Safety is always of primary concern for any homeowner. Stair safety is one area of the home where safety hazards are especially great. Indoor and outdoor stairs pose a potential risk for tripping, slipping or falling especially if their condition or their design is not ideal.
For new home construction or existing homes, stair design involves more than just convenient location and access from one storey to another. Measurements such as head clearance and pitch contribute to safe stair design as well. The challenge for home building then is to design a stairway built to the appropriate dimensions that will fit the floor plan in a convenient location.
Stairs should be of an adequate size to accommodate the average shoe size per Building Code Australia (BCA) and Australian Standards, AS-1657. They should be of such dimensions as to not require excessive physical exertion to navigate, and not pose a trip hazard by causing heels to be caught on the edge of treads.
Materials used are another important component of stairway safety. The type of flooring, or floor covering contributes to safety. Flooring patterns can affect safety as well, as visibility may be impaired, obscuring the edges of each stair and creating a trip hazard.
Proper stair construction enlists a number of important factors that builders and homeowners must keep in mind. Design elements to consider for preventing falls on stairways include:
Each stairway in your home should be inspected periodically for loose steps or handrails. Treads should be firmly affixed to stringers. Wall-mounted handrails should be anchored onto wall studs. Balustrades and newels must be inspected for cracking, looseness and wear. Anti-slipping materials should be checked for wear and replaced as necessary.
Placement of stairways in new construction or home remodels should conform to both building codes and traffic patterns in the home. Be careful of head clearance both on and underneath the stairway, particularly where they ascend above doorways.
A licensed professional building inspector is recommended, who can identify any potential safety issues presented by your home’s stairways. An inspector will explain the required dimensions of various stairway types (ladder, spiral, etc.) and advise on what materials to use, locations to consider, repairs that are needed.
Stair safety is no accident. It’s a matter of proper stair design and construction, and keeping your stairways well-lit, and protected against slipping. Prevent falls in your home, and have your stairways inspected. Don’t find out the hard way that your stairs need attention.