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Encyclopedia > Stairway

Stairs, staircase, stairway, stairwell, and flight of stairs are all names for a construction designed to bridge a large vertical distance by dividing it into smaller vertical distances, called steps. Stairways may be straight, round, or may consist of two or more straight pieces connected at angles. Download high resolution version (3039x2000, 623 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (3039x2000, 623 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which turns around some central point or axis, getting progressively closer to or farther from it, depending on which way you follow the curve. ... The Double-Helix are an alien race in the Wing Commander science fiction series. ... Entrance to the museum Staircase of the Vatican Museum The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) are the public art and sculpture museums in the Vatican City, which display works from the extensive collection of the Roman Catholic Church. ... A name is a label for a thing, person, place, product (as in a brand name), and even an idea or concept, normally used to distinguish one from another. ... An object is in a vertical position when it is aligned in an up-down direction, perpendicular to the horizon. ...

Special stairways include escalators and ladders. Alternatives to stairways are elevators and inclined moving sidewalks. Escalators at Canary Wharf, London. ... A ladder A ladder is a vertical set of steps. ... A set of lifts (elevators) in the lower level of a London Underground station. ... An inclined moving sidewalk at Beaudry metro station in Montreal This article or section should be merged with escalator. ...

### Step

A straight stairway with tiled treads, a double railing and two landings.

• tread - The part of the step that is stepped on. It is constructed to the same specifications (thickness) as any other flooring. The tread "length" is measured from the outer edge of the step to the vertical "riser" between steps.
• riser - The vertical portion of the step between steps. This may be missing for an "open" stair effect.
• nosing - An edge part of the tread that protrudes from the riser beneath. If it is present, this means that horizontally, the total "run" length of the stairs is not simply the sum of the tread lengths, the treads actually overlap each other slightly
• bullnose - Where stairs are open on one or both sides, the first step above the lower floor may be wider than the other steps and rounded. The rounded portion of the step is called a "bullnose". The pickets typically form a semi-circle around the circumference of the bullnose and the handrail has a horizontal spiral called a "volute". Besides the cosmetic appeal, bullnoses allow the pickets to form a wider, more stable base for the end of the handrail. Handrails that simply end at a post at the foot of the stairs are usually unstable, even with a thick post. A double bullnose can be used when both sides of the stairs are open.
• winders - Winders are steps that are narrower on one side than the other. They are used to change the direction of the stairs without landings. A series of winders form a circular or spiral stairway. When three steps are used to turn a 90° corner, the middle step is called a kite winder due to its similarity to a diamond-shaped kite.
• stringer, stringer board or sometimes just string - The structural member that supports the treads. There are typically two stringers, one on either side of the stairs; though the treads may be supported many other ways. The stringers are notched so that the risers and treads fit into them. Stringers on open-sided stairs are often open themselves so that the treads are visible from the side. Such stringers are called "cut" stringers. Stringers on a closed side of the stairs are closed, with the support for the treads routed into the stringer.
• trim - Trim (e.g. quarter-round or baseboard trim) is normally applied where walls meet floors. Within a flight of stairs there is no trim as the trim thickness will significantly eat into the tread width. Shoe moulding may be used between the lower floor and the first riser. Trimming a bullnose is a special challenge as the last riser above the lower floor is rounded. Today, special flexible, plastic trim is available for this purpose. Scotia is concave moulding that is underneath the nosing between the riser and the tread above it.

In engineering and manufacturing, the term specification has the following meanings: Technical requirement A specification is a set of requirements. ... Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival held on the fourth Sunday every May in Higashiomi, Shiga, Japan A man flying a kite on the beach, a common place that kites can be found. ... A baseboard or skirting board is a wooden board, normally 75mm to 300mm deep, covering the lowest part of an interior wall. ...

### The railing system

The 142-metre-long Potemkin Stairs in Odessa (1834-41) was made famous by Sergei Eisenstein in his movie Battleship Potemkin (1925).
A spiral staircase with ornamental balusters.

