Nov 14, 2014

A Guide to Frame Systems for Timber Staircases

If you are planning to build a multi-storey timber home, chances are that you’ll be agonizing over the type of staircase to incorporate. You should start by collecting images of timber staircases that you find attractive or think will be suitable for your home. Once you have narrowed your choices down, we recommend taking them to your architect or stair builder to have them priced – unfortunately, they can work out to be quite costly.

Types of Staircase
The most common types of staircase chosen today include: straight, L-shaped, double L-shaped, U-shaped, pie, curved and spiral. When choosing a type for your home, you must take into account several factors (including the available open space, the position of any beams or structural members, and your budget).

The most popular forms of staircase are closed and open riser. If you have opted for an open riser design, it is essential that you check with your local council for building restrictions that you must comply with. Whilst your stair builder should have an idea, it is always a good idea to double check.

·         Open Riser
These types of timber staircases don’t have risers to enclose the treads, which provides an open and airy feel. This configuration does pose some risks, however, and there may be restrictions in your local building code that you have to meet. Many homeowners find that an open design can become quite the focal point and that they can be quite dramatic when contrasting metal is used in the handrail and balustrade.

·         Closed
These types of staircases are enclosed and tend to be less attention grabbing than open ones. They are, however, quite practical and are the perfect addition to a traditional-style home. They are especially useful if you intend to use the space below the stairs, such as a cupboard or even a room, as you will hideaway any clutter and provide privacy. They can also be quite dramatic with the right accompaniments.

Basic Construction
There are actually several variations commonly utilised in the construction of timber staircases. Some variations are better suited to a particular type of staircase than others, and there are certainly a number of other variations that are utilised less frequently.

In an open tread system, for example, the stringers have a mortise cut into them and the tread itself acts as the tenon. A peg is dropped through the tenon, causing it to protrude outside of the stringer. In a closed box system, on the other hand, the treads are mortised into the stringer and do not protrude.

A third and relatively popular variation is to have cutout stringers upon which the treads rest. The treads are secured to the stringers using bolts or nails. This is actually the simplest and least labour-intensive of all the methods, but many homeowners reject it for its simplicity.

If you are in the process of building a multi-storied home and have your heart set on a timber staircase, we hope the information provided in this article enables you to choose an appropriate frame system. If you’re still having trouble deciding, we recommend speaking with your architect or stair builder; they should be able to offer advice and suggestions based on their many years of experience. Just don’t change your mind once the decision is set!

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