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

 o
Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included within

Posted by threeapples (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 18, 12 at 8:32

Our framers are giving us the option of having either 48" or 56" wide stair treads for the curved staircase in our foyer. They taped off the location of the first three treads on the floor and I am about to go look at this and see its relation to the outswing of the door from our vestibule/ante room in the foyer to the first tread. As you can see, the wider treads mean a tighter curve and, also, a larger distance from the middle of the tread to the handrail. I'm wondering if the distance from where the tread is 9" deep to the handrail might be too awkward on the wider tread option. My husband and the builder are suggesting the wider tread, I'm not sure. Also, I believe this would mean we won't have an exposed outer tread--the wood portion won't be visible on the interior curve of the staircase.

Any thoughts?
[IMG]http://i1126.photobucket.com/albums/l609/Tiffany_Washington/Picture3-1.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i1126.photobucket.com/albums/l609/Tiffany_Washington/Picture5.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i1126.photobucket.com/albums/l609/Tiffany_Washington/Picture4.jpg[/IMG]


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Ok, sorry my links didn't work. I'll try this again:

foyer showing ante room and stairs

48" wide treads

56" wide treads


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

threeapples--My parents built a house on scale with yours with a large foyer and curved staircase. They went with the 48" wide stair as it made the curve look more elegant and flowing vs having a staircase with over large treads & a tight radius that has the potential to look like you tried to squeeze an oversize staircase in.

Moving furniture up & down a nice wide staircase is a benefit for sure, however a tighter turn radius with the longer treads will negate that benefit as it will be more difficult to rotate & maneuver furniture or other bulky objects up & down the stairs and around the curve.

A tighter turn radius will also mean less usable space in that radius in the foyer.

Remember too that most homes (even the Parade homes) often have 36 or 42" wide staircases in them with 36" being the most common. Take 4-6" off that measurement for the balusters, hand rail & exposed tread and you're down to 30-32" of actual usable space on the 36" tread and 36-38" of usable tread space on the 42" staircase. So at 48", your staircase is already oversized compared to the norm out there. With this in mind, I would also worry that the overly long tread option might have an ostentatious appearance. You are building a grand house, but you're not building the Biltmore either ;-)

From a tread usage standpoint, if you're holding the handrail, you're usually not walking at the center of the tread--you're a little off-center on the rail side. By making the treads even longer, you will have a lot of wasted tread.

For these reasons, I would opt for the 48" wide tread. It is still oversized & it looks grand (especially when the staircase is curved) without all the other issues the overly long tread brings into play.

Lots to think about...


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Thanks, mydreamhome, for the helpful points to consider! I'll talk to the framer about all of these things and post back.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Well, I don't know if you are in a code-zone, but in my city, the tread has to be the tread depth at 12" from the handrail, regardless of tread length.

In other words, if you had the wider tread, your diagram above would not meet code, having the depth be 21" from the rail (and instead, the railing would need to be moved to the 12" mark from the correct tread depth.

Make sense?
Renovator will be able to explain that one with diagrams, I am sure.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

It looks as if the treads get very narrow near the handrail, on the stairway that is wider.

I would think that would be a fall risk, especially for children running up and down the stairs.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

There is a straight stairway near the kids rooms, but the narrowness of the interior of the treads is a concern.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

I actually prefer how the architect drew it over the two other options posted. The curved ends with the straight area.

I am not a fan of pie steps at all - they are fall hazards. We had to put a couple in our back staircase because the concrete was poured wrong and no one realized it until the house was framed and roof was on. They are treacherous. My builder said his mother fell and broke her hip on her stairs because of the pie step. Code requires a minimum 6" interior width on the pie tread, but larger is better. They are dangerous any way you cut it.

I would go with the way it is drawn on the plans - it looks better and is more gracious. It also eliminates one run of pie steps. If you don't want to do that, I would go with the narrower stairs and the larger radius. It looks more gracious to me. The other one looks very tight.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Athensmom, the architect has it in a curve as well, but with a landing halfway up. The regular looking stairs beneath the dotted stairs on the architects drawing are the stairs going into the basement from the first floor. I'm nervous about these pie steps now.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Do you have a lot of curves, in the rest of your home? Is that why you want the curved staircase? It's pretty, but if you're right handed...you have deeper treads going up and the shallow side, going down.

