Return to the Building a Home Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Right-angle ('L') vs. switchback ('U') stairway

Posted by minneapolisite (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 22, 12 at 15:27

What are the pros/cons of each? I think my floor plan could accommodate either, but I'm not sure which we'd prefer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Illustration comparing three common stair configurations

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Right-angle ('L') vs. switchback ('U') stairway

U-shape takes up more space than an L shape which takes up more space than a straight run. Basically, adding "landings" takes space and the larger the landings are - or the more of them you have, the more space your staircase will require.

BTW - I personally HATE winder stairs on either an L or a U shaped staircase. I have big feet and, even when built to code, winder-steps FEEL dangerous to me when I'm walking down them. There just never really feels like there is enough room for my feet!

A U shape is nice if you want your stair case to run toward an outside wall and then double back toward the middle of the house. This lets you put a window in the lander wall which results in a nice bright stairway. Plus, because the wall between the two sections is usually left open with just a railing between them, it is usually reasonably easy to get even large pieces of furniture up and down the stair.

L's work well when your stair case needs to wrap around a corner or if you want to have the bottom portion of the staircase open but then enclose the top part. For example, if you want to be able to close off the upstairs with a door, it is probably easier to do with an L-shape than with a U. An open L also looks nice from the side because of the way the lines from the upper and lower sections meet. It can be difficult to maneuver furniture up/down a closed L - especially if the staircase is only 3 ft wide.

Other than those few things, if you have the room for either one, it is really just a matter of taste. Use whichever you LIKE better or whichever one fits the rest of the plan better.

Or, if you can't decide, you could do like I did and incorporate BOTH. LOL! When I was trying to explain to my first architect what I wanted the stairs to do, I literally had to go out and get some foam board and make him a model before he would draw them correctly.

In this pic you can see my L-turn (lower landing) and U-turn (upper landing) and on the wall you can see the light from the upper landing window that is coming thru the window even tho the window itself is hidden.


FYI-The space under the upper section of staircase is open and incorporated into DH's office and we use the space under the U-landing and lower section for storage which is accessed via a half-door (about 48" tall) in the office.

RE: Right-angle ('L') vs. switchback ('U') stairway

Bevangel, I've always liked your stairs, and didn't realize they were yours!

RE: Right-angle ('L') vs. switchback ('U') stairway

Thank you so much for that description! The original floorplan has U-shaped stairs and I think we're going to stick with it, thanks to your explanation. :)

RE: Right-angle ('L') vs. switchback ('U') stairway

minneapolisite--Don't know if you're planning basement steps under the U-staircase, but if not, you can get TONS of storage under there if done right. I've included a pic of the underside of my U-staircase which we use as our pantry (the underside is in the shape of an 'L' to utilize as much space as possible). Do you have a floor plan you can post? Here are the instructions for posting pics directly into the thread:

1) Go to and open a free account.
2) Follow their instructions for uploading your pics to their site.

Now your pics are ready for posting on sites like GW!

Posting pics in a GW message:
1) Begin the written portion of your posting on GW.
2) When you are ready to add your pics, simply open a new browser window and log into your photobucket account.
3) Go to 'My Album' & copy the 'HTML Code' underneath the photo you wish to add to your GW post.
4) Toggle back to the browser window with your GW posting, place the cursor where you want to pic to appear, right click and select 'paste'.

Your pics will appear in the preview so you can ensure they appear properly before the final submission.

Our under stair pantry--it continues around the corner to the left under the full width of the landing...

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Building a Home Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here