Take your stairs for a spin

Michael Edwards of Complete Stair Systems shares his expert advice on choosing a spiral staircase for your new build or refurbishment project

With so many choices available, choosing a spiral staircase can seem like a daunting task, but it is often much easier than you might think. One of the most important factors to consider is the intended use of the
spiral staircase. With a spiral staircase being suitable for both internal and external use, knowing whether you want to use it to access a small external balcony or create an impressive main feature staircase within your home will help you initially narrow the range of options available to you.

Aside from their unique sculptural form, spiral staircases are often attractive for their space saving qualities. While it is true that a spiral staircase will generally have a smaller footprint than a conventional or ‘straight’ staircase, it is important to make your building designer or architect aware of your desire for a spiral staircase. The reason for this is that the opening for a spiral staircase is very different to that of a conventional staircase and this will need to be considered when positioning doors, walls, and floor joists in the design phase of your new build or refurbishment project.

As part of the design process, you will also need to make sure that your spiral staircase will comply with building regulations. While your architect and most suppliers will be able to offer you general guidance on the building regulations relevant to a spiral staircase, it is always worthwhile contacting your local authority’s building control department to ask any specific questions you may have about the suitability of the spiral staircase you are considering. For extra peace of mind, ask for written approval for your proposed spiral staircase design.

In a private single-family home, there are two categories of spiral staircases that are relevant: Category A, and Category B. A Category A or ‘secondary’ spiral staircase is typically used to access a single habitable room, a small mezzanine area, loft storage space, or external balcony or terrace. In contrast, a Category B or ‘primary’ spiral staircase is intended to be used as the main stair in a home, accessing multiple bedrooms or living areas. As a rule, a Category A staircase will have a diameter of circa 1500 mm, and a Category B staircase will have a diameter of circa 1900 mm. It is important to note that these measurements will vary slightly between different suppliers’ offerings. Whether for primary or secondary use, the finished opening for a spiral staircase, be it square or circular, should always be 100 mm greater than the diameter of the stair. This allows for onsite tolerance in fitting, and space on the outside of the handrail as it passes through the floor.

Even if your spiral staircase won’t be inspected at the time of installation, any areas of non-compliance can cause problems later in time. For example, if you were to sell your home, a building surveyor may well identify any aspects of the staircase that do not comply with building regulations. These situations can often be costly to rectify and can add more difficulty to the process of selling your home.

Available in a wide variety of styles from the classical to the contemporary, there is a spiral staircase to suit every setting. For most people living in traditional homes, timber is the popular choice as it often complements existing flooring, doors, and architrave; however, for those wanting to be a bit more adventurous, materials of stainless steel and glass can be combined to create a very clean, ultra-contemporary look. With advancements in LED technology, it is also increasingly easy and cost effective to integrate lighting into the staircase itself, or the surrounding area, further enhancing the look of a spiral staircase.

The cost of a new spiral staircase can vary significantly and will largely be determined by three main factors: height, diameter, and materials. Whether for internal or external use, a simple ‘off the shelf’ kit system can start from as little as £1000, while a fully bespoke glass and stainless-steel primary spiral staircase will cost more than £15000. As a general guide, the majority of ‘off the shelf’ kit systems will fall into the £1000 – £2500 price range, whereas £6k is a realistic starting point for a mid-level specification bespoke spiral staircase.

Purchasing a spiral staircase is a significant investment in your home so, once you have decided your requirements, take time to make sure you choose the right supplier. Some of the more specialist suppliers will have a showroom where you will have the opportunity to view and try various spiral staircases. This should be an important consideration in your decision making process as seeing and trying the physical product will give you a greater feeling of confidence in choosing your new staircase.

Michael Edwards is the sales and project developer at Complete Stair Systems