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Architecture & Stairs 101| Types of Stairs, Materials, Designs Explained

Although we use staircases every day, we know little to nothing about them. However, that is about to change. In this article, we will not only talk about the different staircase designs and the materials used to construct them, but we will also introduce you to the common terms used when talking about stairs.

We believe that after going through this article, you will have enough knowledge to decide which staircase suits your home the best.

So, are you ready to begin your Staircase 101 class and learn everything you need to know about stairs? Let us begin, then, shall we?

Common Staircase Terms

Although this section has almost every conceivable term relating to staircases, we are quite sure that most of you are already familiar with some of these. In that case, feel free to skip over to the ones you have not heard of.

Steps Of A Staircase

You can think of this as a single unit of the staircase. Each of these units is made of a tread and a riser.

Tread And Riser

The Tread is the part you step on. On the other hand, the riser is the vertical portion between two consecutive treads.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words; we will not give you boring definitions about Tread Depth and Riser Height. Just have a look at the image below if you are interested in these terms.


A Simple Illustration Demonstrating The Tread Depth and Riser Height

Nosing

Now, a nosing is a part that may or may not be present in a staircase. In fact, many staircases do not have even have this part. But, quite a few building codes make it mandatory to have stair nosings.

So, what exactly is a nosing? It is the part of the tread (if present) that protrudes over the riser beneath it.

Do nosings have any benefits? Yes, of course. They are a requirement for many buildings because of their anti-slip properties which help in increasing pedestrian safety.

A Flight Of Stairs

A continuous series of steps which are not interrupted by a landing or a platform is known as a flight of stairs.

Length Of Flights

The number of steps in a flight is its length. In case of commercial or assembly buildings, there is a requirement for the number of steps in a flight. It is limited to a maximum of 16 in a single flight.

Stringer Board Or Stringer

A stringer board or stringer is what provides support to the treads and risers of a standard staircase. In most cases, you will find three stringers. Two of the stringers will be on either side of the tread, while the last one is in the middle. If the treads are wider than usual, then more stringers are added as necessary.

Winders

In case of Winder Stairs, there are some steps which are wedge-shaped. These steps help in changing the direction of the staircase. Needless to say, Winder Staircases do not need a landing.

The stairs take a 90-degree turn in a Single Winder Staircase. On the other hand, it turns by 180 degrees in a Double Winder Staircase. We will cover more about these types of stairs in the next section.

Staircase Landing

A staircase landing is a flat area which separates two flights of stairs. In case of Straight Stairs, the landing is called Intermediate Landing. Staircases which bend can have a Quarter Landing (the angle between the consecutive flight of stairs is 90 degrees), or a Half Landing (the angle between the consecutive flight of stairs is 180 degrees).

While Quarter Landings and Half Landings are where the staircase changes direction, another benefit is offering a place to rest. This is especially useful if you are trying to move a heavy object up the stairs.

Balcony

In case of a staircase with an open landing or upper floor, that area is typically a balcony. If the balcony is long enough, it might need multiple newel posts to support the length of the railing.

If you are still unclear about the balcony of a staircase, take a look at the illustration below. The Arched Staircase flows up to a balcony on the first floor.

Architecture & Stairs 101| Types of Stairs, Materials, Designs Explained
An Arched Staircase With Balcony
via zillow.com

Floating Stairs

This type of stairs creates a mesmerizing floating effect. It seems as if the treads have nothing below them. In fact, floating staircases do not have risers. Moreover, they typically have a single stringer which provides support on one end of the tread. In some cases, there may be more than one stringer board present, but the number of stringers is always less compared to a standard staircase of the same width.

Some floating staircases entirely omit the handrails for an even more dramatic effect. Now, this impractical design philosophy cannot be implemented everywhere as building codes might not allow it.

Spandrel

When there is no other flight of stairs below, the triangular space underneath is known as the spandrel. This area can be used as a storage space as shown in the illustration below.


A Unique Storage Solution For The Spandrel
via 
nengen.club

Staircase Runner

Although a Staircase Runner is not a structural part of the staircase, it not only elevates the safety but also adds a touch of luxury. These runners are nothing but carpeting for the staircase.

While some runners are directly nailed or stapled to the steps, others might be securely held in place by a stair rod.

Distinguishing Staircases According To Design

In this section, we will talk about the various designs of staircases, ranging from Straight Stairs, Half Landing Stairs to Single Winder Stairs, Spiral Stairs and more. So, read along to find out everything you need to know about the different designs.

Staircases With A Straight Flight

Staircases with a straight flight – these are perhaps the most common form of staircases you will come across. They are the simplest to construct and can save you a fair amount of cash compared to the more complex staircase designs.

In this category, you will find the Standard Straight Stairs, Half Landing Stairs and, Quarter Landing Stairs. We will talk about them in a lot more detail.

