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Stair Shapes | An Architect Explains

There are broadly, six types of staircases based on the shape. When choosing the shape of the staircase, the following aspects should be taken into account:  Space available, Intensity of usage, Form (Shape) preferred,  Convenience and safety. Here is a brief description of the different Staircases and their shapes seen in plan:
Stair Shapes
Different Staircase shapes.

Straight Stairs:  A straight staircase can be defined as one having a single, straight flight of stairs that connects two levels or floors in a building. The  straight flight staircase is feasible only if there is enough space to join two levels by an imaginary straight line.

Stright staircase
Straight Stairs

Stairs With Landings: There are many different types of staircases with landing. Some popular types are the Straight staircase with landing, L-shaped, double L-shaped and U-shaped staircases.

straight staircase with landing
Straight Staircase with landing
L-shaped staircase
L-shaped staircase with landing

L-shaped stairs:  In the L-shaped (Quarter landing) staircase, two mutually perpendicular flights of stairs are connected by a landing in between. The double L-shaped staircase consists of 3 mutually perpendicular flights of stairs with 2 landings connecting them.

U-shaped staircase
U-shaped staircase with two landings


U-shaped stairs: A U-shaped (Half landing)  staircase has 2 parallel flights of stairs connected by a landing in between. The U-shaped stairs may be left sided or right sided as shown in the picture below.

U shaped staircase
Left and right sided U-shaped staircase

Winder Stairs (Pie Stairs): Winder Stairs are stairs that turn by 90 and 180 degrees, but the landing is substituted by “pie-shaped” steps. Since there is no intermediate landing, winder stairs are used when the space is not sufficient for Quarter Landing Stairs and Half Landing Stairs. 

Winder stairs
Winder stairs with ‘pie-shaped’ steps

Arched (Curved) Stairs:  Arched Stairs are the stairs with a flight resembling an arch in its shape. The treads in such stairs are wedge-shaped.  Though they are difficult to  make, they are elegant and graceful in appearance.

Arched, Curved staircase
Arched stairs resemble an arch in shape and have wedge shaped steps

Spiral Stairs: Stairs of this type have a stair flight resembling a circle or a part of it in its shape and a central, vertical, support post to which wedge shaped treads are fixed. Due to the spiral shape, such staircases can fit into small spaces. However, such staircases are not convenient for frequent use and fast climbing.

Spiral stairs
Spiral stairs have a circular plan

Circular Stairs:  A circular staircase also has a circular flight and can fit into a small space. But unlike the Spiral staircase, there is no support pole in the middle. A circular staircase may have a very narrow diameter or a wide curve giving it a very grand appearance.

circular stairs
Circular stairs also have a circular plan but do not have a central pole

Elliptical Stairs: This is a type of curved staircase that narrows at the top and bottom with a wider curve in the middle. This type of staircase is more convenient than a circular staircase, because it is elongated and you will not feel dizzy when climbing  many floors.

elliptical staircase
Elliptical staircase resembles an ellipse in plan

Compact Stairs: These are stairs that occupy minimum space. Quite often they are called “goose-step” or “sambo” stairs because of the distinctive shape of their treads – See picture below: You should start climbing up or down them only with the “proper” foot, otherwise you may end up falling down. Because of their inconvenience, the usage of such stairs is limited to less used spaces and utility rooms where there is little movement.

compact stairs
Compact stairs occupy minimum space because of the ‘goose steps’

Stairs are usually supported by stringers (beams) that are strung between floor slabs. Stairs can be supported by different types of stringers such as single, two or centre-stringer. For more information on these types of Stairs go to:

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One thought on “Stair Shapes | An Architect Explains

  • September 11, 2014 at 11:31 pm
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    learnt alot … New information would like to have more access to new information
    Thanks Ghulam

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