One of the most defining architectural characteristics of a home is the staircase. Stairs can be built in many different ways, from many different materials, serving many different functions. In fact, the function of a staircase will do a lot to define its style. There is a big difference between a rarely-used basement stairwell and a grand entryway with a spiral staircase. The combination of style, function, and material make up the many possibilities of stair design.
Types of Stairs
There are a myriad of stair designs. However, most stair designs fall into one of four categories: circular, winding (on a radius), double-backs (90 degree turn with a landing), straight, and spiral. Straight staircases are the easiest and most inexpensive to build and, subsequently, the most common type of staircase. However, spiral and double-back staircases are relatively cost effective and make better use of space. Double-backs are popular because they facilitate an under-stair closet for storage.
How They're Made
Whether it be carpet or hardwood, what your stairs are made from is essential to overall design. Typical materials include hardwood, carpet (over rough-framed treads and risers), and wrought iron. Hardwood and iron stairs are usually custom designs and go well with ornamental, open floor plans. They are often combined as well; think hardwood treads with a wrought iron railing. Carpet is the more economical option, but typically requires the stairwell to be closed off.
Again, the design possibilities are endless. If you are building new, the stair design should flow with the overall design of the house. Location is also important. For example, a lot more time and energy should be put into an entry staircase as opposed to a basement staircase which will handle rare, utilitarian foot traffic.
Building and stair codes are incremental to stair design. If creativity with stair design is limited by anything, it is these rules and regulations. There are specific rules that govern tread and riser height and width, among others. Be aware of all such rules before attempting any stair design. Such rules and important safety concerns regarding stairs keep stair building to professionals. Your remodeling contractor should be well aware of these stair codes.
Lighting is another concern with stair design. Letting in natural light is a great way to accentuate your design and save on electricity needs by not requiring a stairwell light. Skylights are often used to fulfill this need, although custom windows that run the angle of the stairs are a creative way to add some light.
As you can see, there are quite a few possibilities in stair design. Basically, keep safety and flow of your home as a whole in mind. Typically, stairs are built by woodworkers or finish carpenters. However, if your design is a simple one, you can order modular stairs from a factory that can be shipped to and assembled in your home. Even in modular situations, it is best to leave the assembly for a professional.
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