Various types of staircases are essential features to any structure with more than one floor. In fact, staircases have been around for centuries. We use them to move quickly but safely from one level to the next without a lot of thought. However, if you’re taking on a remodeling or building project, it’s important to consider which type of staircase will work best with your design and needs, and we’ll outline several popular ones below.
There are many types of staircases available, and finding the right fit for your space can take research on your part.
Understanding the Different Types of Staircases
Staircases can come designed in a seemingly endless combination of different types and forms to best fit the function, space, and aesthetics of your home or building project. Different types of staircases offer various types of visual appeal, and they take up different amounts of space. Some types are far more common in residences, while others are meant for commercial or industrial settings.
Staircase designs can range from a simple straight bolted access staircase to a luxurious, grand split or bifurcated staircase that you see in luxury homes or buildings. Even the parts of your staircase can differ based on the style or function. For example, instead of coming with a very standard vertical riser, you can use an open riser to give you a more spacious and open finished look. Different stair tread types, like glass, wood, steel, or tile, can work to impact both the visual appeal and function of the stairs.
However, the bottom line is that the type of staircase and the shape of the stair you pick out have to fit the function and space requirements of the staircase. The tread style and stair type will depend on the design and architecture of your project.
1. Bent Metal Staircase
The first type of staircase on the list is a stunning one to look at, and it’s made out of wooden treads with bent metal. The bent metal staircase is very slender and light while being durable and sturdy. It’s perfect for more adventurous individuals as it creates a nice adrenaline rush as you go down it. It comes designed to appeal to your sight, and the metal adds a nice sleekness while enhancing how space-efficient it is.
However, there is a drawback to this type of staircase. If you’re in a hurry and you go up or down it, you’ll hear a metallic sound that can be distracting to anyone around you. Also, frequent use by heavier people can cause the stairs to sag downwards or have a distorted shape. They can also heighten phobias in people who have them.
2. Bifurcated Staircase
When one thinks of this type of staircase, you may picture the stairs in the Titanic. This is an ancient style that is very popular with celebrities and people who live in luxurious homes, and the lower treads are wider than the rest of the setup. You can use balusters to support the handrails, and they can be very decorative. So, when you see this type of staircase, you’ll see a sweeping set of steps that split into two smaller flights of stairs that go in opposite directions. The only drawback of this staircase is that it tends to take up much more space, so they’re more suited for larger buildings or areas that have grand spaces.
This staircase usually brings luxury to mind, so it’s common to see it in mansions or in high-profile buildings or hotels.
3. Cantilever Staircase
This staircase has treads that look like they’re floating in the air without the help of any support. The treads get fixed to one side with a metal frame that uses divots, while the other end either floats freely or secures the railing side. You can expose the stair stringer or have it hidden, depending on your aesthetics.
Due to the nature of this type of staircase, they’re great for adding spaciousness and interest to a room. However, certain configurations can be very challenging to design, and you should double-check with your local building codes before you settle on this type. Another drawback of this staircase is that your treat support has to be designed to handle the weight of anyone who walks on it. Due to the additional structural requirements, these stairs are more expensive than others on the list.
4. Circular Staircase
As the name suggests, this type of staircase goes round and it has a tapered design. The stairs were originally made in medieval times, but they’ve undergone modifications to make them more sleek. The circular staircase usually gets surrounded by glass instead of railings to add to the overall sleek look, and the wood gets a coat of varnish to create luster and make it shine.
The steps are usually more comfortable and easier to navigate than spiral staircases, and you may hear this type of staircase referred to as a helixed stair. It’s great for people who love vintage items, and maintaining it is easy as you mostly have to focus on not allowing the wood to warp. It is more expensive to build and it needs more space though.
5. Curved Staircase
The curved staircase has a design that forms a continuous helical arc, and it has a very nice finished look. It does come with a larger radius, but it never forms a full circle. It’s popular to use in the entryway to create a favorable impression as it adds elegance to your design. They are also easier to navigate due to the bigger radius, but they are a more difficult type of staircase to build. In fact, many fabricators consider this a pinnacle of achievement when they create one. It’s one of the most expensive options you can build when all is said and done.
Curved stairs usually come with a more gentle curve to them, and they’re wider to make them easier to navigate.
