Adding a staircase to your home is an important decision. You need to come up with a design that’s not only practical and safe, but that also adds a touch of style. On top of that, you’ll want to make sure that your staircase is in a prominent position that allows for frequent use and easy access. Regardless of whether you’re renovating an older staircase or you’re building a custom-designed staircase, you’ll need to think carefully about the layout, size, and materials needed.
Following this guide will help you to easily learn the staircase building regulations, create a design that’s practical and in an optimal location for your staircase while taking advantage of the benefits that the materials used in the construction of your staircase can provide.
On top of that, we have included some ‘staircase terminology’ to help you better understand one of the most important features inside your home.
Australian Staircase Building Standards
Before you get started building your staircase or contacting staircase builders, it’s important to understand the regulations that the Building Code of Australia has in place surrounding staircases. That way, you can be sure your staircase and balustrades are fully compliant with the appropriate legislation for safe staircase construction and use.
First, staircases can not to have more than 18 risers or less than 2 risers in any one flight. The entire flight of stairs from the lower floor to the upper floor, can contain more risers combined, but it must be divided with landings, of which these landings need to be at least 750mm or more in length (riser to riser) to be deemed as landing. It is important to note that a 90deg or a 180deg winder section is not deemed to be a landing so these will need to be included in your count of 18 risers in each flight.
The next safety requirement you need to keep in mind when building a staircase in your Australian home is that staircases need to have a slope range. The standard & most comfortable angle is usually between 30 to 38.5 degrees for most staircase designs. The table below helps determine the appropriate range for determining these measurements that govern the angle of the staircase.
Additionally, you need to make sure people using the staircase have at least 2000mm clearance (head height) above their heads at any given point along the staircase measured vertically from the front of the tread. That way, they are protected from bumping their heads on the ceiling above as they ascend or descend the stairs.
On top of these requirements, it’s important to note that your staircase is required to be properly maintained to ensure ongoing safety for anyone using the staircase. These regulations are common knowledge to staircase builders and designer staircase manufacturers. This article outlines most important facts you need to know in order to create the perfect staircase.
Determining the Size of Your Staircase
The first step in building your staircase is determining how big or small the stair needs to be to make it work out correctly. Staircase construction requires exact measurements, so you’ll need to start by measuring the overall rise of the stairs. This number should measure the distance from the bottom landing to the top landing. You will need to consider any floor finishes as well that will affect these heights.
From there, you’ll have to figure out how many risers are required. Remember, if you plan on adding more than five risers, you’ll need to add handrails & balustrades as well to prevent a fall. Once you have calculated how many risers your staircase will need, it’s time to calculate the amount of treads you’ll need. You’ll typically need one tread less than you do risers, making this a pretty quick and easy number to calculate.
The final piece of the puzzle when designing your staircase is to work out the length of your staircase flight. The staircase’s “going”, or the distance from the face of one riser to the next, is what governs this length. This going will also affect the width of the turns of the stair whilst determining the overall measurement of your staircase. Most staircases have a width ranging from 900mm to 1150mm.
Choosing The perfect layout and location of your staircase
The best place for a staircase is somewhere that’s close by the front door or nearer to the central part of your home. Eliminating the need to cross multiple rooms to reach the staircase, is always good practice. Ultimately the staircase needs to be practically accessible and to allow an easy flow when transitioning between floors……. And as Designer Staircases have always enforced, “it’s all about the staircase”, so make it the focal point of your home!
Selecting a layout for your staircase plan is the next big step of designing and building the staircase. Space is the key, so to fit a straight staircase into a home or a L-Shaped or U-Shaped staircase, will all require special calculation & design work to ensure the adherence & compliance to the appropriate building codes. Generally, any 90-degree or 180-degree turns as opposed to creating a straight flight, will take up more floor space as the amount of treads that fit in each section of any turn is less than that of a straight flight of treads. The most comfortable way to add a turn into a staircase is to incorporate a landing into the stair in place of winders.
You may have the need for a change in direction in your staircase by means of a winder section. This is a change in direction that is formed typically to handle a 90-degree or 180-deg turn. Staircase winder sections can have either 2 or 3 winders in a 90-degree turn, or 4 to 6 treads in a 180-degree turn. Winders and are used to navigate corners or turns at the top, middle and bottom of staircases. Be aware that the greatest number of winders that can be used in any 90-degree turn is 3 winders, hence a maximum of 6 winders for a 180deg turn.
Staircase Design Features
Part of the excitement of a custom staircase design is that you’re able to add unique features that improve the safety of the stairs while also adding excitement to the house. You can opt to add storage space to your staircase design or to have your staircase builders create stunning balustrades, added width, or other aesthetic features.
Integrated storage units can allow you to add an under stairs cupboard to keep your belongings safe and take up less space. And luckily, these can be added during standard staircase renovations so if you’re looking to redesign, keep this in mind as it is usually an easy addition to incorporate.
You could also choose to add round or square bullnoses, wide landings, feature steps or podiums to the bottom of the staircase, a stylized balustrade, or incorporate materials such as metal, glass and stainless steel to help make your staircase pop. Just be aware of the following
- that the largest opening in any balustrade design is to be no more than that of a 125mm sphere.
- The height of the level rail balustrade above any level floor needs to be a minimum of 1000mm from finished floor level
- The height of the rake handrail measured vertically above the tread and riser line, needs to be a minimum of 865mm.
These guides and reference to the Building Code of Australia is intended as reference only. Along with the staircase you engage, your architect, draftsperson or building certifier would be able to confirm these above guidelines for your individual applications and governing areas. While every care has been taken in providing the correct information, Designer Staircases can accept no liability for any loss or damage, however occurring, arising out of the use of or reliance on this general guide.
Also be aware that these guidelines and Building Codes may change from time to time, and there may be State or local variations to these Codes, this guide may neither reflect the requirements currently applicable to building work in your area or state so please confirm these before proceeding.