• banister, railing or handrail - The angled member for handholding, as distinguished from the vertical pickets which hold it up for stairs that are open on one side; there is often a railing on both sides, sometimes only on one side or not at all, on wide staircases there is sometimes also one in the middle, or even more. The term "banister" is sometimes used to mean just the handrail, or sometimes the handrail and the balusters or sometimes just the balusters[1].
• volute - A handrail for the bullnose step that is shaped like a spiral. Volutes may be right or lefthanded depending on which side of the stairs they occur when facing up the stairs.
• turnout - Instead of a complete spiral volute, a turnout is a quarter-turn rounded end to the handrail.
• gooseneck - The vertical handrail that joins a sloped handrail to a higher handrail on the balcony or landing is a gooseneck.
• rosette - Where the handrail ends in the wall and a half-newel is not used, it may be trimmed by a rosette.
• easings - Wall handrails are mounted directly onto the wall with wall brackets. At the bottom of the stairs such railings flare to a horizontal railing and this horizontal portion is called a "starting easing". At the top of the stairs, the horizontal portion of the railing is called a "over easing".
• core rail - Wood handrails often have a metal core to provide extra strength and stiffness, especially when the rail has to curve against the grain of the wood. The archaic term for the metal core is "core rail".
• baluster - A term for the vertical pickets that hold the handrail. Sometimes simply called guards or spindles. Treads often require two balusters. The second baluster is closer to the riser and is taller than the first. The extra height in the second baluster is typically in the middle between decorative elements on the baluster. That way the bottom decorative elements are aligned with the tread and the top elements are aligned with the railing angle. However, this means the first and second balusters are manufactured separately and cannot be interchanged. Balusters without decorative elements can be interchanged.
• newel - A large picket or post used to anchor the handrail. Since it is a structural element, it extends below the floor and subfloor to the bottom of the floor joists and is bolted right to the floor joist. A half-newel may be used where a railing ends in the wall. Visually, it looks like half the newel is embedded in the wall. For open landings, a newel may extend below the landing for a decorative newel drop.
• baserail or shoerail - For systems where the baluster does not start at the treads, they go to a baserail. This allows for identical balusters, avoiding the second baluster problem.
• fillet - A decorative filler piece on the floor between balusters on a balcony railing.

Handrails may be continuous (sometimes called over-the-post) or post-to-post (or more accurately ""newel-to-newel""). For continuous handrails on long balconies, there may be multiple newels and tandem caps to cover the newels. At corners, there are quarter-turn caps. For post-to-post systems, the newels project above the handrails. This page is a candidate to be moved to Wiktionary. ... A newel is the upright post about which the steps of a circular staircase wind; hence, in stairs having straight flights, the principal post at the foot of a staircase, or the secondary ones at the landings. ... A joist, in architecture and engineering, is one of the supporting bars that run from wall to wall to support a ceiling (or floor). ...

Another, more classical, form of handrailing which is still in use is the Tangent method. A variant of the Cylindric method of layout, it allows for continuous climbing and twisting rails and easings. It was originally defined from principles set down by architect Peter Nicholson in the 18th century.

### Other terminology

Historical photo a of staircase in the Ford plant in Los Angeles with a double bullnose and two volutes.
• balcony - For stairs with an open concept upper floor or landing, the upper floor is functionally a balcony. For a straight flight of stairs, the balcony may be long enough to require multiple newels to support the length of railing. In modern homes, it is common to have hardwood floors on the first floor and carpet on the second. The homeowner should consider using hardwood nosing in place of carpet. Should the carpet be subsequently replaced with hardwood, the balcony balustrade may have to be removed to add the nosing.
• flight - A flight is an uninterrupted series of steps.
• floating stairs - A flight of stairs is said to be "floating" if there is nothing underneath. The risers are typically missing as well to emphasize the open effect. There may be only one stringer or the stringers otherwise minimized. Where building codes allow, there may not even be handrails.
• landing or platform - A landing is, structurally, an intermediate floor between flights of stairs. It is typically used to allow stairs to change directions, or to allow the user a rest. As landings consume floor space and are structurally floors, they can be quite expensive to build. However, changing the direction of the stairs allows stairs to fit where they would not otherwise, or provides privacy to the upper level as visitors downstairs cannot simply look up the stairs to the upper level due to the change in direction.
• runner - Carpetting that runs down the middle of the stairs. Runners may be directly stapled or nailed to the stairs, or may be secured by specialized bar that holds the carpet in place where the tread meets the riser.
• spandrel - If there is not another flight of stairs immediately underneath, the triangular space underneath the stairs is called a "spandrel". It is frequently used as a closet.
• stairwell - This is the space in the building where the stairs are constructed. This may require special structural design so that the floors around the stairwell do not require structural walls so that the stairs themselves are open to the floors.
• staircase - This term is often reserved for the stairs themselves: the steps, railings and landings; though often it is used interchangeably with "stairs" and "stairway".
• stairway - This term is often reserved for the entire stairwell and staircase in combination; though often it is used interchangeably with "stairs" and "staircase".

