Besides their functional purpose of taking you up to the next level of your home, staircases also serve the purpose of enhancing its style. With a few easy steps, you can also make and install a beautiful staircase for your home.
- Design in accordance to the regulations
Every country has its own regulations that have to be met when a staircase is designed and built. Within the U.S. these regulations also vary between states. The designer must keep in mind the regulations concerning the width of the treads and the spacing of the balusters; these vary if the staircase is for domestic, public or commercial use.
- Take the measurements
Measuring for a staircase will depend on the design that you have decided on and if the staircase will be built on site or will come in pieces to be assembled.
In areas with a limited width the best style to choose is the straight staircase. L-shaped staircases fit well in corners of larger living areas, and the safest stairs are the U-shaped, which require more space, but provide a landing that changes direction.
Whichever design is decided upon, the most important consideration is the even division of the treads so that they are all the same height, otherwise people will trip easily. This measurement is called the vertical or “floor to floor “measurement. This measurement is divided by the number of treads that you have, according to your plan, will give you the exact height for each riser.
The “going” is the measurement from the front face of the first riser to the front face of the last one, and is the horizontal distance that you walk as you scale the staircases.
According to the plan given by the architect, you will know how many risers you will need.
The staircase can now be built according to the measurements.
- Completing the sides and undersides
Once the staircase is complete you will need to cover the underside with plaster board so that it can be plastered. This board should conform to the fire regulations. If the sides of the stairs are to be turned into storage space, then it has to be encased with stud-work. The sides can also be completed with paneling to enhance the look of the staircase and the room where it is built in. Paneling materials are made from all types of wood, decorative boarding and MDF finishes.
- Preparing for the balustrade
The balustrade is there to offer you protection from falls and it supports the handrail. It is supported by the newel posts, one fixed to the base of the staircase, one on the top of the stairs and one opposite that, fixed to the wall.
Deciding on the newel posts and installing them is the next step. There are square and turned newels available and the turned ones need newel bases, where the posts are slotted into. At the end of the installation of the balusters and hand rail, the newel caps can be fitted to the top of each post.
The hand rail and base rail are cut in between and fixed to the newel posts. They have to have a housing that is the same size as the spindle or baluster to be used.
Usually the length of the hand rail and base rail is the same, unless the stairs are cut string, in which case the spindles sit on top of each tread.
When the balustrade is constructed on a landing, the nosing and apron are installed to cover the trimming joist and to hide the ceiling from below. The nosing has to be the same thickness as the flooring and it hides the edge of the flooring from view when going down the stairs. The joint between the flooring and the nosing is covered by the base rail that the spindles will fit into. Not all spindles need a base rail and they can also be installed directly onto the nosing.
- Calculating the spindles
The gaps between spindles can be no wider than 4”at their widest point. Depending on the size of the tread and the spindle, you will either need two or three spindles and they have to look proportional. For most domestic staircases 2 spindles per tread are the norm.
Making the decorative decisions is the fun part of making a beautiful staircase. Besides the shape of the staircase, the material that the treads will be made from and those of the balustrade will determine the end result. Don’t forget the other decorative details like the lighting, wall finishes and any displays that will complete the look.