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Stairs are important links in an overall circulation scheme of a building as it provide
means for moving from one level to another. Whether interjecting a two-story volume or
rising through a narrow shaft, a stairway takes up a significant space. The most
important considerations in the design and placement of stairs are the safety and its
ease of travel. To prevent overly complicated framing conditions at the later stages of
construction, the landings of a stairway should be logically integrated with the structural


Jiilian Goh Joon Jin

Step: The step is composed of the tread and riser.
Tread: The part of the stairway which is stepped on.
Riser: The vertical portion between each tread on the stair.
Nosing: An edge part of the tread that protrudes over the riser beneath.
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.
Stringer: The structural member that supports the treads and rises.
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.
Trim: Normally applied where walls meet floors and often underneath treads to hide the
reveal where the tread and riser meet/
Handrail: The angled member for handholding, as distinguished from the vertical
balusters which hold it up for stairs that are open on one side.
Guardrail: Required to protect the open glazed sides of stairways, ramps, porches, and
unenclosed floor and roof openings.
Gooseneck: The vertical handrail that joins a stopped handrail to a higher handrail on
the balcony or landing.
Landing: A platform between flights of the stairs or at the termination of a flight of stairs.


Types of Stair Plans

Straight-Run Stair
- A straight-run stair extends from
one level to another, absence of
turns or winders
- Building codes generally limit the
vertical rise between landings to
12’ (3660).

Half-Turn Stair
- A half-turn stair turns 180̊̊ or
through two right-angles at the
intervening landing
- A half-turn stair is more compact
than a single straight-run stair
- The two fights connected by the
landing may be equal or unequal,
depending on the desired
proportion of the stairway opening.

Quarter-Turn Stair
- A quarter-turn or L-shaped stair
makes a right angled turn in the path
of travel
- The two flights connected by an
intervening landing may be equal or
unequal, depending on the desired
proportion of the stairway opening

Winding Stair
- A winding stair is any stairway
constructed with winders, as a circular
or spiral stair.
- Winders can be hazardous since they
offer little foothold at their interior
corners. Building codes generally
restrict the use of winders to private
stairs within individual dwelling units.

Pic 1 shows an example of half-turn stair
at the construction site.
Pic 2 shows a finished winding stair at the
semi-detached house.

Pic 1

Pic 2

In-Situ Reinforced Concrete Stairs (Construction method)
Formwork may vary for different types of reinforced stairs but the basic principles do still apply for all. Timber formwork is observed in the construction site.
The solid wooden boards must be load bearing to support the weight of the concrete.
Several fixtures are used to join and fasten the riser boards to the lateral structure of the formwork. The reinforcement bars (joist) are installed in the
Simple reinforced concrete steps is based on the following requirements:
- concrete mix of M15 (1:2:4) / 20mm aggregate
- minimum “cover” to reinforcement 15mm or bar diameter or greater value for 1 hour fire resistance


The rise height or rise of each step is measured from the top of the first tread to the next.
The tread depth of a step is measured from the edge of the nosing to the vertical riser.
The going of a step is measured from the edge of the nosing to the edge of nosing in plan view.
The total run or total going of the stairs is the horizontal distance from the first riser to the last
Total Run = (No. Risers - 1) x Unit Run
The total rise of the stairs is the height between floors (or landings) that the flight of stairs is
spanning. If there are N steps, the total rise equals N times the rise of each step.

In-situ reinforced Concrete

The slope or pitch of the stairs is the ratio between the rise and the going (not the tread depth,
due to the nosing).
Headroom is the height above the nosing of a tread to the ceiling above it.

There are many types of materials use in stairs construction.

Pic 1

They have poor resistance to fire and only used for small residential buildings. They are light-weight and the
timber used should be free from fungal decay or insect attack. The wood should be well treated before use.
In-Situ Reinforced Concrete (Pic 2))
It is usually designed as an inclined, one way reinforced slab with steps formed on its upper surface. It acts
as a simple beam if the stair is constructed after the floor beam or wall supports. If it is cast with the beam
or slab supports, it is designed as a continuous beam. Concrete stairs require careful analysis of load,
span, and support conditions.
Pre-engineered and prefabricated steel stairs are available. They require regular maintenance in the form of
painting to protect from corrosion. Mostly used for spiral stairs and made up of mild steel or cast iron.

Pic 2

Standard Requirements:
Stairway design is strictly regulated by the building code. The
dimensions of the stairway are subjected to the requirements approved
by the Department of Standards Malaysia.
Risers and Treads
- Tread depth: 11” (280) minimum
- Riser height: 4” (100) minimum; 7” (180) maximum
- Uniform riser and tread dimensions are required to prevent slipping
- More than 16 risers per flight are not encouraged
- Open risers are not permitted
Stairway Width
- The occupant load determines the required width of an exit stairway.
- 44” (1120) minimum clear width; 36” (915) minimum for stairways
serving an occupant load of 49 or less
- Landings should be at least as wide as the stairway width and have
minimal length of 44” (1120) measured in the direction of travel.
Landings in dwelling units may have a minimum length of 36” (915).
- When door is fully open, the door must not intrude into required width
by more than 7” (180).
- Required on both sides of the stair. The building code allows
exceptions for stairs in individual dwelling units, stairways less than 44”
(1120) wide and stairs having less than four risers.
- 34” to 38” (865 to 965) height above the leading edge of the stair
treads or nosings.
- Should be continuous without any obstruction
- One handrail should extend at least 12” (305) plus one tread width
beyond the bottom riser. The ends should return smoothly to a wall or
walking surface, or continue to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight.

If there is a door at the landing, the door should swing in the direction
of egress and door swing must not reduce the landing to less than one
half of its required width. - When door is fully open, the door must not
intrude into required width by more than 7” (180).

Detailed Analysis
- The stairs have full landing
- Closed risers
- Absence of skirting
- Treads’ width meets the standard requirements.
- Riser’s height meets the standard requirements.
- Landings and stairs have equal width
- Single handrail as permitted in dwelling units