Download high resolution version (514x640, 55 KB)Stairway in Ford plant in LA from HABS; Ford Motor Company Long Beach Assembly Plant, Asse, 700 Henry Ford Avenue, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, CA; Staircase, lobby of administrative offices; view to southeast. ... Download high resolution version (514x640, 55 KB)Stairway in Ford plant in LA from HABS; Ford Motor Company Long Beach Assembly Plant, Asse, 700 Henry Ford Avenue, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, CA; Staircase, lobby of administrative offices; view to southeast. ... A balcony comprising a balustrade supported at either end by plinths. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... Beech is a typical temperate zone hardwood The term hardwood designates wood from angiosperm trees. ... A spandrel is originally a term from Architecture, but has more recently been given an analogous meaning in Evolutionary biology. ... Wall closet in a residential house in the U.S. It is common for a mirror to be placed on the inside of a closet door. ...

### Measurements

Stair measurements:

• The rise height of each step is measured from the top of one tread to the next. It is not the physical height of the riser; the latter excludes the thickness of the tread.
• The tread depth or length is measured from the edge of the nosing to the vertical riser. It is sometimes called the going.
Photo of a stairwell in a Russian block of flats
• The total run of the stairs is the horizontal distance from the first riser to the last riser. It is often not simply the sum of the individual tread lengths due to the nosing overlapping between treads.
• The total rise of the stairs is the height between floors (or landings) that the flight of stairs is spanning.
• The slope of the stairs is the total rise divided by the total run (not the individual riser and treads due to the nosing). It is sometimes called the rake or pitch of the stairs. The pitch line is the imaginary line along the tip of the nosing of the treads.
• Headroom is the height above the nosing of a tread to the ceiling above it.
• Walkline - For curved stairs, the inner radius of the curve may result in very narrow treads. The "walkline" is the imaginary line some distance away from the inner edge on which people are expected to walk. Building code will specify the distance. Building codes will then specify the minimum tread size at the walkline.
• To avoid confusion, the number of steps in a set of stairs is always the number of risers, not the number of treads.

Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2080x1344, 790 KB)The stairwell of in a block of flats in Astrakhan, Russia. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2080x1344, 790 KB)The stairwell of in a block of flats in Astrakhan, Russia. ...

