Stairs and Balusters

Elliptical stairway
Elliptical stairway – every step has a different shape

Stairs are the first thing that guests see when entering a private residence or public building. For this reason, staircases can be used to publicly display the owner's social standing and wealth. But in even the most humble homes, the newel post on the main floor usually has some kind of decoration.

Seven Basic Stair Forms

Straight Stairs

Straight-run stairs are the quickest route between floors. A landing is required by most building codes to break up a long stairway into two segments – often 12 steps at most, within a given rise and run. Tapered stairs lead the eye to the main entrance by making each step wider from the top of the stairs to the bottom.

Dogleg Stairs

L-shaped, dogleg or "quarterpace" stairs have two segments which meet at an intermediate landing between floors. The upper segment continues up from the landing at a 90 degree angle to the other stair leg. The lower segment has more steps to provide clearance below the landing for a ceiling in a hallway.  Double-dogleg stairs are designed with a single stair segment from the lower level to the landing, and two separate legs at 90-degrees to the left and right side continuing to the upper level.

Return Stairs

U-shaped, return stairs, called switchback or "halfpace" stairs, make a 180-degree turn at the landing before continuing to the floor above. Double-return stairs have two upper segments that return 180-degrees from the landing to the floor above.

Winding Stairs

Winders replace the landing with several wedge shaped stair treads that make either 90 or 180-degree turns. The wall on the outside of the steps can be curved or squared-off.

Geometric Stairs

Geometric stairs or turned-stairs take the shape of a circle, helix or ellipse in plan view. All the steps are wedge-shaped and stair stringers are curved. Known by the degrees of a circle that the stairs cover: quarter-turn, half, three-quarter and full turn stairs. Double helix stairs use the same principal as scissor stairs. There are two starting points on the same floor into two separate staircases, entering at opposite sides of the same stairwell and continuing down on alternating sides of the shaft.
Spiral stairs are circular in plan, with a central pole for support and only one handrail on the outside.

Special stairs include alternating-step stairs and floating stairs that are anchored to one side of the stairway.

Balustrade and Balusters

Balusters and newel posts can make the difference between an ordinary staircase and a true work of art in the hands of craftsmen using traditional methods from the 19th century.
half-turn stair
Halt-turn stair and newel post with lantern

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