Chapter 4: Stairs


You do need to think about where to put a permanent staircase for your new loft as its position can affect the whole layout. Ideally, the new staircase should continue from the existing stair case as it saves space.

You will also have to plan for the position of the top of the staircase when it reaches the loft. The staircase should finish near to where the roof is at its highest due to minimum headroom requirements.

Rise, Going & Angle

Rise is the height of each step and going is the width. The individual rise is the total height (rise) needed for the staircase divided by number of risers.

The angle (pitch) of the staircase can’t be more than 42 degrees, so the minimal going for the steps depends on the individual rise. The individual going doesn’t include the nosing overhang (see Nosings section below). The individual rise has to be between 150mm and 220mm and the individual going has to be between 220mm and 300mm.

Kite Winders

Winders are steps that are narrower on one side than the other, such as in a spiral staircase, and are used to change the direction of steps without having to fit a landing and take up more space. When three steps are used to turn a 90 degree corner, the middle step is called a kite winder.

A staircase with kite winders will usually have a mix of straight and winder treads, and the winder treads have to be equal to or greater than the straight treads, with the going of all winder treads equal.


There is no minimum width listed for a domestic staircase in the building regulations though, for loft conversions, the generally accepted minimum width is 600mm, but between 700mm and 750mm is usually recommended.

On staircases with a turn, each flight of stairs may be a different width if needed, though of course minimum sizes should be considered, and you should think about what the stairs are going to be used for so they are of a practical size.


Headroom is one of the biggest problems with staircases as building regulations state that you have to have two metres of headroom all the way up the stairs, measured from the pitch line, which is a line drawn across the top of all of the treads.

If you really have problems with your headroom, do talk to your building control officer as it’s possible they might be lenient, but have that conversation before you fit your staircase to avoid having to take it out again if they aren’t happy.


According to the building regulations, a handrail must be provided at the sides of any flight where there is a drop of more than 600mm, which means that, usually, the most steps you can have without a handrail is two.

From that point on, a handrail must be provided to stop people from falling on any part of an open staircase, and the top of the handrail should be between 900mm and 1000mm from the floor.


A nosing is the edge of a step or stair tread that sticks out beyond the riser, to slightly extend the length of each step and make it safer and more comfortable to step on, which can prevent slips and falls. You can use a different coloured nosing to make the edge of your steps more obvious for safety purposes.

On a domestic staircase with closed risers, there is no minimum or maximum overlap for the nosing overhang, though 20mm is recommended.


The building regulations state that there has to be 400mm from the door, or the swing of the door when it opens to the bottom of the stairs.

Clearly if you can’t open the door fully because it catches against the bottom step of the staircase, you’ll have difficulty carrying anything large through the gap, and this could cause a trip hazard, not to mention that if there is a fire, you need to be able to get everyone out of the house as quickly as possible without any obstacles to slow your escape.

Open Riser Stairs

Open riser staircases can help give the illusion of space in a smaller room but there are restrictions on what you can do with them.

Building regulations state that you should not be able to fit a 100mm sphere through your staircase at any point, so generally open riser staircases can’t have fully open risers. You can use either a partial riser in timber, or a chrome riser bar to make sure that there is no more than a 100mm gap anywhere.

Space Saver Stairs

If your space is too small and you can’t fit a standard staircase, you can use a space saver staircase, but building regulations state that you can only do that if the stairs are serving a single room. Also, most building inspectors don’t like space saver stairs so only fit one if there’s nothing else you can do.

You must also fit a handrail or wall handrail on both sides of the staircase.

Still not sure what type of staircase is best? Give our experts a call at County Lofts on 0800 046 1995.