Mike Edwards of Complete Stair Systems discusses the key factors in getting spiral staircase specification right for a property, from size to style
Spiral staircases is a centuries old invention, but not only can they offer practicality and style in any setting, but with the advancement of technology and availability of modern materials, they can now also create an ultra-stylish centrepiece in any home. Yet, contrary to popular belief, they really don’t have to break the bank, and on most occasions can actually work out better value than a conventional staircase. Most commonly found in private homes, spiral staircases are used for a multitude of reasons, from accessing that previously difficult to get to loft space, to being centre stage in the hallway of a bespoke home. Occasionally, spiral staircases can be found outside providing access to a seafront balcony, or simply allowing for transitioning from one level to another within a garden.
Tread size matters
Spiral staircases are subject to a tight set of building control guidelines on what is acceptable, and what isn’t, and size ranks highly on the list of things to check. For a spiral accessing a single habitable room, a loft space or mezzanine, a clear tread width of 600 mm is required. This usually translates to a diameter of 1400-1500 mm (allowing for handrail either side and centre column). This type of spiral staircase is referred to as a Category A stair. In contrast, a main spiral staircase in a home, accessing multiple habitable rooms, will need to be significantly bigger. This type of staircase is referred to as a Category B stair, and must have at least 800 mm clear tread width, although 900 mm or even a 1000 mm clear tread width are often seen as more desirable. With a bigger clear tread width comes a bigger overall diameter, and those interested in this type of stair should be working on the basis of this being in the region of 1800-1900 mm (based on minimum 800 mm clear tread width). Once you have determined the size of the stair, be certain that you can accommodate it within the property. It is an extremely common misconception that half a spiral staircase can sit under the ceiling of the floor above. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and will reduce head height on the stair so significantly that it will be near impossible to use. Whether you opt for a square or circular opening, it is important to not only make sure that it can accommodate the entire stair, but also that at least 100 mm of tolerance is allowed. This gives room to manoeuvre the stair within the opening, and also ensures that there is sufficient knuckle gap on the outside of the handrail – avoiding any pinched fingers!
Spiral staircase styles
Now you have determined the size of the stair you need, and know that it will fit correctly within your home, you can start looking at style, materials and finish. From timber to marble treads, and from spindles to curved glass balustrades, there is no end of options available to create the perfect stair. Whether you are looking for a classical style, or an ultra-contemporary wow factor, any style can be achieved, but the materials used will be the biggest driver of cost, so consider carefully. For a basic kit system, expect to pay in the region of £1-2K, however, keep in mind that most of these systems will only go up to a 1600 mm diameter, limiting them to be used only as a secondary stair (Category A). At the top end of the kit range, a fully specified system with solid hardwood treads and stainless steel barrels and spindles can cost as much as £4K. In contrast, the cost variance for bespoke spiral staircases is much greater and, although starting at around £5K, the introduction of expensive timbers like walnut, or curved glass balustrades, can see prices rise to £20K. Ultimately, a style and budget is available to suit everyone. If you are looking for a versatile, practical and value for money alternative to the tried and tested conventional staircase, the spiral staircase offers the perfect solution. A stylish, symmetrical design, wide range of available materials, and a compact footprint means that when you come to specify your new build or renovation, a spiral staircase should be top of your list.
Mike Edwards is sales executive at Complete Stair Systems