Many of us live in homes or apartments which are built on more than one storey. If you do then you’ll be aware of exactly how important it is to have a set of stairs. You may be unaware of exactly how often you actually climb up or down those in your home. We’re here to give you some info on these interesting pieces of architecture and to let you know what you can do to keep yours looking good.
Types and styles of stairs
Stairs have been around for as long as people have been making multi storey houses. From Roman stairs to medieval Trip-steps, they have served us in many functions, but the one which remains has always been the same. This long standing relationship with these simple pieces of architecture has led to hundreds of styles and types, mostly with regard to balustrades and banisters.
Today, there are about five styles of stairs which stand out as being the norm, namely; straight stairs, spiral, L-shape stairs, stairs with landings and stairs with curved staircases.
Straight stairs are the most common across the world, and their name describes exactly what they are. A set of stairs moving from one level to the next, without any curves, right angles or fancy bannisters.
Spiral stairs first saw their introduction during the golden age of castle building, being used as a means of defence in massive, round towers (also called drum towers). Today these are commonly found as a single pillar which descends with sets of stairs protruding from the center like a pinecone. The actual stairs are long triangular shapes with the thinnest point at the center. These are also one of the greatest space saving stairs, as the width of the circumference is the largest area of floor space they will take up.
L-shaped stairs are usually applied to a corner to save on space, and consist of 2 actual flights of stairs an a 90 degree angle to one another. These have a small (usually square) landing which joins them. They are commonly found in homes in America built in the earlier part of the 20th century. More often than not, there is a cupboard space or door to a basement below the lower flight.
Landing stairs are also a very common occurrence in America. The landing can refer to a few designs, including a landing in the centre similar to L-shaped stairs, which serves as an area to stand on (especially with glass bannisters in commercial spaces), or a small expanded or widened set of stairs normally no higher than 2 or 3 steps at the bottom of the staircase which usually just out at a 90 degree angle.
Curved staircases are a common feature of older and larger American homes, usually being used in pairs on either side of the entrance hall to a large old farm house or large ranch property, especially those dating from pre-1920. They are often used in very ornate homes, usually having a chandelier hanging from between them.
Materials to make stairs from
Most staircases will be made from hardwood, and either varnished as-is, or carpeted over. Hard wood stairs are very long wearing, and when looked after can serve a home for many years. Carpeting stairs over can be a great way to minimize noise, especially if you have animals or young children in the house, as large dogs and young people tend to rush up and down (despite mom and dad’s warning them not to!).
In more modern homes there is also a rise in staircases which are formed from concrete. These are often still topped with wood or carpeting as straight concrete is a cold substance and doesn’t really feel inviting.
Spiral stairs in particular can also be seen in older East Coast homes made from steel. With the early industrial look being popularized in media, these are becoming more popular with smaller apartments and studios. A steel staircase painted black or weathered metal with a lacquer varnish on top is also an interesting addition to the look and feel of a modern home.
Keeping your stairs looking good
Caring for your stairs is not difficult, but an important part of keeping them looking good and staying useable. Wooden stairs will require regular upkeep every few months. Apply wood polish to them to keep them looking good, and remember to watch for receding varnish as this can mean that the foot traffic has begun to cause wear and tear, and you will need to apply another coat of varnish. Remember to sand the area first, and then clean the sawdust away, in order to keep the varnish layers looking even and prevent spotting.
If your stairs are made from metal, remember that constant use also causes wear, and because the stairs aren’t thick, you should keep an eye out for peeling paint or rust damage that may lead to holes. While metal can last a long time, it also requires that you keep an eye on it.
Carpeting over your stairs is easy enough, a simple vacuuming should do the trick, but remember to protect the carpet and cover it over if you’re doing any work on the wood!
Replacing old stairs
Replacing metal stairs is something we wouldn’t recommend unless you work with metals regularly, as this requires welding and very specific tools. Wooden stair replacement isn’t a very difficult job to do, but it is a challenge when you want to perfectly match the wood you have if you’re only replacing 1 or 2 steps. We’d recommend you contact a professional in order to weld your stairs for you, or to find out what wood type you have and what color stain or varnish would serve you best. If you are replacing the whole staircase, be prepared for a long job, as there are quite a number of steps to follow.
Firstly, you want to remove the trim and any carpeting around the steps you’re replacing. This will show you where your stairs are joined to the case. Once you have done this, you can remove the steps. Be careful not to damage the joints when lifting the treads out of their place.You may also have to remove parts of the bannister prior to removing the step, so check this first. Once this is done, replace the old step, tread and trim with new ones. If you need to use a plunge router to create a space for the bannister bars, do so before you seat the step.
Once these are all in place, you can either use an epoxy, screw or nails depending on what your other stairs are fastened with. Use carpet nails to re-attach any carpeting you may have removed.
If this process seems a little beyond what you want to sink your teeth into, there are many professionals who can help you out.
If you follow this short guide to your stairs, you can keep yours looking both looking great, and in good working order for many years to come!