Planning spiral stairs, location and access

Location and access for your spiral staircase: The best location of your spiral stairs will usually be in an area with the most convenient access on the upper floor.  Your decision may also be guided by where you think the new stair would best highlight your home’s interior.

The new stair will require easy access at the top and bottom floors.  Both the location of each access and the directions you will walk to and from the stair are important.

Be prepared to be flexible with these early considerations.  Your spiral stair diameter, the floor height and nearby obstructions on either floor may dictate placing or rotating the stair differently.

Treads for different spiral stair diameters may turn different angles, changing the amount of total turn for the entire stair, meaning you will get to the top in a different spot.

Your floor height will determine how many treads you will need, again how far the entire spiral will turn.

Obstructions might include, among other things, nearby walls, windows, doors, built-in furniture, lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, or fire places.  The spiral stair itself may become and obstruction, say if one of the access locations is in a blind corner of two walls so that you have to crawl under the spiral to get on.

Headroom above any part of the spiral must be sufficient so a tall person will not have to duck when using the stair.  Examples of headroom extremes might be going up the spiral along a sloping A-frame ceiling or passing a twirling ceiling fan.  You might have to be careful if your spiral exits at the top floor under a sloped ceiling or ceiling beam.

You spiral stair manufacturer routinely deals with these issues and should be able to guide you on what is possible. Your final plan must accommodate all these considerations.

To see for yourself how obstructions may come into play, imagine the spiral stairs as a cylinder sitting on the lower floor.  It may help to place a cardboard circle on the floor to represent the cylinder’s lower end and imagine the curved walls going up.

The cylinder should have the same diameter as the recommended stairwell dimensions.  Your manufacturer should be able to supply this dimension.  If not use the actual* diameter to the outside of the spiral handrail plus about 4” for finger clearance.

The imagined cylinder should rise all the way to the top floor without hitting any obstructions.  The spiral stair’s top tread will end a little farther from the floor edge than half the cylinder diameter.  A landing that is part of the stair will reach out from the floor to the top tread.  Headroom constraints under the ceiling over the top floor should be apparent above the top tread and landing.

 *Actual diameter may not be the nominal diameter…i.e. a 6’ nominal diameter spiral may actually be 5’ – 8” to the outside of the spiral handrail.





What sort of spiral stairs is right for you

What sort of spiral stairs?  Steel?  Steel and plastic?  Wood?  Here we consider spiral stair kits* in the modest price ranges of, say, between $1,500 and $3,000, for a spiral stair that will meet national building codes. The first five or six pages of an internet search will give you many examples of what is available.

*Spiral stair kits are put together on site. Pre-built staircases require prohibitive shipping costs and can be difficult to get inside the building.

Lower priced spiral stairs are often mass produced, adjustable kits made of steel, or steel and plastic. These spiral stairs can be ordered with a single phone call — perfect for busy customers who do not want to be involved in design. The stairs are adjustable because they can be assembled with the spiral handrail on the left or right and will work with a range of floor heights.

Higher-priced spiral stairs are designed by the manufacturer to fit each customer’s home.  By working with the manufacturer, customers can influence the design for a spiral staircase they will enjoy for years to come.

These spiral stairs are available three ways: 1. all steel or other quality metal; 2. steel with wood tread covers; and 3. all wood.

Metal spiral stairs are usually installed outdoors. Some higher quality steel stairs look good indoors, especially with modern décor. Metal stairs with wood tread covers look even better because of the natural wood grain. Wood tread covers, like carpeting, deaden the clanging sounds and cold feel of walking on bare steel.

All-wood spirals always look good because the wood grain is all you see.  Like fine pieces of wood furniture, wood spiral stairs have a natural, warm appeal and will fit in with all sorts of interior decor.  Another advantage is that wood is timeless. It retains its beauty as it ages.

Wood spirals bring you a choice of many styles and structural designs. Posts and balusters may be simple and square, or turned and ornate. Some wood spirals are offered with decorative iron balusters for a special old-world and classy appearance.

Wood is more eco-friendly than metal. Many sources of wood come from responsibly managed forests and wood takes less energy to produce.

Historically, wood spiral stairs have been priced higher than steel, but there are wood spiral companies today whose prices are competitive with better quality steel spirals.

