STAIRCASES OCCUPY an important position in the design of a structure. Especially in small plots with buildings that expand vertically, easy movement from one level to another depends on the location of staircases. This makes good design and comfortable ergonomics of staircases mandatory.
The inner part of the house, which shall not be seen or accessed by visitors from the verandah or the front living areas, is the ideal location for a staircase. To give an impression of style, the staircases are even provided in the living room.This arrangement lacks privacy and does not provide security. Ideally, the staircase could be in the dining room or in the family room depending on its central location.
The types of staircase can be classified according to usage and form — a main staircase, a service staircase and a fire escape staircase. A main staircase would be the primary one, to be centrally located and used by the residents. Service staircases can be located outside the house. They could be used by the service staff and housekeepers for terrace access and other services. Fire escape staircases are vital in multi-storey buildings. These are made mostly of steel or fire retardant materials.
For ergonomics and safety reasons, the staircase tread has to be 10" wide and the risers 5.5" to 6" high. There has to be sufficient mid-landings for a pause between two flights.
To match the architectural style and interior ambience, staircase can be buiklt using materials that compliment the colour scheme. Wood has been the preferred material as it gives warmth to the space and lends itself to work and style. The finishes can be varnish, enamel, wax, and so on. Hard woods such as teak and oak, and exotic woods have a longer life but need to be constantly Handrails made of wood can be very expensive, whereas a hollow circular metal handrail along with wooden balusters might be a good solution, economic as well as stylish. Contemporary materials such as glass and metal are being increasingly used for both staircases and handrails as the primary material or a cladding material.
Lighting in staircases has to be considered in depth as it is crucial for safety. It is best to opt for lighting that remains constant from one end of the staircase to the other. Placing a skylight over the top of the staircase can be a good idea, as the sunlight will illuminate the whole staircase to an equal degree.
Staircases consist of balusters and handrails, apart from a vertical bar fixed at the edge of the first step. The upright or round bars touching the steps are balusters. On top of it comes the handrail, which completes the structure of a staircase.
Staircases may be of various shapes - spiral, straight, curved or any of several other shapes, created to suit the circumstances. Spiral staircases, supported by a central pole are used in places where space is limited.
Handrails complete the picture of a staircase along with balusters and newels. One end of the handrail is normally fixed to a wall. The materials used can be wood, aluminium or steel. Handrails are normally positioned three to three-and-a-half feet high from the step level.
It is the style of the balusters that contributes mainly to the looks of a staircase, which makes the material and design chosen for the balusters important. Vertical balusters, when thin, can be one or two per step.
The gaps between the balusters should be less for better safety.
Cast iron, wood and aluminium are commonly used for balusters. Intricate patterns are best avoided, to keep the balusters free from dust. Though these kinds of materials are stylish and trendy ,keeping them clean can be a headache.
The height requirement of the steps varies from person to person. The common standard is a height of 16.6 cm to 16.8 cm for each step. But, for the elderly, kids or the unwell, 15 cm is fine, says Mr. Jacob, adding, "I see to it that the steps are always below 17 cm in height. I use wood to cover the concrete steps to give the silent and light feeling."
Granite is not generally used for the steps as it is not smooth .Polymer concrete is used for outside steps, as they do not tend to get slippery when exposed to rain. They are not used inside the buildings.