Stair and Staircase Building Regulations Explained


Taken from The Building Regulations 2010 Approved Document
Part K1 - Stairs, ladders and ramps
2013 edition for use in England

Please note: Information provided on this website is only intended as a generic guide, we would always advise you check current building regulations and consult a local building professional for up to date advice on specific building regulations that may apply to you or for any further technical advice.  


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The most important dimension for any stair manufacturer is the distance from finished floor to finished floor.

Only then can any drawings be provided. Most manufacturers will ensure that your staircase complies with the appropriate building regulations, but it's wise to check with them first that this is the case.









Steepness of Stairs (Pitch) - rise and going (1.2 - pg14)

  Building Regulations - Rise and Going of each steps should be the same  

Each step must be level and have the same rise and the same going.

For example, you cannot have 200mm for the first three risers and then 205mm for the others.

However, if the stairs have a flat landing mid-way, then the flight below and above this landing can be treated differently. The regulations may be interpreted in such a way to allow a different rise and going on the bottom flight to the rise and going on the top flight. Wonkee Donkee recommends that you do not do this since it is not considered good practice. 




Staircase Categories

  Stairs are now defined as:   
  1.   Private   for one domestic dwelling.  
  2.   Utility   used for escape, maintenance or other purposes, but not as a normal route.  
  3.   General access   the normal route between levels for all building users.  

The Rise And Going

  The most important regulations regarding private stairs are:  
    1.  The maximum rise for any step is 220mm (min. 150mm)  
    2.  The minimum going of any step is 220mm (max. 300mm)  
    3.  The maximum pitch is 42°     
    Sketch showing building regulations maximum stair rise of 220mm and minimum Going of 220mm.  
      Private (domestic) Staircase    Going = 220 min; Rise = 220 max; Pitch = 42° max.  
      Utility stair   Going = 250 min; Rise = 190 max  
      General access stair   Going = 250 min; Rise = 170 max  


1. Your stair tread can be greater than 220mm (Going), and the step height can be below 220mm (Rise) provided that twice the Rise plus the Going (2R+G) falls between 550mm and 700mm. This is the normal relationship between the dimensions of the rise and going.

2. For external tapered steps and stairs that are part of a dwelling, the going of each step should be 280mm minimum.

3. The preferred going and rise for school buildings is 280mm and 150mm respectively.

    These dimensions should be followed for existing buildings unless dimensional contraints dictate otherwise, in which case alternative proposals should be agreed with the relevant building control body.  
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  Rise + Rise + Going    =    Greater than 550mm but less than 700mm  



Construction of Steps

  Nosing minimum 16mm (Staircase Building Regulations)   Building regulations stipulate that staircase steps should be level. 
Nosings should protude at least 16mm from the riser face.       
  Treads of open risers must overlap by a minimum of 16mm (Staircase Building Regulations)   If the steps are constructed with open risers, then there should be at least a 16mm overlap between treads.  



Open Risers

  Open Risers distance (Staircase Building Regulations)   To prevent children from falling or getting trapped, all stairs with open risers should be constructed so that a 100mm sphere cannot pass through.  



Head Room

  Measuring the headroom, minimum 2 metres (Staircase Building Regulations)   A minimum headroom of 2 metres is required at all points on and off a staircase.  



Headroom for Loft Conversions

  Minimum Headroom (Staircase Building Regulations)   For loft conversions the available headroom will comply with the building regulations provided that the height at the centre of the stair width is at least 1.9 metres, reducing to a minimum of 1.8 metres at the side of the stairs.          
  Maximum Headroom dimensions 2 (Staircase Building Regulations)   Please Note
Where there are real difficulties in the available height, some building control officers will allow you to build a newel out from the wall to comply with the regulations. This will restrict the width at the top of the stairs, but may be an option for you to consider. Contact your local building control officer for clarification.
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Minimum Width of Staircase

  String to String Explained (Staircase Building Regulations)   For dwellings, there are no recommendations for the minimum width of a staircase - yes, really!

There are rules for direct fire escapes and disabled access and you will have to consult Part M of the building regulations and talk to your building control officer who may interpret these rules differently.

However, to ensure that a staircase is visually pleasing and comfortable to use, we recommend that your stair width is greater than 860mm including the strings.

In exceptional circumstances, particularly where severely sloped plots are involved, a stepped change of level may be unavoidable. In these cases, ensure that the stair width within the entrance storey of a building is 900mm minimum.




Maximum Width of Staircase

  Staircase Width - dividing flights (Staircase Building Regulations)   The maximum width of a public staircase is 2000mm (measured between inside faces of handrails). However, this is easily overcome by the addition of a handrail, and / or newel and spindles, in the centre of the staircase.  




  Minimum landing size (Staircase Building Regulations)   1.  Landings must be provided at the top and bottom of every staircase. 
2.  The landing distance in front of the top and bottom step must be at least the width of the staircase. 

  Doors, in any position, on landings should be at least 400mm from any step (Staircase Building Regulations)   3.  No door should swing closer than 400mm to the front of any step. 
4.  All landings should be level other than the ground floor level which can have a gradient not exceeding 1:60.



Length of Staircase

  Change of staircase direction when maximum number of steps is reached (Building Regulations)   Flights of stairs can contain up to 36 risers in a straight line in domestic dwellings. After the 36th riser, there should be a change of direction of at least 30°.
In public buildings, such as a shop for assembly purposes, the number of risers is restricted to 16.




Stairs That Turn

  Winder Staircase Building Regulations for stairs, staircase. Winderbox, winder box        
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Winder Box

  Staircase Winder Box detail Building Regulations for stairs, staircases   For most staircases, the building regulations require that the centre of the staircase dimension “A” must be equal in length and also be the same as, or larger than, the dimension of the going on the straight flight of the staircase “B”.  Seek professional advice if the staircase is wider than 1000mm    



Space Saver Staircases (Alternating tread stairs). 

  Section of Space Saver Staircase (Building Regulations)Space saver staircase section  

These are staircases that break the rule of “maximum pitch of 42°” 

The use of this type of staircase is quite often interpreted differently by different building Inspectors and generally, they prefer them not to be used.

The building regulations state that they can be used for access to a loft with one habitable room, in one or more straight flights only, and only if there is no alternative.

The room may also contain a bathroom and/or WC (as long as it is not the only WC in the property).



  Alternating treads or steps of a Space Saver Staircase Building Regulations   The maximum rise is 220mm and minimum going measured between alternate nosings is 220mm.     



Handrails for staircases

  Staircase Handrail height (Staircase Building Regulations)  

Stairs should have a handrail on at least one side if the stairs are less than 1 metre wide. A handrail on both sides of the stairs will be required if the stair width is greater than this. You do not need a handrail on the first two bottom steps. 

In all buildings, handrail height should be between 900mm and 1000mm measured from the pitch line to the top of the handrail.

  Staircase Handrails - a 100mm diameter sphere must not pass through any gaps (Staircase Building Regulations)   A 100mm sphere should not be able to pass through any openings.    
  No nosing in offices (Staircase Building Regulations)   Staircase Building Regulations are covered by further regulations parts M1 and M2.

Nosings are no longer permitted on staircases used in offices and for staircases used for disabled access. Building inspectors are also asking for no open risers for offices.


The rise should be between 150mm and 170mm, and the going between 250mm and 450mm. Some building inspectors prefer to avoid the use of steps to gain access to a building and instead are insisting on ramps. Please check with your local building inspector


Get full details of current building regulations on the Planning Portal website.

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