## Ergonomics and Building Code requirements

Stairs of rock placed in a natural passage

• minimum tread length, typically 9 inches (229 mm) including the nosing. However, most human feet are longer than 9 inches (229 mm), thus people's feet don't actually fit on the tread of the step.
• maximum riser height, typically 8.25 inches (210 mm). Note that by specifying the maximum riser height and minimum tread length, a maximum slope is established. Residential building codes will typically allow for steeper stairs than public building codes.
• minimum riser height: Some building codes also specify a minimum riser height, often 5 inches (125 mm).
• Riser-Tread formula: Sometimes the stair parameters will be something like 2 times riser + tread equals 24 inches (610 mm). Thus a 7 inch (178 mm) rise and a ten inch (254 mm) tread exactly meets this code. If only a 2 inch (51 mm) rise is used then a 20 inch (508 mm) tread is required. This is based on the principle that a low rise is more like walking up a gentle incline and so the natural swing of the leg will be longer. This makes low rise stairs very expensive in terms of the space consumed. Such low rise stairs were built into the Winchester Mystery House to accommodate the infirmities of the owner, Sarah Winchester, before the invention of the elevator. These stairways, called "Easy Risers" consist of five flights wrapped into a multi turn arrangement with a total width equal to more than four times the individual flight width and a depth roughly equal to one flight's run plus this width. The flights have varying numbers of steps.
Emperor's Stairs in the Residenz of Munich, Bavaria
• variance on riser height and tread depth between steps on the same flight should be very low. Building codes may specify variances as small as 0.25 inches (6.4 mm). The reason is that on a continuous flight of stairs, people get used to a regular step and may trip if there is a step that is different, especially at night. The general rule is that all steps on the same flight must be identical. Hence, stairs are typically custom made to fit the particular floor to floor height and horizontal space available. Special care must be taken on the first and last risers. Stairs must be supported directly by the subfloor. If thick flooring (e.g. thick hardwood planks) are added on top of the subfloor, it will cover part of the first riser, reducing the effective height of the first step. Likewise at the top step, if the top riser simply reaches the subfloor and thick flooring is added, the last rise at the top may be higher than the last riser. The first and last riser heights of the rough stairs are modified to adjust for the addition of the finished floor.
• maximum nosing protrusion, typically 1.25 inches (32 mm) to prevent people from tripping on the nosing.
• height of the handrail. This is typically between 34 and 38 inches (864 and 965 mm), measured to the nose of the tread. The minimum height of the handrail for landings may be different and is typically 36 inches (914 mm).
• railing diameter. The size has to be comfortable for grasping and is typically between 1.25 and 2.675 inches (37 and 68 mm).
• maximum space between the pickets of the handrail. This is typically 4 inches (102 mm).
• openings (if they exist) between the bottom rail and treads are typically no bigger than 6 inches (152 mm).
• maximum vertical height between floors or landings. This allows people to rest and limits the height of a fall.
• mandate handrails if there is more than a certain number of steps (typically 2 risers)
• minimum width of the stairway, with and without handrails
• not allow doors to swing over steps; the arc of doors must be completely on the landing/floor.
• A Stairwell may be designated as an Area of refuge as well as a fire escape route, due to its fire-resistance rated design and fresh air supply.

It is estimated that a noticeable mis-step once in 7,398 uses and a minor accident on a flight of stairs occurs once in 63,000 uses.[6]

Stairs are not suitable for wheelchairs and other vehicles. A stairlift is a mechanical device for lifting wheelchairs up and down stairs. For sufficiently wide stairs, a rail is mounted to the treads of the stairs. A chair or lifting platform is attached to the rail. A person on the chair or platform is lifted as the chair or platform moves along the rail. The international symbol of access depicts a person in a wheelchair A wheelchair is a wheeled mobility device in which the user sits. ... A stairlift is a mechanical device for lifting people and wheelchairs up and down stairs. ...

## Forms

Stairs in the 19th century theatre of Weißenhorn, Germany

Stairs can take an infinite number of forms, combining winders and landings. Download high resolution version (600x800, 143 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (600x800, 143 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ...

The simplest form is the straight flight of stairs, without any winders nor landings. It is not often used in modern homes because:

• The upstairs is directly visible from the bottom of a straight flight of stairs.
• It is dangerous in that a fall is not stopped until the bottom of the stairs.
• A straight flight requires enough space for the entire run of the stairs.

Most modern stairs incorporate at least one landing. "L" shaped stairways have one landing and a change in direction by 90 degrees. "U" shaped stairs may employ a single wider landings for a change in direction of 180 degrees, or 2 landings for two changes in direction of 90 degrees each. Use of landings and a change of direction have the following advantages:

• The upstairs is not directly visible from the bottom of the stairs, providing more privacy for the upper floor.
• Falls are arrested at the landings
• Even though the landings consume total floor space, there is no large single dimension, allowing better floorplan designs

### Spiral and helical stairs

The Tulip Stairs & lantern at the Queen's House, Greenwich.
Endless stairway at KPMG, Munich

Spiral stairway seen from below; Melk Abbey, Austria
A spiral staircase from a residential home.

Helical or circular stairs do not have a central pole and there is a handrail on both sides. These have the advantage of a more uniform tread width when compared to the spiral staircase. Such stairs may also be built around an elliptical or oval planform. A double helix is possible, with two independent helical stairs in the same vertical space, allowing one person to ascend and another to descend, without ever meeting if they choose different helixes (there is one at Château de Chambord). Fire escapes, though built with landings and straight runs of stairs, are often functionally double helixes, with two separate stairs intertwinned and occupying the same floor space. This is often in support of legal requirements to have two separate fire escapes. A planform or plan view is a vertical orthographic projection of an object on a horizontal plane, like a map. ... The Double-Helix are an alien race in the Wing Commander science fiction series. ... The front faÃ§ade of the ChÃ¢teau de Chambord, viewed from the south. ...

