part your foot steps on
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F I G U R E 1 2 1
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An open main stairway Risers the vertical pieces between the treads Some basement
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stairways don t have risers, but are wide open between the wooden treads (Fig 123)
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Handrails Newel posts the posts at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs
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that support a handrail, or the central upright pillar around which the steps of a winding staircase turn
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Balusters any of the small posts that support the handrail of a
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railing In olden times, these were frequently elaborate woodwork Latter-day balusters, railings, and posts are more likely to be black wrought-iron or simple wooden handrails attached to the sides of the stairwell walls
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F I G U R E 12 2
1 Stairway angles In staircase design and construction you ll find a rise and run similar to that of a roof s slope The angle of a stairway is determined by the arrangement of the tread depths and riser heights 2 Stairway treads and risers For safety s sake, all treads should be equal and all risers should be equal in any one flight 3 Stairway widths Main stairways should be at least 3 feet wide, clear of the handrail(s) (Fig 124) A basement stairway can be slightly narrower, with a minimum clearance of 2 feet 10 inches
F I G U R E 12 3
A basement stairway with open risers
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4 Stairway landings The minimum dimensions for a regular stairway landing is 3 feet square For safety, landings must be level and free from intermediate steps between a main up flight and a main down flight 5 Stairway framing support This is the required vertical structural framing built to support all stairways from underneath Table 121 provides a checklist for interior stairways
F I G U R E 12 4
TABLE 121 Checklist for Interior Stairways
Minimum Vertical rise Horizontal run Tread width Railing Baluster spacing Number of landings Natural lighting Artificial lighting First-floor foyer Second-floor stair hall Two-story-high walls 71 2" 10" 3' Firm 10" 0 Fair Fair Skimpy Skimpy 2 Best Quality 61 2" 12" to 14" 4' Solid 6" 2 Excellent Excellent Generous Generous 0
F I G U R E 12 5
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There are four basic types of staircases used in modern houses: straight stairways, L-shaped stairways having a landing or winders at the turn, U-shaped stairways having a landing or winders at the turn, and spiral staircases (Figs 125 and 126)
Straight stairways are by far the stairways used in most house construction today Advantages 1 They cost the least to build 2 They re the easiest to carry bulky items and materials on Disadvantages 1 They re dangerous If someone happens to trip at the top, a fall all the way to the bottom could result Small children especially must be protected from them
F I G U R E 12 6
A spiral staircase
2 They re tiring to climb because there s no space to stop and catch your breath 3 They re not very attractive
L-shaped and U-shaped
Both of these stairway types were used frequently during past decades when individual carpentry efforts were more predominant than today s prebuilt and space-saving methods Advantages 1 They have landings to rest on to catch your breath 2 The landings provide good spaces to hang decorations or art 3 They can be so attractive as to add character to a house
Disadvantages 1 They re more difficult to work into a house s floor plan 2 They re more expensive to build 3 They make it harder to carry large items such as bedroom furniture up and down This is especially true of narrow U-shaped stairways
Spiral and Circular
Only people thoroughly familiar with spiral staircases should plan them into their houses Advantages 1 They save space Spiral stairways can be installed where you cannot possibly fit conventional stairs 2 Because they re rarely enclosed, they serve as attractive decorative units that generally become focal points of the rooms they re in 3 They re good for outdoor use to provide access to second-story balconies, decks, and regular rooms Disadvantages 1 The treads are not full depth at both sides If you fall from the top you can tumble a long way Most people aren t used to them Spiral stairways require a different gait to ascend than to descend; visitors unaccustomed to them might find this a nuisance 2 They re almost impossible to use for moving large items such as bedroom furniture between floors