What You Need to Know for Specifying Stairs and Railings
Is a stringer the same as a riser? Does the stair tread mean the length or the width of the stairs? Do stairs have to be a specific width? These are just a few questions that arise when considering stairs for a client. Though the answers may vary depending on the country where the stairs are going to be built, this article aims to highlight the design choices when it comes to choosing stairs and railings.
Imagining a spiralling staircase or a glass one? Often the aesthetics of the staircase is considered first. While it's good to keep an idea of how you want the staircase to look, what you must consider first is the application, dimensions, the performance requirements, and the specifications for the components of the staircase.
To start your specifications, consider the application of the stairs - are you planning for a commercial, residential, institutional or public project? By defining the location of the stairs, it will determine the building codes that you should follow.
If you're looking for guidance for projects, consult this InspectAPedia article. Alternatively, we've gathered some suggested specifications that will ensure the staircase is as safe as possible for a residential project below:
- First we'll consider the stair tread (run) length which is the horizontal distance from the edge of the stair to the back park where it stops (called the riser). This distance should be a minimum of 10 inches long. Once you determine the length, it's critical to then make the stair tread length identical in order to avoid safety hazards.
- Next, we'll consider the stair riser height which is the distance that a user has to lift their foot from one stair to another. In order to prevent difficulties for users ascending or descending, it's important that the riser measurement should be as possible to identical and an absolute maximum height of 7.75 inches high.
- Consider the stair width next (important to note that this space does not include handrails). To prevent falls and allow adequate room for the user to carry packages up and down stairs, stairs must be a minimum of 3 feet wide.
- One of the last measurements to consider is the headroom of the stairs. Though it seems obvious, you need to ensure that anyone walking up or down the stairs won't have to duck to avoid hitting their head. To prevent safety issues from occurring, consider a clearance of at least 6ft 8 inches as a minimum.
Once you have the measurements for the stairs it's important to consider handrails. Generally handrails are 34 to 38 inches high, have a baluster spacing of no more than 5 inches, and are installed no more than 4.5 inches from either side of the stairs. Of course you must consider your region and municipality building codes to ensure that you adhere to their policies.
After learning about the specifications of stairs and railing, the next step is to apply the specifications to the design process. Finalize a design and keep in mind the functionality of the staircase so that you can appropriately assess the level of durability the staircase will need to have to achieve longevity.