Notes on a 180-degree spiral stair

180-Degree Spiral Stairs

Spiral stairs do not always have to turn almost a full circle as you climb them.  Typically spiral treads turn about 30 degrees each, so an 11-tread spiral will turn 330 degrees. Stairs can be designed to turn smaller angles.  For instance treads that turn about 16.4 degrees each will make an 11-tread spiral that turns half a circle (Figure 1 ) — a 180-degree spiral stair.

You could use fewer treads for a larger angle, say eight treads at 22.5 degrees each (180/8 = 22.5) but this would require a much higher rise between steps, on the order of 12” where codes allow 9-1/2” at most.  This would be an uncomfortable step up for most people.  To see for yourself stack books on the floor up to 12” high and try stepping up onto them.

Figure 1.
spiral stairs, typical 180 degrees

IMPORTANT:  All the spiral stairs in this article are shown to clarify considerations for 180 degree spirals.  Arbitrary diameters and stairwell sizes are used, but do not depend on these dimensions for a stair to fit a specific floor layout or to work in other ways.  Instead consult your stair supplier to be sure you have a design that will fit your floor plans.

A 180-degree spiral can be used to access a second floor loft edge or to fit a rectangular stairwell were a large conventional stair has been removed.  The stairwell must be wide enough to accommodate a 180-degree spiral that allows secure footing on each tread.  If the treads are too narrow walking on the spiral is difficult, particularly when you go down. As you can see in Figure 1, you  could easily scrape the heels of your feet—it would be easier to go down backwards, as if climbing down a ladder.

How much foot room do other spiral stairs allow:  Consider a typical spiral that meets national building codes (Figure 2a).  This stair has a diameter of about 5’ with treads that turn 30 degrees each.  This allows a stepping area 14-3/4” long, 7-1/2” wide at the small end, 15” at the other.  Figure 2b shows how the stepping area is determined.

Figure 2a.
spiral stairs typical 30 degree treads

Figure 2b.

Larger stepping areas for 180-degree spiral stairs can be achieved by increasing the spiral diameter so that the narrow angle treads spread wider near the handrail.  Figure 3 shows a 9-ft. diameter spiral. The stepping area is 23” long,  and 7-1/2″ to 14” wide, as comfortable as the 30-degree spiral.

Figure 3.

spiral stairs 180 degree 9 foot diameter

Figures 4 and 5 show 180-degree spiral stairs with diameters of 7’ and 5-8” respectively.  The 5’-8” diameter was chosen to possibly fit into a 36”-wide stairwell, where a conventional straight stair has been removed.

The 7” stair’s stepping area is 11-1/2” wide with widths of 7-1/2” up to 10-3/4”.  This is tight, but possibly doable.

Figure 4.
spiral stairs 180 degree 7 foot diameter

The 5’-8” diameter provides a stepping area 12” wide and widths of 5-3/4” to 9”, extremely tight and not a good stair for high traffic use.

Figure 5.
spiral stairs 180 degree 5'-8" diameter


The Minimum Dimensions of a Spiral Staircase

Spiral staircase dimensions are set by building codes and must be followed for the staircase to meet the code. Each locality may have its own rules for spiral staircases, but many will follow the Universal Building Code or another widely accepted standard. Under these standards, the general dimensions required for a spiral staircase include the following:
Orleans style spiral staircase

