Guidelines to Create a Beautiful and Functional Staircase

Beautiful and Functional Staircase

While functionality always trumps aesthetics when designing a staircase, it remains ideal to turn this into an interesting architectural structure. After all, now, more than ever, we spend more time at home, making it almost a sacrosanct rule to make it into a safe, beautiful haven in this time of pandemic. 

But before we share the tips on how to turn your staircase into a stunning architectural element of your house, we must first delve into the “safety measurements” required by the building code. 

Safety Standard for Stairs 

The stairway width, tread depth, and riser height are determined by building codes to make it as safe and “predictable” as possible. 

iStairs, a staircase contractor in Sacramento, shares the safety standard for residential stairs, although these “measurements” allow some flexibility that they come in minimums and maximums. 

The staircase width should be at least 36 inches

The minimum staircase width, which refers to the horizontal distance, is 36 inches–excluding the handrails. This allows two persons to descend side by side, which is important during an emergency evacuation (in the event of fire, for example). 

Staircase tread or run depth should be at least 10-11 inches

The minimum tread depth, which also refers to the horizontal surface, is 10 inches in the open riser staircase (i.e., there is vertical space between the adjacent treads) or 11 inches in solid risers (i.e., the stairs between the treads are enclosed with a solid piece). This safety measure ensures enough room for the foot to rest on the stair, especially during descent. 

Also, building codes suggest that the tread depth should be consistent with each step, with the biggest one cannot be more than ⅜ inch greater than the smaller one. 

The maximum staircase riser height is 7 ¾ inches

This refers to the vertical part of a step or the distance you move your foot from one step to the next. To further make it safer, all treads should be identical or at least should have no variation greater than ⅜ inch.  

(Note: For seniors, risers that are 7 inches or less allow them to continue their independent living for longer, according to one survey.)

There should be staircase landings

Every staircase should have a landing at the bottom and top that cannot be narrower than the width of the stairs. 

There should be sufficient headroom

The minimum headroom, which is the vertical distance between the stair treads and the ceiling above, is 6 feet and 8 inches to allow [most] people to use the staircase without having to duck down. 

There should be a handrail

As a critical element of stair safety, a handrail must be at least 30 inches above the landing floor.

Making Your Staircase a Stunning Feature

Now that we’ve covered the staircase safety measurements, we can proceed with the simple tips on making it a stunning architectural element. 

Use a stair runner

Bare wood and smooth concrete staircases are a major safety hazard, especially if the step is wet or when a person tends to run around in socks. 

To create a stunning effect, make sure that your carpet shows around 4 inches of bare wood on either side of the tread and it covers the end and bottom of the last rise.

Choose a color based on your home decor

If you’re into modern and industrial design, a good rule of thumb is to paint your rail guard and balusters in a way that they match the surrounding decor. You can also opt for a gray-and-white or black-and-white combination. 

For a more classic effect, opt for an all-white or all-black balustrade to create a seamless flow up and down the stairs. Other neutral tones can also help you achieve timeless elegance. 

But if you’re someone with a more eclectic or bohemian style, your best bet is to use bold or cheerful color combinations. One rule you may want to consider is to paint the handrail with the deepest tone and then apply the remaining colors to the balusters, one color for each. Then, paint the top baluster with the second darkest hue and work your way to the lightest as you move down to create a waterfall effect. 

Create drama with lights

Adequate lighting not just prevents trips and falls but also creates an impact on the look and feel of your staircase. And while nothing beats natural light (coming from windows and skylights), the way many of our homes are designed, the stairs are situated in dark corners. 

For any staircase, the safety design requires a wall switch at each floor level to control the light source. 

Another option is to install motion sensor lights that will turn on automatically once it detects a person nearby. 

To create more drama, you may also consider LED rope lighting, which you can embed in the handrails or the base of the steps. 

To learn more about creating stunning and safe staircases, contact iStairs at (916) 853-1499 or visit their showroom at 11270 Pyrites Way, Gold River, California, situated around 30 minutes east of Sacramento. 

iStairs is a residential and commercial stair contractor that designs, installs, and remodels staircases that meet building codes and safety standards. They also sell high-quality parts to DIYers who want to remodel their stairs by themselves.