Different Types of Stairs, Their Pros, and Cons

Different Types of Stairs, Their Pros, and Cons

Stairs are an integral part of up-and-down households, buildings, and other business establishments with two floors or more. In a previous article, we talked about stairway design ideas and how to jazz up your stairs to add oomph, flavor, and personality to them — and ramp up the stairway experience (pun intended). 

This time, let’s focus on the underlying structure underneath the design we see. Let’s go through the different types of stairs you can choose from when designing your space, their advantages, and their disadvantages. 

Straight staircase 

A straight staircase is probably the most basic, common, and simple of all types of staircases. Its parts are usually available pre-cut or pre-fabricated in home stores, making it more affordable than other kinds of stairs in terms of the construction process. 

Advantages: 

  • Doesn’t need any support other than the attachments at the top and bottom 
  • Railings and handrails are easier and faster to install 
  • Easier to dress up because it is one straight line 
  • For the user, it is easier to use when going up and down 
  • Blends in easily with minimalist or simplistic interior design 

Disadvantages: 

  • For the detail-oriented with design and space, they take up more linear space 
  • They do not offer privacy 
  • Dangerous in terms of falling down because one misstep could lead to a long fall 
  • One flight can only accommodate 16 steps. More would require a central landing which will then take up more space.

 L-shaped staircase 

An L-shaped staircase is a flight of stairs with a turn, either in the middle or near the bottom towards the landing or floor. This is also a common design because it takes up less space and is easier to decorate. It is also called the “dog-legged” or “quarter turn” staircase.  

In some cases (and where there is more space), L-shaped stairs are divided into three flights and, therefore, have two turns. This is referred to as the “threefold” stair design. 

Advantages: 

  • The landing can be decorated and even be used as a functional space 
  • Takes up less space and can be placed in corners 
  • There’s a break in climbing up and going down (easier to use) 
  • They serve as a barrier between floors and offer more privacy 
  • They work with acoustics within four walls and help in sound transmission 

Disadvantages: 

  • They are more complex to build and are, therefore, more expensive 
  • They require more materials for turn and landing support 
  • Handrails are more complex to design and construct 

U-shaped staircase 

A U-shaped staircase is a staircase where you do a 180-degree-turn when you climb it at the landing, also called a switchback. Because of this, this stair design is also known as the “switchback” or “half-turn” stairs. 

Advantages: 

  • More visually appealing than a straight staircase 
  • Wider landing which you can have fun with decorating 
  • Can also be installed in corners and are, therefore, space savers 
  • The landing provides extra space and can become a useful nook 

Disadvantages: 

  • They are more difficult to build 
  • The turn may make it difficult to move furniture up and down the stairs 

Winder staircase 

Winder stairs are sort of like L-shaped stairs but — instead of a landing at the turn — there are triangular or pie-shaped steps to keep the flight continuous at the turn. There are no stops. This stair design is making a comeback along with the rising popularity of tiny homes. 

Advantages: 

  • They require less space than the L-shaped stairs and other stair styles 
  • They are visually attractive in that they showcase a “seamless” transition between floors 

Disadvantages: 

  • They are trickier to navigate especially for the accident-prone 
  • They are harder to design and construct handrails for 
  • The turn steps require support like the usual landing and will cost more 

Spiral staircase 

Did we just make you sing, “I love you more today that yesterday!”? Fun, isn’t it? The spiral staircase (namesake of the popular 1960’s pop band) is considered a novelty design that is nice to look at, perfect for small spaces, but can be quite hard to navigate. 

(Let’s put it this way: They are nice to look at but not as nice to go up or down on.) 

Advantages: 

  • It is perfect for lofts (one of those stair designs that fall under “corner stairs”) 
  • It is fun to design and nice to photograph and look at as a design feature 
  • The steps go around a central pole. Hence, this design does not require much in terms of support. 
  • It is easier to construct 

Disadvantages: 

  • Only one person at a time can go up and down 
  • Not for the accident-prone since the inner part of the steps are narrow (the solution is to make the steps wider or to increase the diameter) 
  • Hard to move furniture up and down if it is the only way up and through 

Corner staircase 

Corner stairs are commonly seen outdoors or in decks when a home or building owner wants to maximize the space leading to the entrance or deck and build a “wraparound” staircase with three sides.  

Advantages: 

  • Adds to the access points of the building or home for three-sided stairs 
  • Contributes to the uniqueness of the design in cases where steps leading up a home or establishment are built at the corner instead of the usual middle part of a facade 
  • Can require only one bannister in the middle that can be used for both sides or for each corner 

Disadvantages: 

  • May feel strange to navigate for those not used to this type of stair design 
  • Not for the accident-prone as the sharp corners may cause real damage 

Split staircase 

Nothing can give a home a grander feel than the split staircase, also known as “bifurcated” stairs. It is probably the most common stair design in movies or television series where a character is portrayed as being very rich (think “The Sound of Music” and the Von Trapp home). 

The split staircase can be designed two ways: first, with steps leading to a landing where you find steps to your left or right; second, with two sets of stairs leading up to a landing that leads to one flight of stairs going up. Very fitting for the foyer at the main entrance of a home. 

Advantages: 

  • Makes a grand statement for your home (it is not called the “grand dame of stairs” for nothing) 
  • It can serve as a point of interest in your home, depending on its design 
  • The lines add to the depth of your space and give the illusion of an even bigger space 

Disadvantages: 

  • Large means expensive, with all the support its construction requires 
  • May require a lot of space which not all can afford nowadays 

There you have it: the most common types of stairs and their advantages over the other as well as their disadvantages. Your stair design of choice is completely up to you and however, you wish to maximize your space (and decorate it, for that matter). 

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