DIY tips

It’s easy to overlook your home’s staircase, but it’s often the first thing that visitors see when they come through the front door, so if yours has seen better days, it may be time to replace it.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 9th December 2012, 4:00 pm

Start by deciding on the look of your new staircase – do you want a similar style and materials to your existing one or something different?

While most of us have wooden staircases, don’t overlook the possibility of using other materials, such as metal, glass and concrete – a glass and metal staircase is a stunning addition to a contemporary home.

A staircase can blend in to the room or stand out and make a statement, and it can cost from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds, but make sure it’s practical for the people who’ll be using it most – stairs without a carpet or runner aren’t ideal for young children, for example.

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There are, of course, different types of staircase – straight, spiral, curved, and cantilevered, where just one side is attached to the wall – and although you’ll probably want to stick to the same sort if you’re replacing your staircase, you may want a different type if you’re repositioning it.

Moving a staircase is a big job, but can dramatically improve your home’s layout and flow, so it’s something to consider if the stairs are in the way where they are or could work better elsewhere.

As a staircase is a (quite mathematically complicated) structural as well as aesthetic feature, it’s best to get an architect, specialist staircase company or suitably experienced joiner to design it, but you can do it yourself.

Among other things, a sketch will make it easier to calculate the materials you need and then get an accurate quotation for them (and the installation).

Some of the basics to consider are how many treads (the horizontal bits you step on) you’ll need (a standard staircase has 13, but it does vary), how many spindles you’ll need (it’s generally two spindles per tread) and what length of handrail you’ll need (most stair-parts suppliers produce standard sizes of 1.8m, 2.4m, 3.6m and 4.2m).

Then there are the newel posts, the chunky, upright posts that go at either end of a run of spindles. A standard staircase has one newel post at the bottom and one at the top, but you’ll also need a newel if the staircase turns a corner, and usually a half newel on the landing where the handrail meets the wall. If the staircase has a landing or half landing, working out what you’ll need is a bit more complicated.

It pays to get high-quality stair parts that will stand the test of time – a staircase isn’t something you want to change more than once, so choose a reputable supplier, such as ID Modern Stairparts, which has a useful downloads section on its website (, including an A to Z of stair parts.