I think it would be more practical to have a short flight, a landing, a longer flight, another landing and a short flight to the next floor. Basically a U with corners. I've seen these in Victorian homes and they're very pretty...and easier for kids, since there's fewer stairs between landings, in case of a slip/fall.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Lavendar Lass, no we don't have any curves in the house--it's essentially a rectangle as it's a Georgian style. I told the architect early on that I thought a curved staircase would be pretty and that's why we ended up where we are. I'll think about your u-shaped suggestion and see if I can find some photos online, but it sounds like more landings than what we'd need and perhaps even take up more space in the foyer, which is not ideal since we have the ante room door opening up into this space and we also need to get past the first tread to get to the library on the right side of the plan.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

In my opinion, the framers have shown you two very dangerous stairways. Rather than take the advice offered below I recommend that you ask a design professional to draw a safe one for you.

The minimum tread dimension in the IRC is 10" but some jurisdictions reduce that requirement to 9". You should check to be sure that is the case in your jurisdiction. Remember, you are allowed to exceed the minimum safety standard and I recommend you use the 10" dimension.

The location where the stair tread width is 9" should be no greater than 12" from the narrow end of the tread (not the center of the handrail). Since the handrail should not project more than 4 1/2 inches into the stairway I assume it's center line projects about 3" into the stairway.

Therefore, it appears that the two dimensions you are considering, 12.462" and 21.837" are far too large and should be reduced to 9" or less. The larger suggested dimension would result in a stair tread at the normal walk line of only 6 1/2" which would be much too small for an adult's foot to safely rest on.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

In my opinion, the more landings the better. I have been told by builders and architects that you should never build a staircase without a landing - too dangerous.

It looks like the staircase drawn by the architect, not the framers, has a few stairs in the middle that are a straight run (i.e., no pie stairs). The interior of the staircase has a straight run that looks to me to be part of the foyer staircase, not the basement stairs. It may be only a couple of stairs but it not only looks better to me but also loosens the radius some which I would think would be safer.

I agree with Renovator that the two framer option staircases look very dangerous to me!


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Thank you for the very helpful information, Renovator. I'm going to call the architect and framer today to see what other options we have. I'll post an update.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

If the first stair layout had an overall tread width of 45" (instead of 48") the tread dimension at the 12" walk-line might be 9". That's less safe than modern residential consensus codes allow but it would meet the older code requirements. To achieve a 10" tread at the walk line the overall stair tread width would need to be about 40".


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Just spoke to our architect. He recommends the 48" treads, not the wider option. He suggests that he's designed hundreds of staircases identical to this one and they have not had any safety issues. It's his opinion that this design will look nicest in our house and says that this 9" run is within code.
These conflicting thoughts are causing me to worry.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

I don't know how many steps you need between floors, but I was thinking something like this, when I said a U-shape with corners. Maybe not as elegant, but the steps are all uniform shape and size, which will make it much easier (and safer IMHO) for the kids.

From Cottage house plans


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Why aren't the framers building to the architect's original design specification??? In the original design it appears that you have one rectangular step at the bottom, followed by six "pie shaped" (winder) steps, then another three or four rectangular steps and then 6 more winders at the top.

In the two designs by the framer, all of the steps are winders. And, I don't quite understand what is meant by the note "if landing is packed out by 9.375"

In your final post above, are you saying that your architect is agreeing that it would be better to change from his ORIGINAL design to the 48" ALL pie-shaped winder design proposed by the framer? Or, is there some reason why the architect's original design can't be built now so the architect is simply saying that, of the two options proposed by the framer, the 48" wide one is better?

I ask because if the framers goofed something up previously so that the architect's original design won't fit, I'd be jumping up and down demanding that they go back and fix whatever their original screw-up was so that everything could be built to the architect's original specs.

If that CANNOT be done without tearing down half the house, then the architect needs to sit down with the framers and come up with a better solution than either that has been proposed to you thus far.

In my opinion, the fewer winder steps you have, the better. And, where you must have winders, you need to get the tread at the walk-line as close to 10 to 10.5 inches deep as you can possibly achieve. A 9 inch depth may be within code in your area but it really provides too shallow a step - especially for those of us with big feet.