6. Enclosed Staircase
As the name suggests, this type of staircase gets enclosed on both sides by a wall. Even though it can take on several shapes, it’s different because none of them have railings. It’s common to have a door on the top or bottom of this staircase. It’s hidden and compact, but it gives you a very limited scope to include any thoughtful design elements.
7. Floating Staircase
As the name suggests, this type of staircase is very modern, and it has steps that aren’t connected to one another. The steps all have open backs on them, and this lends a very airy and light appearance. They can have a barrier on one or both sides, and they come in many sizes.
8. Ladder Staircase
The ladder staircase works well to help you access parts of your home, but building codes forbid them from being the main access point. In residential homes, you typically find this type of staircase used to connect to the kitchen. They work in little space to allow you to enhance the movement of the room. They also work well in lofts, attics, docks, and libraries. They are one of the most compact ways to get from one floor to the other, and the design is very cost-efficient. Ladder staircases can come with folds or wheels to move them away when they’re not in use. However, they can be difficult to navigate when you go down them.
9. L-Shaped Staircase
As the name suggests, this type of staircase is a straight staircase that has a bend or turn in it. This bend or turn can be close to an end or in the middle, and it’s usually 90°. However, it isn’t fixed at a 90° angle. This design takes up slightly less space and it’s easier to navigate since it has a wider landing. It’s a very visually-appealing option that has a breaking barrier to increase the privacy levels. This staircase is also safer as the central landing reduces how many treads you can fall down.
The landing gives you space to rest while going up or down, and you can put it in a corner of the room if it’s a smaller area. L-shaped stairs also help with sound transmission if you have an enclosed design. Building these stairs can be a hectic process as the handrails require more skill to build and they get installed in segments. Where there is a basement, you’ll need landing support, and the stairs tend to stack over one another for storage. So, it can be difficult to move items in or out of your basement.
10. Space Saving Staircase
For a more compact home, the space saving type of staircase is very efficient. You can incorporate stairs that are ribbon styled, steeply pitched, or more narrow in a smaller area. You can then utilize the space by adding a library at the bottom of your stairs. You’ll save on space and still add a touch of elegance. With natural light or installing proper lighting, it adds more elegance to the area. The big drawback of this type of staircase is that you may get disturbed if you’re working or reading by the staircase and people use it.
11. Spiral Staircase
If you were to look at this type of staircase from an aerial view, you’ll find that it forms a perfect circle as it has a design centered around a pole. It’s a compact space that is more challenging to navigate, but they’re great for minimal spaces like city homes or beach houses. The landings and center pole provide all of the structural support this staircase needs, and they won’t need more support. However, only one person at a time can go up or down the stairs as you have to be careful because the inner part of each step is very steep. It also makes it difficult to move items up or down the stairs.
Spiral staircases are pretty to look at, but they make it very difficult to get items up and down stairs, especially bulky or larger furniture pieces.
12. Storage Staircase
The area beneath your type of staircase can be used if you convert it into a storage area. You can build cabinets underneath the rises, or you can turn each riser into a drawer. It’s also possible to incorporate balustrades instead of rails to enhance the style and set it apart from common styles. You can store your necessities under the risers, and this allows you to create room for items if you have a small house.
This type of staircase is especially useful during the winter where you can store food items or first aid equipment and necessities. The only drawback to this staircase is that you need to frequently make a point to check it, maintain it, and clean it if you have anything that pests or rodents would like. Lighting is also necessary to keep it safe, and you want to avoid moisture to keep bad smells and mildew down to a minimum.
13. Straight Staircase
As the name implies, this type of staircase has no bends in the design. It gives you a linear path with no directional changes. It’s one of the most affordable and common staircase types available, and it doesn’t need a huge amount of support as it comes with an attachment point at the top and bottom. Also, this design is very easy to install handrails and railings. It’s also easy to move up and down on them, and it has a non-steep design that is good for the elderly or toddlers. The simple look makes it great for minimalist designs.
However, this doesn’t have to be a boring staircase. You can add modern materials, open risers, and metallic railings to dress it up. It does use more linear space in your home, and this can impact your house design. It also lacks privacy when you compare it to other types of staircases, and you’ll need a landing if it’s more than 12 feet long.
