Cantilever (Floating) Stairs | An Architect Explains

A cantilever is a beam anchored at only one end. Cantilevered Stairs have independent steps which are anchored to a bearing wall or a stringer beam embedded in a wall, with the help of steel pins/bolts. The idea is to  give the impression of  floating stairs.


bolt cantileverEach step assembly comes with a tread, two brackets, bolts and a telescoping support stud. The stud is installed into a concrete or steel beam with the brackets protruding outward. A wall is then built around the brackets. Then the finished treads are bolted in place. These treads may be of steel or wood or wood clad steel. Cantilever steps need to be designed by a structural engineer, so that they remain horizontal and rigid  with use over time.


WOODEN CANTILEVER STAIRS:  Rather than use solid wooden steps, wood clad steel studs that are fixed to a steel beam in the wall are used in the example below. But these treads will be thick to accommodate the steel support structure

Solid wooden planks cantilevered from the wall

To reduce the thickness of the wood steps, you can have solid wooden planks resting on T-section plates that cantilever from the concrete stringer/wall as seen in the image below.

Solid wooden planks resting on T-sections cantilevered from the wall

Generally, the stringer that supports the steps is hidden inside a wall, so that the cantilevered effect is dramatic. But sometimes, the stringer is exposed. To create a  really dramatic effect, the wooden steps are cantilevered from a feature wall like this.

Wooden cantilevered steps from a feature wall

In part-cantilever stairs, the steps cantilever out by one-third of the stair’s width. The risers can function as drawers to take advantage of the space underneath.

In Folded Cantilever stairs, the treads are connected to each other with risers, like a ribbon.

STAINLESS STEEL CANTILEVER STAIRS: Stainless steel ribbon stairs are seen here. The glass balustrade reinforces the floating effect.Another type is the T-shaped steel tread which is anchored into a steel beam in the wall.

GLASS CANTILEVER STAIRS:  Nowadays, Glass treads are becoming popular in homes as they allow sunlight to filter down the different levels. The glass treads are at least 32 mm thick and made of toughened glass.

glass cantilever staircase
Toughened glass cantilevered steps

STONE TREAD, CONCRETE CANTILEVER STAIRS: Other examples include cantilevered steel treads with stone tops or  concrete steps that project from a concrete wall. Advantages of Cantilevered steps:
They appear light.
They allow light into the different levels.
The impression is of a floating effect.

Disadvantages of Cantilevered steps:
They do not appear to be very strong and sturdy.
They may sag at the ends.
A balustrade is often avoided to reinforce the floating effect. But this is dangerous.
You may feel that your feet will slip through the gaps between the stairs.

Cantilevered steps allow light through the gaps

So, there are different styles possible with the Cantilever staircase. The same holds good for other types of stairs such as Two stringer and Centre-stringer stairs.

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2 thoughts on “Cantilever (Floating) Stairs | An Architect Explains

  • November 30, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Is a cantilevered staircase much more expensive than a traditionally built equivalent?
    Hi Steve,
    By ‘traditionally built equivalent’, I am assuming you mean a ‘two-stringer staircase’. While the latter requires two stringers (supporting beams), the cantilever stairs need just one, which is embedded in the wall from which the steps are cantilevered. But then the steps have to be anchored to the stringer beam, with the help of steel pins/bolts and have to be designed by a structural engineer, so that they remain horizontal and rigid with use over time. Therefore, cantilever steps are more expensive.

  • May 11, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    i have made a cantilever staircase at my home with a metal pipe in the centre. the upper surface of the stairs is of marble. please advise what to do at the back of the stairs.
    Hi Deepak,
    What is resting on the central metal pipe- marble slabs or some other material? I need more details

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