As one of the most important architectural features in a home, the staircase is often a backdrop for many of your family’s significant life events – think first day of school and high-school prom photos. While the staircase is also important for the day-to-day functionality of your home, it can also be the primary culprit in home accidents. Trips and falls down stairs can cause severe injury and even death. Good stair design can substantially reduce the potential for falling and provide the means to retrieve balance. EiEiHome spoke with Royal Oak Railing and Stair, to discuss safe stair construction. “It is extremely important that you choose the right company that adheres to building codes during the design. The right company should not only help you design an aesthetically pleasing stairway but do so without compromising functionality.” says Royal Oak.
Take these common causes of falls into account when speaking with a contractor about designing and building your staircase.
A turning section of a staircase is typically at a 90 degree angle. While winders (narrow pie-shaped steps) are commonly used to reduce the amount of space devoted to the staircase and are acceptable as per building code, they can pose a safety hazard to children and the elderly who struggle to get a proper footing on the step. The safest method of incorporating turns is to install a landing. “The depth of any landing should be at least equal to the width of the stairs,” says Royal Oak.
Narrow or steep steps
Many stairs in older homes are too narrow and too steep. “Many [homeowners] don’t know the stair requirements [or they] live with them as a safety hazard because they can’t afford to bring them up to code,” says Royal Oak. Current code calls for the maximum rise to be 7 7/8 inches and the minimum width 9 ¼ inches.
Handrails help prevent a loss of balance and provide a means to quickly regain balance after a stumble. Handrails should extend the full length of the stair and be positioned at a minimum height of 35 7/16 inches.
Wide spacing between pickets
The biggest concern Royal Oak fields from customers are worries that children can fall through the pickets (also called spindles). The maximum spacing requirements is 3 15/16 inches.