Both spiral and helical stairs can be characterized by the number of turns that are made. A "quarter-turn" stair deposits the person facing 90 degrees from the starting orientation. Likewise there are half-turn, three-quarters-turn and full-turn stairs. A continuous spiral may make many turns depending on the height. Very tall multi turn spiral staircases are usually found in old stone towers within fortifications, churches and in lighthouses. Fortifications (Latin fortis, strong, and facere, to make) are military constructions designed for defensive warfare. ... This article is about the Christian buildings of worship. ... The Peggys Point lighthouse in Nova Scotia, Canada An aid for navigation and pilotage at sea, a lighthouse is a tower building or framework sending out light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire. ...

Winders may be used in combination with straight stairs to turn the direction of the stairs. This allows for a large number of permutations.

 An alternating tread stair (center) between a half-width stair (left) and full-width stair (right). An alternating tread stair climbing the steep slope of a pinnacle in Pinnacles National Monument, California, USA

The image on the right illustrates the space efficiency gained by an alternating tread stair. The alternating tread stair appearing on the image's center, with green-colored treads. The alternating stair requires one unit of space per step: the same as the half-width step on its left, and half as much as the full-width stair on its right. Thus, the horizontal distance between steps is in this case reduced by a factor of two reducing the size of each step.

The horizontal distance between steps is reduced by a factor less than 2 if for constructional reasons there are narrow "unused" steps.

There is often (here also) glide plane symmetry: the mirror image with respect to the vertical center plane corresponds to a shift by one step. In crystallography a glide plane is symmetry operation describing how a reflection in a plane, followed by a translation parallel with that plane, may leave the crystal unchanged. ... This article is about the Twilight Zone episode. ...

Alternating tread stairs have been in use since at least 1888. [1]

## Examples of notable stairways

Suresh Joachim, minutes away from breaking the ironing world record at 55 hours and 5 minutes, at Shoppers World, Brampton. ... Angels Flight, Los Angeles, California with gantlet track configuration Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with full length parallel tracks The GÃ¼tschbahn in Lucerne, Switzerland â€“ from an 1893 guidebook A funicular, also called funicular railway, inclined railway, inclined plane, or, in the United Kingdom, a cliff railway, is a system of... Spiez is a small town with approx. ... The metre, or meter (U.S.), is a measure of length. ... A foot (plural: feet or foot;[1] symbol or abbreviation: ft or, sometimes, â€² â€“ a prime) is a unit of length, in a number of different systems, including English units, Imperial units, and United States customary units. ... The Penrose stairs is an impossible object devised by Lionel Penrose and his son Roger Penrose and can be seen as a variation on his Penrose triangle. ... Lionel Sharples Penrose (1898-1972) was a British geneticist, psychiatrist, mathematician and chess theorist, who carried out pioneering work on inherited mental illnesses. ... Sir Roger Penrose, OM, FRS (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematical physicist and Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. ... Two famous undecidable figures, the Penrose triangle and devils pitchfork. ... Maurits Cornelis Escher (June 18, 1898 â€“ March 27, 1972) was a Dutch graphic artist known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs and mezzotints which feature impossible constructions, explorations of infinity, architecture, and tessellations. ... Lithography is a method for printing on a smooth surface, as well as a method of manufacturing semiconductor and MEMS devices. ... Ascending and Descending, an M. C. Escher lithograph print Ascending and Descending is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher which was first printed in 1960. ...

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Stairs

Image File history File links Commons-logo. ... Wikimedia Commons logo by Reid Beels The Wikimedia Commons (also called Commons or Wikicommons) is a repository of free content images, sound and other multimedia files. ... Fire escapes on the back of a Cincinnati building. ... Pool-and-weir fish ladder at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River Fishways, most commonly referred to as fish ladders but also known as fish passes, are structures placed on or around man-made barriers (such as dams and weirs) to assist the natural migration of diadromous fishes. ... This page meets Wikipedias criteria for speedy deletion. ... Sydney Tower Run-up is a yearly challenge to run up the stairs of Sydneys AMP Tower as fast as possible. ...

## References

1. ^ Moncktons One Plane Method Of Hand Railing and Stair Building, Copyright 1888 by James H. Monckton, Published by John Wiley & Sons,1891. Plate 2 ,Figure 4

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