Whether you are planning a whole new staircase or just a refurbishment of your existing stair balustrade, you need to make sure that your stairs comply with current UK building regulations. Many older staircases may not meet today’s standards, so installing new handrails, spindles and newel posts will give you a chance to bring your staircase up to date in terms of safety as well as looks. Here is a short run-down of the main points relating to private domestic stairs that you should be aware of:
The stair pitch, or steepness, is very important for safety. Every step must be level and have the same rise (height) and the same going (depth). For instance, you can’t have 190mm for the first four risers followed by 200mm for the rest, as this would be confusing for the user.
An exception to this rule is if there is a landing halfway up the stairs, in which case each section of the staircase can be treated differently. However, this is not recommended.
These are the permitted measurements:
· The maximum rise, or height, for any step should be 220mm, with the minimum being 150mm.
· Every step has to have a minimum going, or depth, of 220mm, and a maximum going of 300mm.
· The maximum pitch, or steepness, must not exceed 42°.
Believe it or not, there is no recommendation for the minimum width of a domestic staircase. However, to ensure that your stairs are pleasing to the eye and comfortable to use it is best to make the staircase at least 800mm wide, with the optimum recommended width being between 850mm and 950mm.
When it comes to loft conversions, the widely accepted minimum width is 600mm, although between 700mm and 750mm is advised.
On staircases that change direction, you are allowed to make each flight a different width if necessary.
A flight of stairs can include up to 36 risers, or steps, in a straight line. After that, they should change direction by at least 30°. This is to interrupt falls and prevent anyone tumbling a long way down to the bottom of the stairs.
A landing can either be a flat platform where the stairs change direction, or part of the floor at the top or bottom of the staircase. For safety, the landing must be at least as wide and deep as the narrowest part of the stairs. All landings need to be completely level except for the ground floor, where a slight gradient (up to 1:60) is permitted. In addition, no door should be able to swing nearer than 400mm to the front of any step.
There is a minimum head room requirement of 2m at all points both on and off the stairs. In the case of loft conversions the available headroom will meet building regulations as long as the height at the centre of the staircase is at least 1.9m, and does not reduce to less than 1.8m at the side of the stairs.
Some building control officers may be lenient if you are having real trouble with your loft stairs, but you should always check with them before going ahead.
Your stairs must have a handrail on at least one side if the staircase is less than 1m wide, and rail on both sides if the stairs are wider than this. You don’t have to fit a handrail on the first two steps up from the bottom, but after this point you must make sure there is a handrail on any open parts of the staircase to protect people going up and down.
The handrail height needs to be between 900mm and 1000mm as measured from the pitch line to the top of the handrail. (The pitch line is an imaginary line drawn across the tip of the treads showing the slope of the staircase from top to bottom.)
Mind the gap
One of the most important rules, aimed at protecting small children and preventing falls, is that a 100mm sphere must not be able to pass through any opening on a staircase. This means you need to ensure that the spindles, or balusters, are not too far apart, and that any wide gaps between open risers are fitted with riser bars to reduce the size of the openings.
Stair balustrades should also be designed so that children are not encouraged to climb up them. For this reason old-fashioned ‘ranch style’ banisters with horizontal stair rails should be replaced with vertical spindles.
Please note that these rules only apply to homes in England and, for the most part, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has its own set of building regulations.