What are the Hazards in Stairways?

Stairways are very useful; however, they can be hazardous because it can cause falls and injury to its user. Preventing untoward accidents on stairs boils down to knowing what makes it hazardous in the first place. If your house is equipped with a staircase, it is vital that you learn how to make it safe in order to prevent future accidents.

Hand Rails

If your staircase does not have hand rails, this will pose a big threat to the elderly and the children. Hand rails are very important in the event of tripping, slipping, or falling. In those cases, hand rails are used to hold on to prevent serious injuries. Ensure that your staircase is equipped with a durable hand rail that is installed properly.

What are the Hazards in Stairways?

Objects left in the Staircase

More often than not, you can find some objects left lying around or in the stairway; you can see bikes and shoes among the many things people leave there. All of these pose a hazard as they can be the reason why you will trip over or slip, thereby resulting to a fall or injury. This is primarily the reason why it is important that you must not leave any objects in the stairwell, most especially if you are not alone in the house.

Stairway Lighting

All stairways must have lights to guide the users when the room gets dark to prevent any untoward accidents such as trips and slips. Note that having poor lighting may easily cause accidents. Make sure that you have good light fixtures in your stairway that will allow excellent visibility.

Poor Quality Stairs

Stairs that are made of poor quality are another hazard in stairways. Stairs need to be maintained and checked if there are any loose boards or nails that stick out that can cause injuries. You might step on weak stair boards or protruding nails or you may trip over boards that are not secured properly. Therefore, perform regular checkups to make sure that there aren’t any risks factors for injuries.

Spills

Spills can happen anytime in stairways. These spills can cause you to lose your balance when walking up or down the stairs. This often happens a lot in buildings that have an entry-type stairway; spills may be primarily due to wet shoes or wet umbrella that can leave water behind. If you see any spill or liquid on your staircase, you should clean it up immediately to prevent any injuries.

Handicap Solutions for Stairs

Staircases are a real challenge for those who are handicapped primarily because they are very difficult to climb up to when you are not physically able to do so. Thankfully, most business establishments are required to provide handicap accessible stairs and solutions. There are various options to provide handicapped people the convenience to climb up another flight. Some of which may be more expensive and convenient than the other options; which is why it is important that you should choose wisely.

Handicap Solutions for Stairs

Elevators

Elevators are the most costly solution for handicapped individuals at home or office; however, they are actually the most cost-efficient solution for the handicapped to move from one level of the building to another. Handicapped individuals doesn’t need to go out of their wheelchairs or have to deal with sitting or standing; they just simply have to go inside the elevator and push the button of the floor they want to go to.

In most business establishments and stores nowadays, there are elevators that are strictly for handicapped individuals only; this is primarily the reason why going up and down from one floor to the next is not an issue for these individual.

Handicap Solutions for Stairs

Handicap Chair Lifts

Handicap chair lifts are costly, but they offer helpful solutions for those who have large staircases at home or business establishments. These mechanical devices are set up along the side of the staircase; they can be hooked into the wheelchair or they may have a seat that conveniently carries people up the stairs. They are considered to be the most cost-efficient solution for large indoor staircases so that the handicapped can be independent and free to move between one floors to another.

Ramps

Ramps are similar to the staircase; they are built diagonally, but smoothly (eliminating the need of the steps on the stairs). They are difficult to build because the ability of the handicapped individual to manually push himself up would mean that they need to at the right gradient. In fact, short staircases with only several steps may need a longer ramp; the length of the ramp primarily depends on how quickly the stairs rise from the ground to the top. This factor must be considered when building a ramp since it can be costly and it may require a big space.

Handicap Solutions for Stairs

Several ramps wrap around so that they will be able to rise slowly over a long distance, but not utilize too much space in the home or establishment. They are usually made out of cement or wood and are relatively easy to build.

What are the Different Types of Stairways?

There are different designs for stairways available today that will suit the needs of your home or building; they can be created according to cost and convenience. Whatever the design may be, all of them still serve one main purpose. That is to give access to the floors above.

What are the Different Types of Stairways?