When it comes to the construction, these types of staircases follow a simple rule – the number of treads must be less than 16 in a single straight flight of stairs. However, do not let its simple construction fool you. These staircases are extremely popular in modern, minimalistic homes.

Let us now find out more about the different types of staircases with a straight flight.

Types of Staircases With A Straight Flight

Straight Stairs

Now, this is the simplest form of Staircases with a straight flight. However, simplicity is not a bad thing. In fact, it is surely the most functional and convenient to use. Since there are no turns, it is simpler to carry heavy items up the staircase.


A Simple Straight Staircase
via 
www.happho.com

We have already mentioned that a single flight of stairs cannot exceed 16 treads. So, what if the next floor is at a height where it is not possible to create 16 treads without making each tread unnaturally large?

Sure, you can create a straight staircase with a quarter landing or half landing. But, what if you want to keep it absolutely straight, with no bends? Well, you can create an intermediate landing like the one featured in the illustration below.

Architecture & Stairs 101| Types of Stairs, Materials, Designs Explained
A Straight Staircase With An Intermediate Landing
via 
architectureideas.info

Just like the rule for the number of the treads in a single flight of stairs, there is also a rule for the minimum depth of landing. And that should ideally be equal to the step length and the depth of a single tread.

Even if your plan does not require a landing, you should include one. It will surely make things even more practical and convenient.

Half Landing Stairs

Next up is the Half Landing Staircase. You must already be familiar with this type of stairs. These are most commonly found in apartment and tall office buildings.

In the previous case, the landing flowed along with the staircase. However, in this case, the landing changes the direction of the flight of stairs by 180 degrees. It is almost like taking a U-turn, albeit in the upward direction.

Although Half Landing Stairs are not as convenient as Straight Stairs, they save a lot of space. That is why they are the staircase of choice for buildings with multiple floors.

This staircase also has rules for the dimensions of the landing. And in this case, the depth of the landing must be longer than the whole tread width of a single flight of stairs.


A Staircase With A Half Landing
via 
www.pinterest.com

Quarter Landing Stairs

Finally, we have Quarter Landing Stairs. Unlike its Half Landing counterpart, the landing changes the direction of the flight of stairs by 90 degrees.  While they are not the staircase of choice for tall buildings, they make perfect sense in a house with two or three floors.


A Staircase With A Quarter Landing
via 
www.tolet.com

Compared to the Straight Stairs, they take up less space and are almost as convenient to use. In fact, they are more practical compared to a standard straight staircase without an intermediate landing.

Now, Quarter Landing Stairs do not have to be limited to a 90-degree shift. If you want it more akin to a Half Landing Staircase, you simply need to add another quarter landing. Just check the illustration below in case you are not familiar with Double Quarter Landing Stairs.


A Floating Staircase With A Double Quarter Landing
via 
www.houzz.co.uk

When it comes to the size of the landing, it is identical to that of the Half Landing Staircase. In other words, the depth of the landing must be longer than the whole width of the tread of a single flight of stairs.

Winder Stairs

Winder Stairs, as its name suggests, have a winding design. Instead of a landing, which breaks the flow in the case of straight stairs, Winding Staircases have wedge-shaped treads.

Hence, there is no need to construct a landing of any sort in this case. While the obvious downside is the convenience and practicality, this design concept surely has a few benefits.

For starters, it looks a lot cooler, wouldn’t you agree? Moreover, it saves space compared to a Straight Staircase. How, you ask? Well, the wedge-shaped treads are smaller compared to a standard landing. Moreover, since each of these treads rise vertically, you save even more space.

Sure, carrying heavy objects up the staircase will be quite tricky. But if the vertical climb is not much, it makes perfect sense. Another potential downside to Winder Stairs is the cost to build it. The more complicated the design, the more specialization it requires. And thus, a grandiose spiral staircase will be much costlier compared to its straight counterpart.

So, what are the different kinds of staircases which fall under this category? Winder or Winding Staircases generally comprise of Single Winder Stairs, Double Winder Stairs, Arched Stairs and last but not least, Spiral Stairs. We will cover all the different types in the next section.

Types of Winder Stairs

Single Winder Stairs

Single Winder Stairs are staircases where the angle between the first flight and second flight is 90 degrees. They are quite similar in construction to the Quarter Landing Stairs featured above.

In fact, the only difference is where the flight of stairs bifurcates. In case of the Single Winder Stairs, you have wedge-shaped treads, while the Quarter Landing Stairs has a landing.

When it comes to designing the staircase, it is better to have the winder treads in the beginning compared to the end. Why, you ask? Well, having the wedge-shaped treads earlier make it visible and thus make it more convenient to walk up, especially if you are moving a heavy object.


A Single Winder Staircase
via 
www.ebizbydesign.com

Double Winder Stairs

Next up is Double Winder Stairs. If you want to compare this to one of the Straight Staircases, then the Half Landing Stairs and Double Quarter Landing Stairs would be closest to its design, especially if you observe the top-down views.

