Spiral Stairs

The Pros and Cons of Spiral Staircases and their Design Considerations

By Mark J. Donovan

Spiral stairs combine functionality with style. Spiral stairs’ unique look and form can add character and flair to any room or home. Spiral stairs are also found in many commercial applications.

Spiral staircases, however, do have their drawbacks. They can be difficult to navigate and they can take up precious floor space on lower level floors.

Spiral staircases are ideal for smaller homes or loft areas where standard type staircases just won’t fit. They are often used in second floor home additions where there is limited floor space on the first floor.

This said, spiral stairs can hurt or help the value of your home. If they are a second form of ingress or egress to an upstairs area, they will probably help the value of your home. If they are the single means for accessing a second level of the home, they may actually hurt the value of your home.

Spiral staircases can be purchased as standard kits that you assemble on the jobsite or as pre-assembled units. They can also be custom ordered and designed for unique applications and local building code requirements. As you can imagine, standard spiral stair kits or pre-assembled ones are typically much less expensive to buy than custom designed ones.

So if you are on a tight budget you may want to first take a look at the spiral stair kits or pre-assembled ones before considering a custom design. If you do decide on a spiral stair kit or pre-assembled one, make sure to check your measurements and math before ordering. One mistake can be a costly one.

The Pros and Cons of Spiral Staircases and their Design Considerations

Spiral staircases come in a variety of styles and materials. Standard and curved spiral stairs, as well as deco spiral stairs are all common styles. Some spiral stair designs can also be quite ornate. Depending upon the rate of climb, spiral stair cases can take more or less room. The more gradual the climb the more space the spiral staircase will take. The steeper the climb the less space they will take.

From a material perspective spiral stairs are available in a variety of choices, however wood and metal are the most common construction materials.

Spiral stair tread designs are also quite varied. They are commonly constructed out of wood or steel, however ornate tread designs can include checker plate and bar grate covers. Balusters designs are also quite diverse. Baluster designs for spiral stairs can include vertical or horizontal members constructed out of wood, metal, steel cable and other unique materials. Likewise, there are many different types of handrails designs and materials to choose from.

Spiral stairs do have their drawbacks however. They can be dangerous for small children, elderly people, and pets to navigate.

They are also difficult for carrying large items up. One of the homes I lived in had a loft office area and the only way to get to it was via a large set of spiral stairs. Even with a large spiral staircase, carrying the desk and other furniture up to the loft was nearly impossible. With some items we actually had to haul the furniture up by going up and over the railing that was adjacent to the spiral staircase.

Also, spiral staircases can be an impediment to normal traffic flow in a room or home. Ideally the spiral stairs should be located in a remote corner of a room, or in so large of a room, that there is little concern that the staircase will block any normal foot traffic flow.

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Additional Finish Carpentry Resources from Amazon.com

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