Spiral Stairway to heaven

Spiral Staircases are going through a renaissance as architects and developers alike begin to realise their worth in new builds. Complete Stairs Systems discuss the uses of this often overlooked household feature.

Despite having been in existence for hundreds of years, spiral staircases are often overlooked by architects, housebuilders and developers alike as a viable option for a staircase in a new home. This is largely due to the myth and misconception that surrounds them of being complicated, difficult to use staircases. However, the reality is that spiral staircases are versatile, practical and efficient. Whether you are designing and building a single person studio, a family home or an executive apartment, there will be a spiral staircase that can be specified accordingly, and available at a price that suits.

Now, with space being at more of a premium than ever before, even with conventional staircases being the traditional solution for many developers, spiral staircases are increasingly being used to provide more of a space saving solution, in turn freeing up much needed floor space.

For a spiral staircase that meets modern building regulations, as a main or primary staircase, the overall diameter will be in the area of just 1850 – 1900mm, yet this will still easily provide the minimum required 800mm of clear tread width. Moreover, their layout is such that they can be very easily accommodated within a modern property – even in an open plan setting. While spiral staircases can be small in stature, they can also be beautiful in form, and this is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of this style of staircase. They can add style and appeal to any home – giving that all important wow factor to a new property. Best of all, because it is the structure that achieves this, you do not have to have a big budget to create this effect.

An important point to note is that the use of a spiral does not just have to be restricted to a main stair. For example, if converting an existing building in to new dwellings – perhaps an old country house or former office block – a spiral can be brilliantly effective at liberating space that otherwise could not be accessed with the use of a conventional stair. For example, this might be an additional bedroom in a loft space, or storage in an unused basement. In turn, this should certainly help with improving the value, saleability and return on a property. This is especially so as in these types of scenarios, building regulations permit a smaller size of stair – just 600mm clear tread width. This translates in to a diameter of between just 1450 and 1500mm.

Whatever size of spiral staircase you opt for, there are two basic things to remember: a spiral staircase has to be completely un-obstructed. It is not possible for them to sit under floors. The opening will need to be bigger than the diameter of the staircase by 100mm. For example, a 1,500mm diameter spiral should sit in an opening of at least 1,600mm diameter or 1,600mm2. This gives all important ‘knuckle gap’ on the outside of the handrail as it passes through the floor, and also allows a sensible amount of tolerance.

Any developer will want to maximise the appeal of their property on the housing market, and one of the biggest concerns with spiral staircases is that they are not as practical or safe as a conventional stair, and therefore will limit the desirability of a new home. Fortunately, this could not be any further from the truth. When it comes to practicality, not only do spiral staircases occupy less space but, just like a conventional staircase, they have consistent tread goings and, within reason, can be designed to any size. When it comes to safety, a spiral staircase is an equally sound proposition. Not only can they be specified to comply fully with all relevant building regulation requirements, a variety of additional features can be added to make them even safer. Such items include non-slip details on the treads, closed risers (no gap between the treads), a centre column handrail (in addition to the balustrade handrail), and even child gates can be provided.

For any developer, time will also be a major factor. The installation of a conventional staircase can be made difficult and time consuming by the fact that it needs to run alongside walls. Of course, if those walls are not at exact angles or the plastering is not completely smooth, then fitting the staircase can become a real headache – often requiring rectification works in order to make the staircase fit. With a spiral staircase, the nature of its free standing structure means that the surrounding walls cease to be a consideration. This not only makes installation much faster, but also a lot cleaner.

In terms of pricing, the range is huge with £700 to £800 being the starting point for a basic secondary use spiral, rising all the way to £15,000 and more for a large high spec primary spiral staircase – perhaps with glass or walnut treads with curved glass balustrade. It is also important to mention that finish is a big factor in the cost of a spiral. When it comes to the treads and handrail, timber is a popular choice, with beech, oak and walnut the most common hardwoods available. For the balustrade, spindles are often viewed as being most practical; curved glass, acrylic or steel panels are also options, but will tend to attract quite a premium. The steel structure of the spiral is also available in a wide range of finishes from mild steel powder coated through to stainless steel.

In summary, a spiral staircase will create a stylish, safe and practical feature in any property – helping it to stand out from the rest on the market, whilst saving time, space and money at the same time.