Staircases come in all sizes, shapes and materials and can be custom made to suit your property. However, it’s important to make sure that your new staircase not only looks great, but that it’s also safe to use – that’s where stair regulations come in.
Building a staircase is often tough on its own, but UK building regulations make this task even harder. Living up to subjective criteria is not easy to swallow but one has no choice but to comply, whenever it is necessary. Luckily for us, these stair regulations for buildings are fairly straightforward for the most part, making the whole process at least a little bit easier.
Staircase building regulations in domestic homes
When it comes to a domestic staircase in the British stair regulations (pdf document) , the definition goes like this: “a stair intended to be used for one dwelling”. This is pretty straightforward wording, meaning that these kind of stairs can only be used for one house or flat and the stairs must be situated in that specific apartment. Because of that, in most building regulations these are called “private stairs”.
Before we dwell into the specifics of stair regulations in the UK , it is important to note that Scotland has its very own guidelines and principles when it comes to stairs, while Wales, Ireland and England shares theirs, or at least when it comes to staircases. Now let’s take a look at some of the most important details that will help us understand the specific circumstances a little bit better. These could very well become the difference between enjoying regulation stairs and paying a hefty fine.
Knowing what kind of headroom or winder you can use is very, very important. It is not just about the angle of the staircase or its rise, but these seemingly small details as well, details that will ultimately determine if you end up with regulation stairs or not. If you want to pass spiral staircase building regulations for example, you will have more homework to do.
- The rise has to fall between 150 and 220mm.
- The going must be between 220mm and 300mm.
- The angle cannot exceed 42 degrees.
These measurements will of course be in direct correlation with each other as well, which means that careful planning is always needed and not just because of the regulations. Ideally, we would like end up with a staircase that not only passes regulation, but practical too.
UK building regulations stairs are no joke. Just an example, if you want to build a regulation staircase, all risers will have to come at the same size. The only exception is when you build a staircase where a landing separates two sets of flights. In that case these two flights can have different rises compared to each other.
When it comes to the width, there is no regulated minimum but obviously a 100mm wide stairway doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Going by common sense and some general rules of architecture, the minimal width that kind of starts making sense, is around 800mm. That’s the minimum, but ideally you would want something around 900 or even 1000mm, where you can not only climb that staircase with comfort but you can actually bring something up on it.
When it comes to the headroom, regulations are once again pretty clear. There must be a minimum of 2000 mm head room at every stage while going up on a staircase. It’s obviously ideal to have even more, but that is the bare minimum from a regulatory standpoint.
- If staircases are less than one metre wide they should have a handrail on at least one side.
- Staircases more than one metre must have handrails on both sides.
- The height of handrails should be between 900 and 100mm.
- Gaps between the handrails should not be big enough to allow a 100mm sphere to pass through them.
The landings can have two purposes. They either act like a turning point where the staircase changes directions (but still continues), or part of the floor at the end of the staircase. Regardless of which you choose, its width at least has to match the narrowest section of the stairs.
- There must be a landing at the top and bottom of every staircase.
- The landing must be wider than the width of the staircase.
- Landings should be level; however, a ground floor landing can have a gradient of no more than 1:20.
The top of the handrails cannot be higher than 1000mm from the staircase and ideally it would fall between 900mm and 1000mm. Anywhere with a drop of more than 600mm, they are mandatory. The distance between the spindles cannot be greater than 99mm.
- You do not need a handrail on the first two steps up
- All the buildings handrail height should be between n 900mm and 1000mm.
- A 100mm diameter sphere cannot pass through any openings.
- All steps must have the same rise (gap between one step and the next).
- The maximum rise of a step should be 220mm.
- The length of the step (referred to as the ‘going’) should be a minimum of 220mm and a maximum of 220mm.
- All steps should be level.
- The edges of steps, referred to as the lip or nosing, should be at least 16mm.
- Open rises, which are steps with a gap between them, should be constructed so that a 100mm sphere can’t fit through them.
Other UK Staircase Building Regulations
- Doors should not open more than 400mm onto the front of any step.
- Domestic staircases shouldn’t be more than 36 steps long; another staircase must be installed separated by a landing if you need more length.
- There must be at least two metres headroom around all parts of the staircase.
- There are no regulations for the minimum width of a staircase.
- For loft conversion staircases, there are some additional building regulations to adhere to: there should be two metres headroom at the top of the stairs. Since the opening into the loft will mean cutting away some of the joists, supporting timber trimmers should be placed around the opening to transfer the weight of the ceiling.
- Spiral staircase building regulations are slightly different. If it acts as your main staircase (meaning it serves two or more rooms), a spiral staircase should be 800mm wide with a maximum rise of 220mm; the length of the steps should be at least 190mm. If the staircase is only a secondary one and serves only one room though, it should be 60mm wide with a rise of 220mm and step length of no more than 145mm.
- The pitch of a domestic staircase (how steep it is) should be a maximum of 42 degrees.
Types of Stairs – Straight, Wide, Arched and Spiral Staircases
Bear all of these regulations in mind when choosing what kind of staircase to install. A straight staircase is the most common and practical option but you can go for winder staircases which have a 90 and 180 degree turn in them. Arched staircases, which curve gently upwards are another option while spiral staircases are also popular for aesthetic appeal; however, they can be dangerous and it’s not recommended that they are used as a main domestic staircase. If you need to save space, compact stairs can be a good option but it’s important to make sure that they comply with building regulations. Speak to a staircase installer or architect for more information about what type of staircase will best suit your property.
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