Staircase Space: Curved vs Straight

This topic is located on the Home Building Timeline, beginning with the construction phase HOUSE PLANS – MOVING AROUND IN THE HOUSE, at grid location V-24.

NOTE :  This article will remain free to read until April 26, 2019. Until then, read it all you want and share it with all your friends, so they can read it for free, too.

Civilized humans living in houses don’t have to worry about cheetahs and jaguars dropping from the rafters in pursuit of a meal. So, for the most part people have become two dimensional thinkers – left and right along with forward and back. This works well in almost every common situation, until the dimension-related topic shifts to stairs. That’s when a seldom used thinking process comes into play concerning movement in the third dimension, up and down.

The typical mental process only involves moving in two dimensions on one floor, then doing the same on another floor, but never considering how the transition from floor to floor is made. The motions of ascent and descent while moving ahead hardly require any brain power. In fact, the only time such a thing is ever noticed is when there’s too much ‘lift’ between steps or too little room to put a foot or (and this is the big one) the path of stair-travel is not pretty.

This brings up the style of stairs. The most usual configuration for stairs is the straight-line path from floor to floor, like a hall that slopes up or down. Often, however, the desire is for something more, an appearance of elegance, sensuality, something curvy. The most common surprise associated with stairs that curve is how much room the curve takes.

For comparison, the following diagram shows side-by-side staircases, one straight and the other curved. In this illustration there are nineteen risers from floor to floor. Think of it as moving your feet from step to step nineteen times. Nineteen is not a magic number, but just what has been used for these illustrations.

The difference in the space requirement becomes obvious when the two appear in the same space at the same time (below). Note the extra space used by the bending portion of the curved stairs. There’s no doubt that they’re beautiful, just remember that a lot of area on all affected floors must be dedicated solely to the stairs, so it won’t be available as living area.

If dollars do the talking, the decision may be easier. The expense of parts for a curved staircase can exceed several times the cost of a straight one. Space must be dedicated just to the stairs, sometimes triple the area per floor, reducing useable area above and below. This drives up the cost per square foot for the rest of the house without offering anything of value except a curvy stair.

Now, if you’re not inconvenienced by setting aside at least triple floor space, and if you don’t mind dedicating a larger than average portion of your building budget to installing an exotic staircase, and you want a curved stair, then by all means have it.

But, if the current homebuilding project has a limited budget, and space for living is critical, then it would be okay to stay with a straight staircase. Maybe in the next house the budget and space can be curved in your favor.

NOTE :  This article will remain free to read until April 26, 2019. Until then, read it all you want and share it with all your friends, so they can read it for free, too.

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