Types of Stairways

  • Open Risers
    Majority of the stairways we see are closed risers; that is, there is a solid material in between the spaces of the treads. Stairways that are designed with open risers don’t have this solid material, the spaces in between are left uncovered. This type of design is commonly seen in buildings that are styled by modern interior designers. It can be both dramatic and attention-catching. They are usually found in large houses because open risers are not space-efficient.
  • Spiral Stairway
    Spiral stairways are a popular choice in small spaces. They are made up of wedge-shaped steps that are attached to an axis. Compared to other stairs, the footprint of this type of stairway is circular. They can be designed with hand rails or enclosed with walls. Spiral stairways are ornate types of stairways. Their main disadvantage is the inconvenience of moving huge objects up and down the stairs. They are also not ideal for the elderly and the children, or those that have problems with mobility.
  • Split Stairway
    The most common type of stairway found in many residential homes is the split stairway. This type of stairway consists of 2 short runs of straight stairways that are connected to a landing. These two runs will be joined in a right angle and can be placed in the corner area of the house; or they could be in opposite directions, with the landing that provides a 180-degree turn. This is also recommended for those who have little space at home.
  • Straight Stairway
    The easiest type of stairway that one can build and use is said to be the straight stairway. This is primarily because it is made up of a straight run stairs that would bring you all the way to the next floor from the lower floor. This is not usually seen in many residential homes primarily because it would require more uninterrupted wall space; thus, they aren’t efficient in terms of space conservation. However, when it comes to moving large objects like furniture, straight stairways are more convenient compared to the other types; this is largely attributed to how they are constructed.

Safety Guidelines for Staircases

Staircases should be built according to your area’s building codes. In the US, these codes have significantly changed over the past decades. This is primarily the reason why it is important that you check the updated versions of it. This article will talk about safety features in stairs per the 2010 regulations; these include head clearance, nose dimensions, tread and riser dimensions and their variations, and the railings.

The Typical Design of a Residential Staircase

Residential staircases should approximately 36 inches wide with each tread having an 11-inch width and a riser that has a 7-inch height; this is commonly referred to as the 7-11 rules in stairs. Note that the dimensions of the tread and riser may deviate from the approved design specifications by at least 3/16 inch.

Staircases should have at least a minimum of 6 feet and 8 inches headroom (which is the shortest distance between any part of the tread and whatever it is found above. According to a survey, some of the dimensions of the staircases in most household are considered illegal. Thus, when you are in doubt about your staircase, you should inquire your local government about the updated building codes.

Safety Guidelines for Staircases

Number of Steps in a Staircase

There is no specific building code as to the minimum or maximum number of steps in one staircase; however, the distance of one floor to the next should not exceed 12 feet. Note that your stair’s landing has its specific code; it must be at least 36 inches by 36 inches. Thus, if your staircase is wider than 36 inches, the landing should have the same width.

Safety Guidelines for Staircases

Regulations for Noses

The nose is the part that extends past the riser of the stairs. Although there are no regulations as to the minimum or maximum distance of the farthest portion of the nose to the riser, most builders will extend it to approximately 1 to 1 ½ inch.

There is a common misunderstanding, however, with the relation of the nose and the minimum width of the tread. That is, whatever the distance of the nose from the riser is will be deducted from the tread’s calculated legal length. Thus, if you have a staircase that has a 12 inch length tread with a 1 ½ inch nose, the tread’s legal length will only be 10 ½ inches (which is half an inch less than the minimum requirement). Note that nose overhangs may only deviate to 3/8 inch at most.

Hand Rails and Guard Rails

The current requirement for guard rails should be at least 42 inches in height. The hand rail, on the other hand, must be at least 36 inches to 38 inches at most. Although the design may look awkward, it is sensible since younger generations nowadays are growing taller.

Balusters and Openings

Balusters are that part of the staircase that holds up the hand rail; more often than not, there is one baluster for every one tread. According to the recent building code regulations, the distance between one baluster to another must not be more than 4 inches or from the tread to the nose. This only signifies two things: treads should not feature open backs; the riser should be solid or designed in a way that a 4 inch ball cannot pass from rolling off from the back of the tread. Aside from that, this would also mean that it is much harder to design a legal stairs that have vertical balusters; you would need to have at least 2 balusters per tread or at 4 inch ball may roll in between them. Modern designs have centered into functional vertical supports with a series of pipes and cables that are parallel to the hand rail, ensuring that they are spaced on 4-inch centers.

