Designing stairs for an addition
Start with a top-down approach, then choose a shape that lands in a good spot
Thinking of adding a second floor to your house? If so, you’re probably wondering where the stairs will go and what shape they will take. I’ve found that location is everything. Ill-placed stairs can lead to an inefficient floor plan, an awkward facade, or a noisy house. Getting the stair right is critical.
Choose a stair shape based on the space available and your design goal. Although code allows narrower stairs, the 3-ft. 6-in. width shown is a comfortable size.
A straight stair is space efficient and as simple as it gets, the solution for linear and skinny spaces.
Use an L-shaped stair when you want the top or bottom run to open to an adjoining room, hallway, or entry foyer.
A U-shaped stair makes a bright, impressive stairwell that brings lots of daylight downstairs.
A switchback stair fits in a compact rectangular area only slightly longer than a square and requires less length than a straight run of stairs.
Don’t get trapped into pinning down that “perfect” ground-floor stair location without seeing if it will yield good results upstairs. I like to start from the top down when pondering the stair location for an addition.
Because an upstairs addition has to look good from the street and because the stair location offers an opportunity to play with exterior forms, I tackle it early in the design process. At the same time, I check to see how the stairwell will fit into the upstairs room arrangement.
I try to avoid a stair location that creates a long, meandering hallway upstairs. Although at times you have no other choice, stairs at the end of a secondfloor…