And just because a designer hasn't heard about any safety issues with winder staircases that are only minimally within code, doesn't mean that there haven't BEEN any problems with them. I mean, if I had a house where several people had fallen or nearly fallen on my staircase, I might wonder if the staircase was within code. Once I checked that out and found out that it was designed and built to meet code - albeit on minimally - there would be NO POINT in contacting the architect to complain that the steps were dangerous. He is off the hook so long as he designed to minimum code standards. Thus, even if your architect has designed hundreds of identical staircases (with 9" deep treads at the walk-line) and he had not HEARD of any safety issues, that doesn't mean there have not been any.

Maybe your architect or builder can take you to some other home they've designed/built with "identical stairs" so you can try walking up and down them for yourself and see if you feel totally safe on them.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Our architect suggests that the 48" wide treads will be within code, not unsafe, and will look best in our foyer. He said he's done numerous houses with this exact staircase and that it looks great and hasn't provided any problems. The framer says that adding straight runs and landings is what would make the staircase unsafe because it will be inconsistent. I'm still apprehensive.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Ask for an address or 2 of one of those houses with that exact design, and ask if you may walk on their stairs a few times. It will give you a feel.

You need that 9" within a foot of the railing though, at a minimum.


 o
follow-up

the staircase designer said this about the architect's original design: that 9" run was at 17.5" away from the center of the handrail. However, with his original design changing back-and-forth between straight and pie-shaped, you would be forced to stay at that measurement when you transitioned from one type of tread to another. For example, for a tall adult, they might naturally walk 22" away from the handrail, in which case the straight treads would be a 9" run, and the pie-shaped treads would be 10-1/4". So the length of the stride would need to change as this tall adult went from straight tread to pie-shaped tread and back. Conversely, a child might naturally walk 12" away from the rail, in which case the straight treads would still be a 9" run, but the pie-shaped treads would be a 7-1/2" run. Again, the stride would need to change. The differences may not seem large, but it is generally believed that a variance of only 1/4" in run or rise (vertical climb from one step to the next) is sufficient to be easily noticeable by the average person.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

As a person (and child) with large feet (I'm 5'11") I would not want to walk up little bitty steps. But, that's just me :)


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

I am curious what building code would allow the stairs your designers are recommending.

IMHO all of the comments from the designers are specious, inaccurate, and self-serving. Let me clarify some of the important design issues:

- a 10" tread is currently the minimum requirement for residential stairs throughout the US. The fact that a few jurisdictions still allow a 9" tread, making it easier to fit a stair into a given space, is not sufficient reason to use such a small tread for such a grand monumental stairway. A building code is not a design manual and a minimum requirement should not be taken as an optimum or recommended dimension. Furthermore, the max. riser and the min. tread if used together rarely create a good ratio for comfort and safety.

- The walk-line of a curved stair has been 12" from the narrow end of the treads (not the handrail) since the first nationwide code was published by CABO in the mid 80's. That is the closest place an adult would normally put his/her railing-side foot when using the handrail. This is the appropriate worst-case design condition so all other considerations, like tall people, children, etc., are irrelevant.

IMHO someone has made a serious mistake and they don't want to take responsibility for it.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Renovator8, thanks for this enlightening info. You have me super worried, however.

Here's the latest response to my questioning of the staircase designer (who, by the way, is reputable and comes highly recommended by our architect who is very well-respected in his own right):
For what it�s worth, the current Design2 has a 9" tread depth at 13-7/8" away from the center of the handrail and a 10" tread depth at 18-7/8" away.

Now on to your question. In order to have a 10" tread depth at 12" away from the handrail center, you�d have to pull 2 steps out of the curved portion of the stairs. This would mean one of two things:

1.) have 3 straight steps in front of the curved half-circle (instead of the current one step that is shown on Design2)

2.) do away with one step all together, which would change the rise (the height from one step to the next) from the current 7-9/16" to 8" AND still have to put an additional straight step on the front end (for a total of 2 instead of the 3 in the previous note)

So you know, the thing that is driving all these dimensions to be what they are is the fact that the 2nd floor landing is already in place. Since that balcony is in place, the space between that wall and the Master Bath wall forces the radius of that outer wall of the staircase. Since that radius is fixed, so too is the angle between steps. Therefore the only place that we have "wiggle-room" is on the front end of the staircase. I hope that makes sense and answers your question.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

If I was willing to live with a 9" tread at the 12" walk-line I would make the stair width 44 1/2 inches and be done with it.

