Creating more living space is always useful. While it is possible to find more room by improving your storage options or simply give the impression of a bigger area by hanging mirrors, fitting glazed doors or installing bigger windows, other elements of your home can help you work towards this goal. While there are strict regulations involved in the installation of a traditional staircase, many homes also have the option of fitting a “paddle” staircase - a more steeply rising flight of steps featuring specially shaped stair treads - to help them save space and access particular areas such as loft conversions and galleries.

Why are they called paddle staircases?

Space saving staircases are often referred to as paddle staircases because of the unique shape of their treads. Laid out rather like the rungs of a ladder, the steps are created from sturdy, firmly fitted planks of wood shaped to provide alternating “footholds” for the individual ascending or descending. From a bird’s eye view, each “right” step could be described as looking like a letter “P” rotated clockwise to a horizontal position, and each “left” step is its mirror image.

Regulations

There are a number of rules surrounding the fitting of a space saving staircase, as it represents an exception to regulations that appear in the Building Regulations 2010 Approved Document - most particularly one that states the maximum “pitch” of a staircase. The “pitch” is the acute angle where a line connecting the nosings of each step meets the line of the floor at the foot of the stairs. The maximum legal pitch, officially, is forty two degrees. If you do require access to a space that would mean fitting a staircase with a greater angle of pitch, however, there is still the possibility of having a paddle staircase fitted.

The regulations for paddle staircases vary between counties. While official building regulations state that this type of staircase can only be used to allow access to one habitable room, other authorities insist that they can only be used for access to non-habitable rooms such as boiler rooms and storage areas. This can prove rather a minefield, so it’s vitally important that you seek advice from your local planning authority or building control officer before you begin arranging your fitting.

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Advice

You can ensure that your space saving staircase can be used with complete safety by following these tips. First and foremost, if your steps need to change direction at any point, you must use a landing. Winder treads are not permissible under any circumstances as, combined with the steep angle of the steps, they make trips and falls more likely.

You must install a handrail for use with this particular design of staircase, and it is heavily advised that you have two. Handrails allow for extra security when ascending or descending, and can take the form of a rope firmly attached to the wall, a “mopstick” style rounded wooden handrail or any other standard quality-approved design. Where possible, the treads should be slip resistant, thick and durable. You are strongly advised to avoid the use of more delicate woods such as pine. 

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I’d like a space saving staircase - where do I start?

After discussing the regulations and legalities of your desired staircase with the relevant local authorities, it’s time to seek expert advice about materials, designs and costings. To read a little more about having a paddle staircase fitted with Pear Stairs, visit www.pearstairs.co.uk/spacesaver-staircases or call 01938 553311 for further expert advice.