Hand Rail Profiles

There are many building code regulation as to the possible hand rail profile of a staircase at home. With circular hand rails, however, it is required that it should not exceed more than 2 inches in diameter and not less than 1 and ¼ inch. But if it is not circular, the total surface area of the hand rail must not be more than 6 inches and not less than 4 inches. Special profiles have requirements as well; thus, if you choose to design hand rails uniquely, you must consult your local government first.

Designing a Staircase

One of the most difficult projects when it comes to designing your home is probably designing the staircase, most especially if you choose to use steel as its main material. First and foremost, you need to use a modeling program that would take things in perspective; it is recommended to use a 3D modeling type to give a more realistic image of your plans. However, whatever it is that you decide in, you must let an engineer or architect to review your plans to ensure that you are in accordance with the safety codes in your area.

Designing a Staircase

Steps on How to Design a Steel Staircase

  • Firstly, you need to take your needs into consideration. If you are residing in a studio-type home or a small loft, a staircase that has multiple uses, such as a shelf or a dresser, is recommended. But if you want something that is a decorative in nature, steel spiral staircases should be considered. It is important to note that these stairs may have specific requirements in some states; in fact, in some areas, stairs like these are not allowed. Thus, you should check the building codes in your area. Steel stairs are ideal in areas with heavy traffic; however, it should be well-textured to prevent people from slipping.
  • Determine the measurement of your space. To put it simply, measure the opening to the next floor; the distance of the ceiling and the floor; as well as the measurement of available space that surrounds the stairs. Note that some stair design may take up a large amount of space to ensure that the people can use them comfortably. It is also important that you determine the measurements according to how you will set up your stairs.
  • Look for images of beautiful stair; do not just settle with the traditional steel steps. Search for general stair design images or other things that you think looks good on your home.
  • Determine the measurement and distance from one step to another; make sure that it is comfortable for you to step in. This measurement typically varies according to your age, weight, as well as your height. One way to do this is to use a measuring tape that would measure the steps that you are comfortable with as you go on with your normal day. Or, you may also measure the steps that you aren’t comfortable with in case your acceptable measurements are not feasible; by doing so, you can determine how much window of space you have before you feel uncomfortable.
  • Determine the measurement of the depth of steps. Measuring the depth of the steps will provide you enough space in the event that you accidentally slip; as this extra space will aid you in catching yourself.
  • Design your stairs with textural elements like bumps, slots, or ridges with the edge of the steps. Steel staircases have the tendency to be slippery when it becomes wet. These elements enable you to slow down your movements and reduce the chances of you slipping out.
  • The drafts of your designs should be presented to an engineer or architect to ensure that the materials used and the design is feasible and safe.

Tips on Childproofing your Stairs

If you have a child at the house, it is very important to keep your stairway safe for them. When childproofing a stairway, it is important for parents to think like toddlers. Note that toddlers are very curious, they often attempt to do things that are beyond their developmental skills, such as moving up and down a long staircase. According to a study conducted by One Step Ahead, there are approximately 2.5 children deaths or injuries at home per year. This is primarily the reason why installing child safety devices in your stairs are very important.

Tips on Childproofing your Stairs

Steps in Childproofing your Stairway

  • Install baby gates at the top and the bottom levels of your stairway. This helps in preventing babies and toddlers from any accidents including falling down the stairs. Aside from that, it will also prevent your child from cruising up and down the stairs without your supervision. Baby gates can be bought from your local hardware. Make sure that you choose gates that are durable to ensure longevity.
  • Determine the measurement of the distance between the banister posts on the stairs. According to Safe Start Baby, the hand rails must be less than 3.5 inches apart. If necessary, you should install a banister shield to help prevent your child from sticking their heads out to the posts.
  • Install a small hand rail that is approximately 36 inches high for children to use as soon as they start to climb up and down the stairs. Brackets should also be used to secure the hand rails into the wall. The hand rails and brackets can also be bought at a building supply store in your area.
  • Secure the hand railings for children into the studs of the wall.
  • It is important to note that you must do away of using pressure-mounted baby gates at the top portion of your stairs. Toddlers might be able to push the gate over which may cause them to fall.

