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How to Solve the Biggest Problems with a Metal Staircase

Metal structures for housesI’ve see a design, but where to get it from?

People often spot a staircase they like the look of and wonder where to get one like it. Unfortunately you can’t just walk into a metal staircase shop  and point to the one you want. It is often the case that a striking metal staircase has been custom-made , designed by an architect, or the owners. However, there are specialist metal staircase companies  out there who will also design and make a staircase.

I have a small budget…

Those aiming to stick to a budget are well advised to ask a local metal specialist  to help them with a design.


Getting the Size Right:
First determine what size your metal staircase  needs to be. Begin by measuring the total rise. This is the measurement from the finished floor below to the finished floor level above. You will then need to work out the number of risers required. To stay within “Building Regulations”, a domestic staircase needs a rise of between 190mm and 220mm. Standard risers are around 200mm.

Now calculate the number of treads. Generally you require one less tread than the number of risers. Next, work out the ‘going’ – the measurement from the face of one riser to the next. To comply with Regulations, the minimum going should be 220mm, whilst the pitch of the staircase should not exceed 42°. There are no restrictions when it comes to width, but standard flights measure 860mm, and for a main staircase it is agreed that a width of between 800mm and 900mm works best. For secondary staircases a minimum width of 600mm is recommended.

metal staircase measurement
metal staircase measurement

Straight, Turned or Spiral?
How does a metal staircase get from where it starts to where it needs to end up? A straight flight may be the simplest and cheapest option, but will not necessarily work. Generally the base of a metal staircase is best located near the front door  and if possible you should not have to cross another room to reach the stairs from the front door. This is vital if there is a third storey to the house, as the stairs will have to act as a fire escape route.

When turns are required in a metal staircase, the simplest option is to split the flight in two and connect them with a 90° quarter turn landing. If you were to use a 180° turn it would be known as a half landing.

Steps that turn corners whilst climbing are called ‘winders’ to navigate 90° turns. A turn consisting of three winders is known as a ‘kite winder’. These are often used at the top and bottom of flights to get round corners.

Spiral staircases are not the most practical feature, making it hard to take furniture up and down and often being more expensive than standard flights. However, they look fantastic especially where space is limited.

This describes the combination of spindles, handrail and newel posts. Often these elements give a metal staircase its character . Timber, glass, metal and even stud walls can all form balustrading. In period homes balustrading was often elaborately carved, but today people keep it simple with laminated glass panels and metal tension wires being favourites.

Why Metal?

A metal staircase has now made the transition from being seen as purely industrial, to the home. They are less heavy in their appearance than timber; are galvanised for a more industrial rust resistance if in damp areas like a cellar or outside.  They can be a powder coated finish in any colour you like. With stainless steel handrails and posts and glass steps Handrails for metal staircasewe can have a very expensive look, which can be very cost effective if designed well

Pros: Perfect for spiral or straight flights, they look great paired with glass balustrades or even wire mesh or tension wires.

Cons: A badly designed metal staircase can look too industrial.

Getting the Lighting Right

A badly designed metal staircase  often suffers from a total lack of light, either natural or artificial, with staircases often being located in the centre of the house away from main windows.

Good ways to allow light through to your metal staircase include using fanlights above doors, to bring light into the base of the staircase; inserting a roof light above the stairwell; or using a light pipe — a useful way to bring light to staircases in terraced homes or where space is tight.

Use artificial lighting to turn your metal staircase into more of a feature . Consider using LED lights set into the string, handrail or even the stairs themselves as a fantastic way of showing off your new flight.

The Building Regulations

  • Staircases should have a maximum rise of 220mm and a minimum going of 220mm
  • They should have a maximum pitch of 42°
  • Flights should have a handrail on at least one side if they are less than one metre wide and on both sides if they are wider than this
  • Handrails on stairs and landings should have a minimum height of 900mm
  • No openings of any balustrading should allow the passage of a 100mm sphere
  • A minimum of 2,000mm of clear headroom is required above the pitch line
  • For further Regulations see Approved Document K (available to buy from planningportal.gov.uk).

For more information about all aspects of metal staircases just contact us at the information at the bottom of the page from the link here.