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Last edited 04 Nov 2022
- Tread. The flat component that users stand on. The clear area excluding any overhang above is known as the going. The overhang above the riser below is known as the nosing.
- Riser. The vertical component between treads.
- String. The inclined structural component into which the treads and risers are fixed at one or both sides.
- Banister. Stairs, particularly in domestic premises, may also include guarding to one, or both sides, in the form of a banister, that is, an assembly of uprights and a handrail.
- Landing. Stairs can be straight and can include a landing and turn, or can be curved. A continuous series of steps between landings is called a flight.
|Alternating tread stair
 Building regulations requirements for stair design
- Approved document K - Protection from falling, collision and impact.
- Approved document M - Access to and use of buildings (only when external stepped access also forms part of the principal entrances and alternative accessible entrances and when they form part of the access route to the building from the boundary of the site and car parking).
- Approved document B - Fire safety.
|Min rise (mm)
|Max rise (mm)
|Min going (mm)
|Max going (mm)
|General access stair
Other requirements include:
- For school buildings, the preferred rise is 150 mm and the preferred going is 280 mm.
- For dwellings, for external tapered stairs that are part of the buildings, the going should be a minimum of 280 mm.
- For existing buildings, alternatives may be proposed if the dimensional constraints do not allow these requirements to be followed.
- There are more complex requirements for stepped gangways in assembly buildings, and there may be conflict between these requirements and sight lines in some buildings with spectator seating.
- Buildings that are not dwellings and common areas in buildings that contain flats should not have an open riser, should have visual contrast to make nosings apparent, and nosings should not protrude by more than 25 mm.
- The minimum headroom should be 2 m.
- For stairs that form part of a means of escape, see Fire below.
- For other stairs, a minimum width of 1,200 mm, and 1,000 mm between handrails. If the stairs are more than 2 m wide, then they should be divided into flights of no less than 1,000 mm.
- For stairs that form part of a means of escape, see Fire below.
- Where it is necessary to have a stepped change of level within the entrance storey, this should be a minimum width of 900 mm.
NB: In designing staircases, in particular residential work, thought must be given to access for furniture. Spiral staircases for instance are a real problem for bedroom furniture and windows may not have big enough openings for alternative access.
Stairs with more than 36 risers in consecutive flights should have at least one change in direction between flights. For buildings other than dwellings, the maximum number of risers between landings should be 16 for utility stairs and 12 for general access stairs. There should not be any single steps.
Handrails should be 900 mm to 1000 mm from the pitch line or the floor. If the stair is 1,000 mm wide, or more, a handrail should be provided at both sides. If the stairs are more than 2 m wide, then they should be divided into flights of no less than 1,000 mm.
In buildings that might be used by children under 5, guarding should be designed so that a 100 mm sphere cannot pass through, it should prevent children being held fast and should be difficult to climb.
There are specific and complex requirements for the fire separation of stairs in dwellings depending on the height of the building and whether there is a basement. There are also specific requirements for external escape stairs (For details, see Approved Document B - Fire Safety: Volume 1 – Dwellinghouses).
In relation to buildings other than dwellings, there are also specific and complex requirements in relation to the number of protected stairs, firefighting stairs and the width of stairs. (For details, see Approved Document B - Fire Safety: Volume 2 - Buildings other than dwellinghouses).
 Accessibility and stair design
The main accessibility requirements for stairs have now been moved to Approved Document K, however, there is still guidance in Approved Document M: Access to and Use of Buildings in relation to external stairs, where they also form part of the principal entrances and alternative accessible entrances and when they form part of the access route to the building from the boundary of the site and car parking (for details, see Approved Document M: Access to and Use of Buildings).
Some of the more commonly used types of stairs are described below:
- Utility stair. Approved document K defines a 'utility stair' as '...a stair used for escape, access for maintenance, or purposes other than as the usual route for moving between levels on a day-to-day basis.
- General access stair. Approved document K defines a 'general access stair' as '...a stair intended for all users of a building on a day-to-day basis, as a normal route between levels.'
- Private stair. Approved document K defines a 'private stair' as '...a stair intended to be used for only one dwelling'. NB The Scottish Building Standards, Part I. Technical Handbook – Domestic, Appendix A Defined Terms, defines a private stair or ramp as: ‘…a stair or ramp wholly within a dwelling.’
- Protected stair. Approved document B defines a ‘protected stair’ as ‘…a stair discharging through a final exit to a place of safety (including any exit passageway between the foot of the stair and the final exit) that is adequately enclosed with fire resisting construction’. See: Protected stairway for more information.
- Firefighting stair. Approved document B defines a ‘firefighting stair’ as ‘… A protected stairway that connects to the accommodation area through only a firefighting lobby.’
- Common stair. Approved document B defines a ‘common stair’ as ‘… An escape stair that serves more than one flat.’.
- Approved Document K
- Maximum length of a flight of stairs
- Protected stair v escape stair
- Approved Document B
- Protected stairway
- Landings in buildings
- Stairs riser
- Means of escape
- Types of stairs
- Width of doors stairs and escape routes
- Spiral stairs and helical stairs
- Approved Document M
- Stairs going
- Stairs tread
- Accommodation stair
- Stairs nosing
 External references
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