Homeowners staircase design guide

Homeowners staircase design guide

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Your staircase is the focal point your interior space and the place that links both people and spaces together. Not only should the design impact and complement your interior space but it should also be practical. The team of technical experts at Canal have created an essential staircase guide to advise you on all design considerations from staircase layouts, types and materials used when designing a new staircase.

Attention must be paid to the current UK staircase regulations and whether you’re replacing an existing staircase or incorporating an entirely new design you should be aware of the regulatory implications. Have you considered the following?

Location of a staircase

Ideally your staircase should be located close to the front door, especially if you have a third floor in the property as it will need to act as a fire escape route. Think about how the staircase fits within your home and ensure its positioning is maximised both upstairs and downstairs.

How big should your staircase be?

A good starting point is to measure the total rise (measurement from the finished floor below to the finished floor above) You’ll need to work out the number of risers needed, it’s important to consider a domestic staircase should fall between 150mm and 220mm. Standard risers are around 185mm (best to aim for this size)

You’ll then need to calculate the number of treads and this is generally one less than the number of risers. Then you’ll need to work out the going (the measurement from the face of one riser to the next) In compliance with UK staircase regulations the minimum going shouldn’t be less than 220mm with a maximum of 300mm (best to aim for 250mm)

Staircase glossary

Here are the terms you need familiarise yourself with when designing a staircase:

  1. Going The horizontal distance between one step and the next and is measured from nosing to nosing. Building regulations specify a minimum distance of 220mm to a maximum of 300mm. Remember the total rise is the distance from the floor to the floor level above.
  2. Vertical The front edge of a tread
  3. Riser The vertical distance from the top of the tread to the top of the next one. Building regulations specify a minimum distance of 150mm to a maximum of 220mm. The total rise is the vertical distance from the floor to the floor of the level above.
  4. Stringer The board that forms the face of the step
  5. Tread The top section of an individual step on which you walk
  6. Balustrades and handrails The combination of spindles, handrails and newel posts on a staircase. These elements give your staircase its character – with many unique architectural designs can be incorporated

Types of staircases:


The cantilever staircase design only anchors in at one side and allows the protruding construction to overhang without any external bracing. The simplistic design is also known as a floating staircase and is hugely popular due to its Swedish simplistic style and tasteful lines.


Canal offers an extensive range of bespoke spiral staircase styles, which utilise a central steel column to create a stable and solid structure. The spiral staircase is circular in plan and consists of entirely winding treads.


The helical staircase is one of the most exquisite yet dramatic designs with its graceful, flowing arc. It’s not always circular but sometimes elliptical or oval.

Central spine

This design incorporates a single box or circular stringer section underneath the centre of the staircase. The design works as a standalone feature with no need for a supporting wall, an architectural feature that allows plenty of light into the room.


One of the most popular options but far from ordinary, many styles of staircase can be incorporated into straight staircase designs from cantilever, folded to central staircase styles.

You can incorporate turns into your staircase design including half landing, quarter landing, quarter landing with winder and straight flight.

Staircase features

If you’re creating an entirely new staircase it’s an ideal opportunity to personalise your design features and blend them with the interior of your home e.g. You can select glass treads and balustrades to create the illusion of light and space and also contemporary as well as urban metalwork finishes.

Metal staircases

Metal staircases have changed from being purely industrial to something more unique for the home. Canal are architectural fabrication specialists and perfectly placed to incorporate this increasingly popular material choice into any staircase design. Mixing metals has become increasingly popular trend with its contrasting colours, these can be mixed together with other metal décor details. Metal staircases can also be blended with glass and unique laser cut designs, making the appearance look much less heavier than timber.

Staircase lighting

Adding soft lights underneath the handrail or between the steps creates a contemporary feel to your staircase design. The lighting can create an illusion of space when blended with your staircase design.

A new staircase is truly an investment piece and there’s a lot to consider when choosing a unique design. Once complete your final staircase will look as if it’s dropped straight from a classic architectural publication or pinterest board.

For more detailed information on our staircase guide please contact the technical sales team or call 0115 986 6321.

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