To maintain the 48" wide stair you would have to reduce the number of stair treads or allow the tread at the 12" walk-line to be less than 9".

It appears that the 1 & 2 family dwelling code in Cleveland is the 2006 IRC but it is not clear to me if it has been modified by amendments.

In any case here it is:

R311.5.3.2 Tread depth.

"The minimum tread depth shall be 10 inches. The tread depth shall be measured horizontally between the vertical planes of the foremost projection of adjacent treads and at a right angle to the tread's leading edge. The greatest tread depth within any flight of stairs shall not exceed the smallest by more than 3/8 inch. Winder treads shall have a minimum tread depth of 10 inches measured as above at a point 12 inches from the side where the treads are narrower. Winder treads shall have a minimum tread depth of 6 inches at any point. Within any flight of stairs, the largest winder tread depth at the 12 inch walk line shall not exceed the smallest by more than 3/8 inch."

Even if this building code has been modified locally, because it is has been the national standard for so many years, I would insist that the designers adhere to it. Ask them what code they are using and why it might be more appropriate than the IRC.

I've designed enough buildings to know that being reputable doesn't mean you can't make a seemingly amateurish mistake.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

So, what about something like in the link below, with two landings? But, it wouldn't be a suspended staircase, rather it'd have wall from treads downward. What do you all think about this style in our space for a Georgian feel?
The staircase in question is on the bottom left of the page.

Here is a link that might be useful: stairs on bottom left


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

how about this, will it work:

Here is a link that might be useful: staircase


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Well, our house is Georgian, although nowhere near as grand as yours, and our staircase looks like the one in the website you just posted. The landings are very spacious, and the treads are all rectangular, wide, and secure for walking. My children sleep up there, and I wanted very safe steps for when they might come downstairs at night, or anytime really. Here is a pic, maybe it will help? And as ar as the wall goes...I have been toying with getting it paneled and painted white. That might be something you may want to consider.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos


 o
also

There is nothing wrong with the curved stairway except that it is too wide for the radius needed to allow the required number of treads and risers needed to reach the upper level.

Adding landings loses treads so the stair would need to be even narrower or the space made larger.

Here is a drawing of curved/winder treads from the Application and Commentary manual of the 1989 CABO 1 & 2 Family Dwelling Code. Since then CABO has changed it's name to the ICC and has published the 2006 IRC that is used as the residential code in Cleveland and the minimum tread is now 10" instead of 9" unless Cleveland has issued an amendment reverting back to 9".

Notice that the location of the handrail/guard is not considered in the layout. The code allows a handrail to project into the completed stair design by a certain maximum dimension.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

If you are in any doubt you can buy the 2006 IRC Code & Commentary book. If you architect is a member of the ICC he/she can call for an interpretation. Most architects are members of the ICC so they can call for interpretations.

Here is a link that might be useful: 2006 IRC Code & Commentary


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Nini, I'd say your home is very grand and quite beautiful. Thanks for the illustration!


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

A simple rule is that for a stair built with 16 treads in 180 degrees, the inside radius to the ends of the treads must be at least 34 inches to allow a 9" tread at the 12" walk-line as required by the IRC.

Your stairs appear to have a radius of about 31 and 22 inches which cannot meet the IRC.

To meet the current IRC requirement for a 10" tread at the walk-line the inside radius would have to be at least 39 inches.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

Ask for an address or 2 of one of those houses with that exact design, and ask if you may walk on their stairs a few times. It will give you a feel.

I agree with what Kirkhall suggested. If the designer is so adamant that he has done this several times and that it's fine, he should be more than willing to let you go try one out. Walking on one IRL will give you so much more information about whether it will work for you than you could ever get by reading about it.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

There is a way to use the first stair you posted (30" radius) and have 48" wide treads assuming it has 17 risers (16 treads).

Starting from the top use 13 tapered treads to form 180 degrees and add 3 rectangular treads at the bottom extending out into the foyer. All of the treads would be 10" deep at the walk-line (12" from the end of the narrow end of the treads) making it a very comfortable stair to use.


 o
RE: Please help me design foyer staircase--diagrams included with

That took a long time, but I was hoping for 3 apples for an answer like what Renovator just gave--how to do it.

Get it to code, and not to what has worked in the past. I wish my stairs were to code in a big way (we bought, not built, this house...so I have what I have; but I have no room to bring it to code even if I had the $$$).


 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.
  • 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