-efficient, but effective as well. Another thing to consider is the space under the staircase. Ideally, leave at least 5 feet of headroom below the stairs so that you can make use of the space for a storage cabinet or something like that. Here are some tips on how to make the most of space under your staircase.

4. Landings

The floor space at the top or bottom of the staircase, as well as the platform created at some midpoint along the path of the steps are referred to as landings. The landing in the middle is very important as it breaks up the ascend and descend of the staircase, making it easier to use. This particular landing should be at least 36 inches square or as wide as the stairs, but it would be better if it was larger than the stairs as it can provide a space for decoration to help make the staircase more attractive. Never design a staircase without a landing in the middle if it has a rise of more than 12 feet.  

5. Handrails

Staircase:  Corridor & hallway by groupDCA
groupDCA

Staircase

groupDCA

Ideally, the staircase railings should be 42 inches above the nose of the treads and the diameter of the handrail should at least be about 1½ inches.The staircase pictured here has a very secure wooden and iron railing. 

For more ideas and inspiration, you can refer to our article titled '10 pictures of strong and stylish iron stair railings for your home.'

6. Balustrades

Open balustrades that reveal the outside end of the stair treads are usually featured in traditional staircase designs. On the other hand, more modern and closed balustrades are designed with two walls lining the sides of the staircase. 

Since the detail on the edge of the tread is intricate and requires professional finish work, open-ended treads usually are more expensive to build. Instead, curbed treads can be simpler and cheaper to build. 

Spiral staircases

Spiral staircases are gorgeous, but they are also complicated and expensive to construct. So make sure you work with the best staircase design professionals and expert carpenters and contractors to ensure that you get the spiral staircase of your dreams. 

For more ideas and inspiration, you can have a look at our article titled '13 ideas to pick the right staircase for your home.'

What else would you like to know about staircase design? Please share with us in the comments section below. 
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