Hiding a Safe in your Stairway

Valuables must be kept in the most secure location of the house; preferably in an area that is not the first thing a thief will think of. More often than not, when a thief enters the home, he will search in the typical locations of your valuables. Their desire to move in and out of your house fast won’t lead them to think and look for your secret hiding spots, such as your stairs. Turning your uncarpeted staircase into secret drawers for the safekeeping of your valuables and not sharing this information to any one will surely keep them out of sight and out of mind.

Hiding a Safe in your Stairway

How to Make a Safe Hidden

  • Remove the tread off the stairs with a pry bar carefully. The tread is a part of the stairs where you are actually stepping on.
  • Remove the kick plate, otherwise known as the riser, off the stair through the use of a hammer. This kick plate is the part of the stair that your toes might actually touch or hit while you are climbing up the stairs.
  • Use a measuring tape to determine the measurement of your kick plate. Note that your drawer size should be at least half an inch narrower than your kick plate on the sizes, and at least a quarter shorter on the top and bottom portions.
  • Cut a quarter inch plywood for your drawers. You may need at least 5 pieces for a drawer: the front, back, bottom, and the sides. Again, the height of your drawer must be a quarter shorter than the kick plate that you have just removed. Make sure that the drawer is long enough to keep a flat safe.
  • Use a wood glue to secure the edges of the pieces of wood that will serve as the bottom portion of your drawer. Press the sides and back into the glue.
  • Using small nails, attach to pieces of wood to the bottom and to the adjoining wood piece. Make sure to space the nails at least 1 inch apart.
  • The kick plate must be glued to the front portion of the drawer. Nail it to the bottom and the sides from the back, thereby making the nails reach the kick plate; at the same time, ensuring that the heads aren’t visible from the outside.
  • Carefully secure the tracks of the drawer glides onto the sides of the stairs, as well as the wheeled strips along the sides of the drawer using nails. It might be simpler if you install the tracks using a nail gun rather than a hammer. These drawer glides ensure that you will be able to open and close the drawers; it prevents it from falling off the empty space at the back portion of the stairs as well.
  • Fold two pieces of long ribbon in half for you to create a drawer pull for your safe. Secure the ribbons to the back portion of the kick plate using a tack. The ribbon pieces should be short enough to prevent them from extending over the tread and long enough that you can grab them with your fingers to open the drawer.
  • Replace the tread of your stairs with the kick plate drawer.
  • Set your slim safe drawer inside it and close.

Tips on Using the Stairway Safely

Everyone, at any age, is at high risk for accident when using the stairway. According to the report of the National Safety Council, there are 12,000 stairway-related deaths in a year. At this rate, stair-related accidents place second only to car accidents as the cause of injuries in the US. Injuries, falls, and deaths by stairway use can be prevented by some stairway safety guidelines.

Tips on Using the Stairway Safely

Guidelines on How to Safely Use the Stairway

  • Pay particular attention to the height and width of the steps; it is important to note that stairway steps actually vary from each other. Mentally estimate the distance of each step for you to determine how high you should raise your leg and where you will place your foot. This helps ensure that you will safely land on the next step.
  • As much as possible, avoid going up or down the stairs when you’re in your stocking or socked feet loose shoes, or floppy slippers. If you are wearing a long dress, lift it up a little and make sure that your high heeled shoes are strapped on properly.
  • Always make use of the hand rails. Know that it is actually installed so that you will be guided while you are on your way up or down the stairs. In the event that you lose your balance, hold firmly to the hand rails to keep you from falling down.
  • Do not allow toys, laundry, shoes, or shopping bags to be cluttered in and around the stairways.
  • Take your time when you are using the stairway. Note that the risk of falls and injury increases when you are moving in a rush and you’re not paying attention to what you are doing.
  • Do not be distracted. Avoid talking to someone, reading, or using your mobile phone.
  • In a public area, pay particular attention to the foundation and the condition of the stairway. Look for any warning signs that are posted that will tell you whether they still being worked on for repairs.
  • When it is dark, make sure to turn on the lights when you are moving up and down the stairs. Having a well-lit stairway will decrease the risk of any fall or injuries.
  • If you are using a cane or crutches or if you are suffering from medical conditions that make it difficult for you to use the stairs, ask for assistance. Do not leave the elderly or children unsupervised when using the stairs.

