Nick Bligh of JELD-WEN discusses how involving manufacturers at the early planning stages of a project can make all the difference in ensuring a smooth delivery of a structurally sound staircase.
Stairs can be viewed as a complicated element of the build project, with room for error during the design and specification process through to installation. From initial specification through to the final design, navigating the choice of stair options available on the market, while adhering to the Building Regulations, can be a challenge.
If overlooked, housebuilders are at risk of implications surrounding usability and structural performance, which can be costly to rectify. Furthermore, as a staircase is often the focal point of a home, its design is also crucial. If poorly chosen, this has the potential to impact the overall look and feel of the property and has the capacity to help or hinder a sale, so choosing carefully is a must.
As every housebuilder or developer will be aware, when specifying stairs for a development adherence to the Building Regulations is critical. Navigating the Building Regulations in relation to stairs can be quite a challenge, from achieving the correct pitch, dimensions, and headroom clearance, to accessibility, fire protection requirements, and so much more. Therefore, working closely with manufacturers who can provide technical support and design guidance – at the early stages – will ultimately ensure that the end result is compliant and suitable for the space and style of project.
There is often a requirement for multiple stair configurations across one site, for use within the different house plot types. Therefore, working with a flexible manufacturer who can provide made-to-measure and bespoke design solutions can be advantageous in achieving the ‘complete’ project solution.
Flexibility doesn’t stop at configuration. The industry has an ongoing need to meet different usability requirements. Smaller properties may need to factor in space saving solutions, and when working with a manufacturer, housebuilders should look for products that make the most of the area available. For example, consider a demountable balustrade option, which is ideal for narrow staircases in town houses, as they can be removed temporarily if access is required for large furniture. Thinking of ways to add value to the end user during specification will enhance the offering and help to differentiate a project and cut through a competitive market.
For a housebuilder or developer, ease of use and added value shouldn’t stop at the end-user. Choosing a manufacturer that can offer additional services such as pre-assembled components, including balustrades that arrive on site fully assembled ready to install, will ultimately save time on site.
When developing larger properties, style can come to the fore. Homeowners can make a grand entrance, using a staircase to provide a focal point to the home which can really help to set off and sell a premium property. A wide variety of styles are available which can really open up an entrance space, such as the use of grand sweeping handrails or simply using a bullnose or curtailed bottom step. No matter the size of the space, there are additional specification options which can add class and quality to any stair design. Handrails, newel posts, newel caps and spindles can all be chosen in a variety of designs to reflect the overall aesthetic of the build being developed.
Often the simplest design tweak can make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of a staircase, which is important when projects need to stand out in what is a competitive market. Premium manufacturers will be able to offer this kind of design support, in addition to technical guidance. This will ensure that any stair solution chosen has the appropriate design and flair to help differentiate a property, while still being suitable.
The choice of staircase materials is also a big decision and when choosing timber it is advisable to specify a manufacturer that is affiliated to the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) stair scheme. A substandard staircase can set a build project back weeks. With this stamp of approval you can be sure that a staircase is guaranteed to meet Building Regulations and the highest safety standards.
Timber is an incredibly versatile material, and if sourced from good quality manufacturers, housebuilders can be assured that it will meet strict specification criteria. Additionally, timber not only looks good but is sustainable too. Choosing CE marked full chain of custody products is great for sustainability credentials and ensures longer guarantees for homebuyers, and ultimately a good reputation for the housebuilder. Timber is a timeless material, which can be used to excellent effect, either on its own for a traditional statement of elegance and quality, or mixed with different material types such as metal or glass to create a contemporary staircase with a standout finish.
A staircase will often never be replaced, and therefore needs to be built to last, in line with the expected lifespan of the development. Careful consideration needs to be given in order to specify stairs that are safe, suitable and save on cost and time.
Finding a stairs solution that will fit the vision of the housebuilder or developer can be a complicated process without the right manufacturer support, thanks to the many elements that need to be considered. This is why a manufacturer who can offer dedicated guidance and information when and where it is needed is essential to get the right product in place without hassle.
Nick Bligh is group technical manager at JELD-WEN