The stairs are architectural elements that provide vertical access to buildings with two or more floors. The design of each staircase should meet the building code regulations of an area and should cater to all types of users in a building. Moreover, different stair styles can be used to help enhance the overall design of buildings.

The origin of the stairs is uncertain, but it has been present in structures in ancient civilisations as simple steps. A prime example is the structures in ancient Mayan architecture like Chichen Itza, a massive complex comprised of temples and palaces with a large flight of stairs.

Stair Parts

A stair is a term that may pertain to a whole flight of steps used for every floor. A step in a stair comprises of a riser and a tread. Each set of stairs have a different number of steps depending on the calculations and height of each floor. The tread is the part where we set our food on, while the risers are the space between each tread. Handrails may or may not be present depending on the material used for baluster, which is a post or barrier to protect people from falling on the side of the stairs.

Building regulations for stairs

A private stairway is a term used to refer to stairs that are in houses, while a common stairway pertains to the stairs that are used publicly, such as in commercial buildings. Stair regulations in New Zealand vary in height, as it relies on the angle of which the stairs should be on. Common stairways and main private stairways should have a maximum of a 37-degree angle with a minimum of 280mm in tread and 190mm maximum for risers. While the accessible stairways should have a maximum angle of 32-degrees with 310mm minimum length for tread, and a 180mm maximum for the risers.

Types of Stairs

Modern architecture interior with elegant wooden stairs and glass balustrade

Different stair designs can fit commercial or residential buildings alike. Each stair style and design placement can also be dependent on the size of the space.

Straight stairs are as forward as it can be — it has no twists or turns, which leads to different levels of floors directly. A straight stair’s construction needs generous floor space.

L-shaped stairs or quarter-turn is a style that has a 90-degree turn and a landing in between flights. It is used to save the amount of space if it is placed on a corner of a room.

U-shaped stairs, also known as half-turn, is also a space-saving solution for stairs. It is almost similar to the L-shaped stair; the only difference is that the flight is cut in half and runs parallel to each other. A landing is also present in U-shaped stairs as separation and rest between the flight of stairs.

Winder stairs are kind of like the quarter-turn, except that there are no landings. Instead, a wedge-shaped tread is placed for continuous steps in the stairs. Winders are different from curved stairs because the curved style has a fanned-out step laid out in a semi-circle or an arc, which does not have a sharp turn as the winder.

A spiral stair is also an option in stair design which is the most space-saving of all. This design is practically used in small spaces to maximise square footage.

The stair helps to provide access between floors and completes a look of buildings if designed correctly. Stairs can also be used to showcase the ingenuity and craftsmanship of a designer aside from its utilitarian purpose.