14. Straight Staircase with a Central Landing
You’ll need to have a central landing installed with your type of staircase if you have a high ceiling room with a staircase that has more than 16 risers as the staircase will be over 12 feet high. The drawback of this staircase is that it needs a bigger space, so it works much better in commercial or industrial buildings over residential ones.
15. U-Shaped Staircase
U-shaped types of staircases are two parallel flights of stairs that join by an 180° turn landing. They are also called half-turn or switchback staircases, and they’re generally much easier to fit into a house design than other types. The flat landing gives you a resting point on the stairs, and they’re very pleasing to the eye. They are also very easy to put into a small space, but they’re more difficult to build compared to other designs. They also require more support structures for the landing when you build them, and this can take time.
16. Winder Staircase
This type of staircase is a variation of the L-shaped staircase, but it comes with a pie-shaped landing and steps that are triangular-shaped and transition at the corner. You can use balustrades in the design instead of railings too, and these stairs are very common in older homes as they need less room. You’ll typically find this staircase used as a secondary set of stairs. Generally speaking, you use them to link the backdoor or make the kitchen more accessible as the primary set of stairs are at your home’s entryway.
Winder staircases have seen a large popularity jump in modern homes as they work to create a seamless transition around corners. The compact design makes it much more attractive too. However, it can be harder to navigate this staircase than the L-shaped one. They also require support and can be challenging to put a handrail on.
How to Choose the Correct Type of Staircase
There are a few things you want to consider when you’re shopping for a new type of staircase, and keeping them in mind will help you make the right choice. These things include but are not limited to:
Depending on the shape, materials, and design you pick out, your staircase can easily move between price ranges, and the final cost can vary significantly. As a general rule, steel stairs are more cost-effective than glass or solid timber stairs, but there are mixes of materials that can fit inside set price ranges. Spiral or straight staircases are usually more cost-effective than helical or curved staircases.
To find out which stairs will fit into your budget, you want to look at a few images and figure out which styles you like best. This will help you figure out what is inside your budget and what is way beyond it. If your budget is lower, you can contact local building companies and find alternatives while keeping the style and design you want.
Building Codes and Safety
When you build a staircase or take on any building project, you have to refer to current building requirements and regulations. You should also consider how easy it is to climb the stairs, especially when it concerns elderly people or children. Building regulations will vary from city, country, and region, so it’s essential that you double-check with your local building officer to see which rules you have to follow when you build any type of staircase for your home or business.
Every county has different building codes, and they tend to change and update as time goes on. So, you may need permits and you have to call your local building regulation office before you do any construction.
Design, Materials, and Style
Along with the design, you have to look at the various materials you can choose to lend different looks to your staircase. You can choose from different types of wood, marble, wrought iron, stones, or granite if you’re after a more traditional style. If your home is contemporary or modern, you may prefer to have stainless steel, powdered steel, glass, or acrylic materials. Combining the materials is usually the best choice if you want to get a timeless look for your type of staircase.
However, no matter which material you pick out, you want to make sure that it fits in nicely with the overall design of your home. If you bring in a contractor to do this project for you, they can help narrow down your selection to give you a great fit.
How much space do you need to build a staircase and what is the minimum width? Look very carefully at the space you have to build stairs in your home. This can give you an idea of which type of staircase is going to be the most functional while fitting your home. For smaller houses, L-shaped or straight staircases are usually the way to go. Spiral staircases are also popular in this instance. For larger areas, you can choose to go more elegant and larger with your type of staircase. More decorative options include curved, U-shaped, or helical. It’s also possible to have a combined staircase with a mixture of spiral and straight treads if you don’t have room for a traditional spiral type of staircase.
The best type of staircase for your home will depend on your finances, personality, preferences, and availability. A family who has aged parents or toddlers living with them may choose to get a straight type of stairs as they require less maintenance and are easier to traverse. A commercial building will need straight stairs with a solid landing, and anyone who has an elegant flair can choose a cantilever or a curved stair. A large family with more young kids may benefit from having a storage type of staircase. If you like vintage items, you can use circular stairs while people who like grandness or a luxurious look are usually happy with bifurcated stairs.
Stairs are a direct reflection of your personality, preferences, and tastes. So, you need to have a good understanding of your likes, needs, and tastes before you start looking at different types of staircases. Maintaining your staircase is also an important part of helping them stand out. So, knowing all of this, you can take this quick guide and use it to narrow down the perfect type of staircase for your new home.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.