Question

What type of stairs do you recommend for the least cost and most modern look?

Asked by Margie
Catonsville, MD

We are building a small house with center stairs and a loft that will be visible from almost everywhere in the house. Looking for a clean, modern design that we can afford. Need recommendations for both the steps and the balusters.

Answer

Margie,

Begin looking at a stair design based on components that are readily available and require a basic mechanical knowledge and ability to install.

I have a few suggestions for these components:

  • stringers
  • stair treads
  • rail and guards

Stringers

Solid stringers, at sides of stairs, preferably a wood laminate product such as a para-lam, micro-lam, or glue-lam.

Of the three, the glue-lam will be the most expensive due to its prefinished appearance. However, if prepared and finished properly, the remaining two alternatives can be aesthetically appealing. All of these members are structurally sound and can be drilled to accept a bolt on tread.

Stair treads

I suggest stair treads which bolt to the stringers by the use of integrated or attached angles.

Look for pre-constructed metal treads such as those found in factories and on playground equipment. They are functional, structural and bolt onto the other components.

Rail and guards

Rail and guards should be a panelized design, minimizing the amount of fabrication and attachment points. This panelized system can be of made of a multitude of products, such as glass, open metal mesh, wood, and acrylic, to name a few.

Safety

Keep in mind that there are codes and standards governing the design and construction of stairs to ensure the safety of the occupants. These standards should be reviewed and strictly adhered to.

I recommend that you consult an architect or stair design firm for interpreting these standards prior to committing to your design.

Cost

Finally, know that an open and visible staircase requires a greater degree of craftsmanship, which ultimately increases the cost in comparison to a staircase located in an enclosed, non-visible location.

However, if properly executed, it will become the focal point in your home's open floor plan.

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