Home Home Improvements Stairs



Stairs occupy a central and very visible area of an average house. Moneys spent on the creation of an attractive stairway and entrance hall are likely to enhance a property’s value. There are many design features these days. Consider the sweeping classical solid stairways in period property, hardwood bespoke systems, and modern glass and chrome designs.



Approved documents K, M1 and M2 of the building regulations lay out the design requirements for stair structures. The building control officer will be paying considerable attention to regulations in order to avoid personal injury. I frequently see properties where the original structures have been altered.

Chris Ennis, Property Doctor, Chartered Surveyor
Chris Ennis, Property Doctor

In a typical modern stair structure, the vertical post at the base of the stair is known as the Newel, vertical balusters are located beneath the hand-rail, and are connected to the ‘string’ which is the wide sloping timber at the edge of the stair. There is no specified minimum width of a stair case, but most commonly they are between 800mm/900mm wide.

The minimum headroom above a staircase is 2 meters, but the building control officer may allow some tolerance on occasions. The maximum pitch of a stair is 42 degrees, and this will be set by reference to the number of stair treads, and the height (called the riser) of each stair. There must be at least one handrail, and the space between individual balusters should not exceed 100 mm. Each stair tread must be level, and each riser should be the same height, a nosing on the riser should be minimum of 16mm. The forward motion of each tread is known as the ‘going’ and should be uniform. At both the bottom and the top of the stair there should be a ’landing’ no smaller than the width of the stair.

I have seen many older flat conversions where the entrance door to the property opens direct on to a stair…very dangerous. In some of the older cottages in the Findon area, stairs can be very steep, and staircases narrow. Some so called ‘paddle’ stairs can be constructed where space is at a premium, but these are not encouraged and they are difficult to use……. I have fallen from one!

Chris Ennis FRICS is a Chartered Surveyor Tel: 01903 261217 email: surveyor1@talktalk.net www.propdoctor.co.uk