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Design Tips

Consult us early: plan the space

Think ahead and plan the type of stair you want before you finish drawing up plans. All too often the stair gets left until last and then what you want won’t fit. You cannot fit a dramatic stair in your house if you have only left a small space. Feel free to ask for advice, we can often save you money and time when consulted during the design process. If you need extensive help in planning or designing a large job, we can consult with you at an hourly rate.

Don’t forget you need a hole bigger than just the last few treads on the upper floor. Building codes require 2000mm plumb above any point on the line of nosing’s. Our stairs must comply with the building regulations in regards to headroom as well as for height of balustrades and the steepness of stairs.


Plan the timing

Don’t wait until a week before you need the stair to organize a quotation. Most good firms have work ahead of them, us included. If we have a waiting period, that means that if you sign a quotation and give us a deposit today, it will be up to 2/4 weeks until we begin working on your job. It takes time to do good work. If you are going to be living with your stair for thirty years, does another two weeks really matter to get it right? A quality staircase is worth the wait, though it may seem a long time now.


Bring your plans

This may seem obvious, but many people walk into the shop to order a staircase without the plans for the building. Customers often say, “We just wanted to get an idea of the price and the possibilities.” However, we cannot even begin designing (or costing) a stair if we don’t know what space is available. The more space available, the more possibilities there are.


Note these measurements accurately

  • Floor to ceiling
  • Floor to floor height
  • Going = length of the stairwell
  • Width of the stairwell
  • Thickness of the floor or ceiling joists on the upper floor
  • Many people know the ceiling height of their house, which we do need to know, but the floor-to-floor height is also crucial.

When do you measure for a stair?

When building a house the walls must be up, floor height established and the stairwell cut out before the space can be measured accurately for a stair. We will need to know if there will be any under-floor heating, tiles, carpet or wooden flooring which might change sizes.


Are there any obstructions to the stair?

Mark the placement of any doors, windows, hallways, boilers or toilets on the plans in the area where the stair will be built. We must know what obstructions are in the stairwell so we can design the stair to fit around them.


Think about the design

Perhaps you have a particular style of staircase in mind, and perhaps not. We don’t have set designs as such. Each of our stairs is unique. We do have many stock components (balusters, handrail and newels) that you can mix and match to create the staircase you want. Besides choosing from our stock components, you can match existing work in the house or have a stair entirely custom made. You, the customer, can choose the design details as well as the timber. The possibilities are endless. We are happy to offer technical and design advice to homeowners, builders, loft converters and architects.


How old is the building and what style is it?

Your stair looks best when it is designed in a style appropriate to the house. We can advise you on what will suit your house. The space available for the stair will also affect the choices you have.


What Type of Timber to Use?

What kind of furniture do you have? The timber used in the stair can match or harmonize with existing timbers in the house. Timber is a natural material and consequently its colours and grain patterns will vary. Enjoy these differences, they are normal and give timber its character.

Timber species may not make a huge difference to cost unless you go for something really exotic. Conversely, substitutes may not save a huge amount. You can see timber samples in the office. We use a wide range of timber, any which is commercially available and appropriate for the job.


Learn the terms to describe the parts of a stair.

This helps you describe exactly what you want and helps you understand exactly what you are ordering. Feel free to ask us questions. Also, if you do not understand the terms used to describe the stair you are ordering, you cannot accurately compare quotations from different vendors. Clients often compare by price without realizing that the quotations are for very different things. What is included in one quotation may not be included in another.


Think about how you want to finish your staircase.

You may want French polishing, staining, painting, or carpeting. These choices can affect your choice of timber. For example, if you know you want to paint and carpet the stair, a less expensive timber can be used. Choose and book a French polisher if you want one. The stair should not be walked on until it is polished or painted. The unfinished wood on a new stair can be easily being scratched or stained. It is best to have it sealed within one week of completion of the stair or a base coat and then have or finished once all trades have left the house.