FengShui Tips on Stairways

In the world of architecture, staircases are convenient and appealing. However, if you are a believer of FengShui, they can be a problem. FengShui Times says the creation of holes in floors of a building through stairways is potentially harmful; they refer to this as “sha chi”. In order to make sure that the stairway won’t add to this negative energy, you should position it properly, decorate it, and maintain it as well.

Stairs Aligning Doors

In FengShui, stairways shouldn’t be situated fronting the entrance of a house. According to Indobase, the Chi will go directly up to the next flight, thereby leaving only low levels of Chi on the ground floor. It is highly recommended that you rearrange the mirrors, screens, wind chimes, and potted plants along the stairway to slow the movement of the Chi. According to FengShui expert Jon Sandifer, a heavy statue must be placed at the base of the stairway to ensure more stability.

FengShui Tips on Stairways

Auspicious Stairway

FengShui has its idea of how stairways are most favorable. According to Jon Sandifer, stairways must not be an open riser type as this will obstruct the flow of the Chi. The best type of stairway is a curved stairway (which is different from the spiral type) without any edges. You may choose to have a landing half way up the stairs to help calm the upward and downward movement of the Chi.

FengShui Tips on Stairways

Stairway Maintenance

FengShui places great importance to stairway maintenance. It is vital to keep the stairway regularly brushed or vacuumed to ensure safety and smooth flow of the Chi. Staircases must also be well-lighted and they should also have hand rails to ensure and promote safety. Installation of a skylight would benefit in improving the light and the movement of the Chi in your house.

FengShui Tips on Stairways

Space beneath the Stairs

If you have an open space under your stairs, it is very important that you keep it free from clutter to ensure good movement of the chi; promoting smooth and continuous flow. If you choose to use this area as storage space, it would be best that you install cabinets to make them look organized and neat. You may also transform it into a decorative area by growing houseplants there. According to Indobase, “placing plants underneath the stairs will deflect Chi to the second floor, allowing the energy to flow continuously”.

Factors to Consider with Staircase Designs

There are new designs in stairs available today that you can choose from. It is very important that your choice of design should serve your purpose. Although the “best design” is subject to your preference and taste, there are actually certain functions and features that you need to consider when designing and building a quality staircase at home or at any building per se. You need to consider certain factors such as safety, aesthetic, and space.

Factors to Consider with Staircase Designs

Factors to Consider when Designing a Staircase

  • Safety
    It is not an argument that the best staircase is something that is safe. However, “safety” would largely vary according to the users of the stairs. For instance, a young adult might find it easy to use a staircase that has no railings. Meanwhile, children or the elderly may find navigating through a rail-less staircase without support. The sturdiness of a staircase is also a factor that you need to consider. Building a quality staircase according to building codes and well-laid plans are the keys to ensuring the durability, longevity, as well as safety of your stairs.
  • Unique Design
    The “designing stage” is probably the most exciting stage in a staircase project. It is important to note that you should be working with an architect in this stage to determine what materials you should use and how much space you can use or conserve. If you have a small space, a spiral or vertical staircase might be ideal. However, in areas that have open spaces, design options are limitless. The design may make use of the entire wall, featuring varying treads, or additional storage space underneath the stairs.
  • Simple yet Extraordinary Designs
    The best staircase design is styled simply but extraordinarily. They may be designed to blend in with the surroundings to show off the same theme as the rest of the building. Traditional stair case design and coloring, on the other hand, will definitely work best in colonial buildings and saltbox houses. Another option is to build a staircase that doesn’t blend in; a staircase that would surely capture one’s attention. This type of staircase could be the main attraction of a room. With elegant details, these staircases frequently feature thick balusters with carvings. Ornate stairs are ideal for buildings and houses that are of Victorian or Tudor designs.
  • Taste and Preference
    It is important to note that what may be best for you might not be best for another person. This is primarily the reason why it would be best that you design it according to the purpose it would serve. Designs and styles should come after safety and efficiency of the staircase.