A Guide To The Perfect Metal Staircase

Whether you are a business in the industrial sector, an individual wanting to embrace the design or something in-between, choosing or designing a metal staircase can be difficult. Perhaps you’ve seen a design somewhere and want to replicate it. Where do you get it from?

Unfortunately, there are very, very few metal staircase stores… if any? You’re more likely to need to speak to a company who specialises in making them, such as J. Colburn! But where do you start?


Most metal staircases you have seen have been custom-made, designed by an architect or the owners. There are however specialist companies like us that will consult, design, manufacture and install. There are lots of ways to cut down on costs to stick to a specific budget, we recommend speaking to a “full service” company to maximise on this.


Size is everything

You’re going to want to start out by making sure the design you want will fit in the space you have. Begin by measuring the total rise. This is the measurement from the finished floor below to the finished floor level above. You will then need to work out the number of risers required. To stay within building regulations, a domestic staircase needs a rise of between 190mm to 220mm. Standard risers are around 200mm.

Now calculate the number of treads. Generally you require one less tread than the number of risers. Next, work out the ‘going’ – the measurement from the face of one riser to the next. To comply with regulations, the minimum going should be 220mm, whilst the pitch of the staircase should not exceed 42°. There are no restrictions when it comes to width, but standard flights measure 860mm, and for a main staircase we suggest a width of between 800mm and 900mm works best. For secondary staircases a minimum width of 600mm is recommended

Stairs & Fire escapes

Stay on the straight and narrow, or get all turned around?

One of the growing trends we have noticed is the spiral staircase. The straight staircase still dominates, due to it being the simplest and usually cheapest option, but spiral and turned staircases are on the rise (pardon the pun).

You need to ask one simple question: how does your metal staircase get from where it starts to where it needs to end? Generally, the base of the staircase is best located near the front entrance, and if possible you should not have to cross another room to reach the stairs from the front entrance. This is absolutely vital if there is a third story to the building, as the stairs will have to act as a fire escape route.

When turns are required in a staircase, the simplest option is to split the flight in 2 and connect them with a 90° quarter turn landing. If you were to use a 180° turn it would be known as a half landing.

Steps that turn corners whilst climbing are called ‘winders’ to navigate 90°. A turn consisting of three winders is known as a ‘kite winder’. These are often used at the top and bottom of flights to get round corners.

Spiral staircases are not the most practical feature, making it hard to take furniture up and down. They also tend to be a bit more expensive than standard flights. However, they can add a real sense of character to a building and generally look fantastic. They are also a great option when space is limited.

The finishing touches

Balustrade. This is the main thing people will notice about your staircase. Balustrades are the combination of spindles, handrail and newel posts. Often these elements give a metal staircase its character. Timber, glass, metal, and even stud walls can all form a balustrade. In period homes, balustrades were often elaborately carved, but today people keep it simple. Usually by utilising modern materials such as laminated glass panels and metal tension wires.

A top-down view of a metal staircase with an intricate balustrade

Why use metal?

Metal staircases have transcended from being seen as the purely industrial to a modern feature piece in a home. They are less heavy in appearance than wood. Metal staircases last longer in damp areas like a cellar or outside if galvanised. They can be powder coated in any colour you like. With stainless steel handrail and posts combined with clear glass steps you can have a refined, expensive look at a very reasonable price.

In short, they can be absolutely fantastic, but remember, a badly designed metal staircase can look too industrial.

The regulations

  • Staircases should have a maximum rise of 220mm and a minimum going of 220mm
  • They should have a maximum pitch of 42 °
  • Flights should have a handrail on at least one side if they are less than 1 metre wide and on both sides if they are wider than this
  • Handrails on stairs and landings should have a minimum height of 900mm
  • No openings of any balustrade should allow the passage of a 100mm sphere
  • A minimum of 2,000mm of clear headroom is required above the pitch line
  • For further Regulations see Approved Document K (available for free from here).

If you’re thinking of a new staircase for your business or home, please get in contact with us via email or by calling 01273 413190. We’re happy to help at any step. That’s all for now!

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