  • Stair Rise – The stair rise refers to how steep the stairs are. It’s measured by the vertical distance from one step up to the next. All stairs have a maximum rise so that they are not uncomfortably steep. For traditional stairs, this is a conservative 7.75 inches, but for spiral stairs it’s 9.5 inches. The reason that spiral stairs are allowed the extra rise is so that there is ample headroom when you pass under the landing or the treads above. This is why spiral staircases sometimes feel “steeper” than regular staircases. This is the spiral staircase dimension that is most likely to be forgotten by a building inspector, since it’s different from the stairs they see most often.
  • Head ClearanceHead clearance is the vertical distance from the top of any tread to the bottom of the tread or landing directly above it. Head clearance can never be smaller than 78 inches or 6.5 feet. That means a person 6’5″ tall could stand on any tread and their hair would just brush the tread above them.
  • Tread WidthIf treads are too narrow, people feel off balance and the stairs would be dangerous. But treads are triangular, meaning that they’re narrower at one end and wider at the other. The general rule is that the narrow end has to be at least 7.5 inches wide one foot out from the narrowest point. In other words, the first twelve inches of tread can be narrower as long as the rest of the tread meets the requirements.
  • Width of PassagewaySpiral staircases are often used to make efficient use of smaller spaces, but there is a limit on how small they can be. The “passageway width” has to be at least 26 inches wide. That means it is 26 inches from the railing on the outside to the central column on the inside.
  • Baluster SpacingBalusters are the vertical rails that run from the tread to the handrail. They must be placed close together so it’s not easy to fall between them. Generally, code requires that they are spaced so that a 4-inch object can’t pass between them. Spacing of up to 4 3/8 inches may be permitted.
  • Opening Between TreadsThis refers to the amount of open space between one tread and the next. It must be at least 4 inches to allow the foot to make use of open space beyond the tread itself (although some codes require more space than this).

If your spiral staircase must meet different requirements for a specific local code, or if you aren’t sure, talk to us at Precision Pine. We will be gladly check with your local building inspection office for you and make the stairs to the correct dimensions. Call us today at 877-885-8902!

Key Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Staircase

shutterstock_119875249In multi-level homes, a staircase plays a critical role in the home’s function, as it connects the upper and lower levels. Aside from its functional purpose, a staircase is also crucial to a home’s design. A staircase is often what guests first see when they enter a home, and beautiful stairs can serve as a powerful design element. With that said, there are factors to consider when buying a new staircase. Here are some important questions to ask yourself before making a final decision.

What’s my budget?

Money is often the deciding factor when buying spiral or straight stair kits. So, before you shop for a new staircase, determine what you can afford and set a budget. Establishing a budget can help you choose the right materials and style for your stairs, as these factors will greatly influence your cost. A staircase that is larger and more extravagant will require more materials, and therefore be more expensive than a smaller, more modest staircase. Keep quality in mind when looking at pricing of the staircase kit. Opting for a poorly made staircase to save some money will cost you down the road. To get a better idea of pricing for spiral and straight stair kits, call Precision Pine for a free quote: 877-885-8902.

Do I want straight or spiral stairs?

Both straight and spiral staircase designs can offer functionality and beauty. When deciding between the two, you want to consider the space and who will be using the stairs. Straight stair kits are a great option if you have ample room to work with, while spiral stairs may be ideal if space is limited. A spiral staircase can be tucked away in a corner and uses less square footage than straight stairs. However, in some instances straight stairs may be a better option if you want to just replace an existing stair, if you’re concerned about going up and down, or if you have special needs that a spiral might hinder.

What style best complements my home?

Once you settle on spiral or straight stairs, you can decide on the right style for your home’s design. There are a variety of different styles to choose from, including traditional, contemporary, Charleston, Orleans, and Savannah. Orleans and Savannah staircases offer more decorative styling, as opposed to traditional which offers a more simplistic design.

Does the staircase need to comply with building code requirements?

Whether you’ve chosen spiral or straight stairs, you will need to know if the staircase must comply with the building code requirements of your locality. Building code requirements provide specific regulations for the height, depth and pitch of the staircase to ensure it is safe. Before buying a staircase, check the building code requirements in your area.

For a stunning staircase that satisfies your budget, style preferences, and building code regulations, contact us at Precision Pine. We offer a variety of quality spiral and straight stair kits, which can be customized to suit your unique needs and requirements: 877-885-8902.

5 Advantages of a Spiral Staircase Kit

If you want a spiral staircase in your house, you’ve probably considered a spiral staircase kit. A spiral staircase kit allows you to build an entire, properly sized spiral staircase in your house without any construction knowledge. . But are they your best option? We believe spiral stair kits have a number of advantages over on-site fabricated stairs and pre-built units. Here are five of the biggest ones:

1. You know it will fit. One of the most nerve-racking things about installing a new staircase in your home is having to worry about whether everything will “line up” just right. You do not want a carpenter to get a few measurements off nor do you want to drag home a pre-built staircase only to find out it’s a little too big. That’s why spiral staircase kits are built to your specifications. Generally speaking, you will need two dimensions: a diameter (how wide the total staircase will be) and a floor-to-floor height (how tall it is). The staircase kit will then be designed to match your measurements. (Note that floor to floor means finished floor surface to finished floor surface.) When you assemble your staircase you’ll find that it fits perfectly.