Unlike the Single Winder Stairs, this staircase has a 180-degree turn. Moreover, they are more compact than the former.

Double Winder Stairs can be divided into two categories –  one with a smoother passage of winder treads from turn to turn and another with a more abrupt passage. Of the two, the staircase with the smoother passage is surely the more convenient to use.


Top-Down View Of A Double Winder Staircase
via 
www.codohfounder.com

Arched Stairs

As its name suggests, the flight of these stairs resembles an arch. These staircases exude a premium feel, and you will find them in many high-end homes. Just take a look at the illustration below. These Arched Double Stairs look stunning, don’t they?


Luxurious Arched Double Stairs
via 
designingidea.com

When compared to the Winder Stairs featured earlier, these do not have any straight treads. Instead, all the treads are wedge-shaped. However, none of the treads taper as much as the ones found at the junction of a Single or Double Winder Stairs.

Needless to say, these types of staircases are really complicated to build and can only be done by experts. All the basic details of Arched Stairs are curved. That makes the construction not only tedious but also quite costly. Then again, that is the price you pay for opulence.

Spiral Stairs

Among all the different staircase designs, Spiral Stairs are surely the most photogenic. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at the illustration below. It looks stupendous, doesn’t it?


Top Down View Of A Surreal Spiral Staircase
via 
boredpanda.com

Unlike Arched Staircases, which are usually found in high-end homes, Spiral Staircases can be both simple and luxurious.

Small Spiral Staircases have a central vertical post like the one featured in the image below. This vertical post acts as a support for all the treads in the flight. If you observe the treads of a spiral staircase closely, you will notice that all of them, except for the last one, are wedge-shaped and uniform in size.


A Simple Spiral Staircase With A Central Vertical Post
via 
www.britishsc.co.uk

Spiral staircases cannot be ascended or descended as quickly as a traditional staircase due to the corkscrew design.  Additionally, the space-saving structure often doesn’t pair well with larger spaces or more traditional décor.

Compact Stairs

Compact Stairs are built with one thing in mind – minimizing space. These staircases are most commonly found in tiny homes where saving space is of utmost importance.


A Space Saving Staircase
Source Unknown

Although these stairs save a lot of space, they sacrifice convenience and practicality. They are quite hard to climb and surely not suited for old people. Moreover, it is almost impossible to go up while carrying heavy items.

Some of these compact staircases have unique treads like the ones featured in the illustration below. The treads you see here are known as “goose steps.”


A Compact Staircase With Goose Steps
via 
staircasedesign.xyz

Building Materials For Stairs

In this section, we will focus on the various materials which are commonly used to construct staircases. While some of these materials lean towards practicality and durability, others are more aesthetically pleasing.

So, which of these materials will be perfect for your staircase? Read along to find out.

Wood

Although wood is not a popular choice of material in tall buildings, it is still one of the most traditional and affordable staircase materials in private homes.

Now, do not be fooled by the affordability aspect of wood. In fact, some high-end, luxurious homes sport wooden staircases made with opulent materials. Just take a look at the illustration below. It looks absolutely stunning, doesn’t it?


A Luxurious Arched Wooden Staircase
via 
www.lestnic.com

Concrete

When it comes to practicality and versatility, concrete reigns supreme. Concrete staircases can be installed quickly and are durable enough to last a lifetime. Moreover, it can be easily shaped to your desire. In other words, it is quite easy to make a complicated arched or spiral staircase using concrete.

However, concrete alone looks quite mundane. But once it is plastered and topped off with premium materials like stone or granite, it will surely be fit for any luxurious home. Just take a look at the illustration below. The concrete staircase topped off with marble treads looks mesmerizing, doesn’t it?


A Luxurious Concrete Staircase With White Marble Treads
via 
pinimg.com

Glass

Nowadays, many modern homes and commercial spaces use glass staircases to create a contemporary vibe. And thus, glass has gained a lot of popularity, especially in the 21st century.

Some of you might still feel that glass is not a sturdy material. However, that is not entirely true. Sure, some forms of glasses can be quite brittle, but new varieties of glass have emerged that are easily capable of holding a large amount of weight.

The main downside of having a glass staircase is the maintenance cost. A single day of use can ruin the appearance, and thus, it must constantly be cleaned to keep it in tip-top condition.


A Modern Glass Staircase With Stainless Steel Railings
Source Unknown

Metal

Although not a popular choice for commercial building interiors, metal staircases are often used in private homes. While they are robust and durable, metal stairs do not age well if they are not properly maintained.

While metal offers quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to the design, the cost can easily shoot up depending on the complexity. Thankfully, metal stair components can be readily purchased for a low price. However, going down that route means that you do not get many options when it comes to the design.


A Contemporary Spiral Metal Staircase
via 
makaan.com

That brings our Staircase 101 class to an end. Whether you are an expert builder, aspiring architect or someone looking to remodel your home, we hope that this article has helped you in one way or another.

If you have any suggestions, do let us know in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you.

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