2. They’re easier to move. Spiral staircase kits are delivered with the individual pieces disassembled and carefully wrapped. This not only ensures they arrive without scratches or dings, it also means you can easily move the boxes or individual components around your home rather than lugging giant prefabricated pieces.

3. No messy construction. Have you ever had a contractor come to build a custom staircase in your home? The result is typically a huge mess. With a spiral staircase kit, most parts are cut, sanded and pre-drilled to before it arrives to your home. This leaves minimal cleanup compared to an onsite fabricated stair.

4. Straightforward installation. You don’t have to be a fix-it guru to assemble and install a spiral staircase. Spiral kits are designed to be assembled by almost anyone, and with just a few basic tools. The instructions give clear diagrams, and once you have assembled the first few steps, you will discover it is an uncomplicated process.

5. They’re affordable. The biggest draw of a spiral staircase kit is that you get the elegant look and convenience of a spiral staircase at a great price. It makes this striking architectural element a great value for you..

What kind of spiral staircase are you interested in?

4 Reasons to Choose a Wooden Spiral Staircase

spiral staircaseSpiral staircases are a great addition to any house with a mezzanine, loft or open second floor. However, choosing the right one can be difficult. That’s especially true when you find yourself torn between a wooden spiral staircase and a metal version. We believe that wooden spiral stairs are often the best choice. Here are four reasons why they’re the way to go:

1. Beauty. Simply put, real wood has a beauty that’s hard to outclass. It is at once traditional and timeless, simple and elegant, and adds warmth to your home. Wooden spiral staircases should be made of 100% natural solid wood, which gives a range of colors, and there are just as many styles to match. Wooden staircases can even get the best of both worlds by featuring solid wood steps and railings along with beautiful wrought iron balusters. If you want the eye catching look, solid wood is the way to go.

2. Sturdiness. Spiral staircases are airy, lightweight structures that need to be sturdy to perform their job. All commercially available spiral staircases should meet basic building requirements, but that doesn’t mean they will look or feel reliable as you walk up and down. Many metal staircases are made with the thinnest metal possible and bolted together so that they shake or rattle as you go up and down. Real solid wood construction on the other hand is not only built to last a lifetime, it also feels solid and reliable on every step.

3. Better use of natural light. Since a spiral staircase is usually part of an open vertical area, it is as much a visual element as it is a utilitarian one. To get the most of that you have to make sure you are capitalizing on natural light. Nothing catches and reflects sunlight like natural wood—it’s the perfect pairing.

4. Home resale value. Ultimately, a spiral staircase is an investment in your home. Solid wood construction is a luxury material that homeowners of all tastes can appreciate. Metal staircases on the other hand can get a groan from prospective buyers. A wooden spiral staircase is not just a way to make good use of your space today; it’s a way to maximize your resale value tomorrow.

These are just a few of the reasons we’re rather fond of wooden spiral staircases. What is it about wood that speaks to you?

7 Reasons to Love Wood Spiral Staircases

Prized for their beauty and practicality, spiral staircases are a great choice for those who want to open up a space and add an elegant and functional design feature. Due to their many benefits, spiral stairs are becoming more and more common in both residential and commercial settings. While there are countless reasons to love spiral staircases, here are a few of our favorite:

  1. spiral stairThey take up less space. Compared to other types of stairs, including straight stairs and L-shaped stairs, spiral staircases take up less space. Whether you want a spiral staircase to connect your first and second stories or to increase the accessibility of an elevated deck, it will achieve its primary purpose while conserving floor space. Along with saving space, they make a space feel more open since you can see straight through the staircase.
  1. They’re accommodating. As opposed to other types of stairs, spiral stairs are incredibly adaptable. Due to their nature, they can be installed virtually anywhere in your home. Since they take up minimal space, they can be installed in places where straight stairs can’t, such as tucked away in a corner.
  1. They’re beautiful. How many times have you walked into a space and thought about how beautiful a straight staircase was? For most people, the answer to that question is probably never. Wood spiral staircases however, are beautiful and mesmerizing and can add elegance and charm to any room
  1. They can increase the value of your home. Due to their aesthetic appeal and efficient use of space, wood spiral stairs can help improve the value of your home. Even if you’re not looking to move any time soon, spiral stairs are a good investment that will benefit you now and down the road. For larger homes, spiral stairs can make a home look even bigger and more luxurious. The efficient use of space makes smaller homes look and feel larger as well.
  1. They’re timeless. Spiral staircases have been around for centuries and never go out of style, which makes them a good investment. If you install spiral stairs in your home today, you can rest assured that they will still be appealing 20,  30, even 50 years down the road.
  1. They’re easy to install. For the majority of straight stairs, a carpenter hspiral staircaseas to custom build them for your space and cut and assemble the pieces on-site. This can cost a great deal of time and money. A spiral staircase is easier to build and install. The pieces in Precision Pine’s spiral staircase kit come ready to assemble and can be easily installed by most homeowners.
  1. They’re economical. When you think about the price of purchasing a straight staircase and hiring a contractor to install it, the price comes out to be much steeper than a spiral staircase. A spiral staircase is more economical up front, it’s built to last, and will provide your home with more useable space.

These are a few of the many reasons to love spiral staircases. If you are interested in installing a spiral staircase on your property, contact Precision Pine today: 1-877-885-8902. We offer many great style options and can create a spiral staircase that suits your style and satisfies the spiral stair code requirements in your locality.



A Guide to Spiral Staircase Building Code Requirements

stairsMany people love spiral staircases for their ability to glamorize a space. They create a stunning focal point in residential and commercial settings and occupy less space than straight stairs. Whether you’re adding a second story, loft or outdoor deck to your property, a spiral staircase is an excellent option.

But, before you purchase a spiral staircase kit, you should first see if your installation will need to meet code requirements. The spiral stair code requirements greatly differ from the requirements for straight stair systems. While codes can vary from locale to locale, most states and local codes have similar rules, which are primarily based on the International Residential Code (IRC). The specifications set by the IRC are developed by the International Code Council.

Spiral Stair Code Requirements

At Precision Pine, our spiral stairs are custom designed to suit the client’s floor plan and preferences ; when necessary built to adhere to building code regulations. We also like to include the local building inspector before installation begins to ensure the staircase complies with building code regulations in your locality. Here is a basic overview of the spiral stair code requirements that we follow:

Clear Walking Path

A spiral staircase requires at least a 26-inch clear passageway, or walking path. This means there must be at least 26 inches from the inside of the handrail to the outside of the center column.

Tread Requirements

The term “stair treads” refers the horizontal surface you step on to use the staircase, and the minimum stair treaddepth is defined by the IRC. The stair treads must be at least 7 ½ inches deep at a point of 12 inches from the center column. All of the stairs must have identical treads. The vertical height of each stair – which is called the rise – must not exceed 9 ½ inches to prevent the staircase from being too steep. In most cases spiral stair rises must be higher than straight stair rises in order to provide adequate headroom as you go down the spiral. (See spiral top landings.) Other stair tread specifications include:

  • 78 inches is the minimum head clearance above each tread, as well as above and below the landing
  • Some codes state the minimum opening between treads cannot exceed 4 inches


The IRC requires a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet 6 inches. As the spiral staircase goes down and turns under its top landing there must be at least this headroom, measured from the bottom edge of the landing down to a spiral line that follows the tread nosings below. Sometimes the minimum headroom must be satisfied when the spiral passes beneath nearby parts of the building, such as an exposed beam or sloping A-frame ceiling.


All spiral staircases are required to have a handrail on the wide edge of the treads. The handrail must be a minimum of 34 inches and cannot exceed 38 inches in height. For the vertical balusters that support the handrail, there can be no more than 4 inches between them.

If you are interested in purchasing a spiral staircase, contact us at Precision Pine. For over 20 years, we have provided beautiful spiral staircases to customers in all 50 states, as well as Canada and the Caribbean. Contact us today for a spiral staircase kit that meets your local building code, as well as your style and budget: 1-877-885-8902.