Woodworking Plans

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Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Circular or curved for 1 last update 2020/07/13 stairs:Circular or curved stairs:

This document assists in building or inspecting indoor or outdoor circular or curved stairs, railings, landings.

Circular stairs have been used for centuries to ascend or descend towers or to provide access between floors where there is not enough horizontal space for a conventional straight-run or single-turn stairway. But circular and curved stairs present some special trip and fall hazards that should be carefully addressed. The circular stairs shown at page top were installed by the author in 1978.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Circular & Curved Stairway Tread Inspection, Building Code, & Trip Hazards

The traditional circular stairway shown in our photo at left was observed in Barcelona, Spain.

This circular stairway accesses four floors in a building and uses stone treads that gave good traction except when they were wet during cleaning. The hand-rail was grasp-able and enclosed. Our opinion was that this was a good stair design.

Article Contents

Circular & Spiral Stair Codes vs Winder Stairs

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for What are the differences among circular stairs, spiral stairs & winder stairs?

Definition of circular or spiral stairs

1009.7 Circular stairways.

Circular stairways shall have a minimum tread depth and a maximum riser height in accordance with Section 1009.3 and the smaller radius shall not be less than twice the width of the stairway.

The minimum tread depth measured 12 inches (305 mm) from the narrower end of the tread shall not be less than 11 inches (279 mm). The minimum tread depth at the narrow end shall not be less than 10 inches (254 mm).

Our photo (left) illustrates a circular stairway installed outdoors in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. We had a welder double the number balusters to the as-built stair to correct an unsafe (too wide) spacing between those elements.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for A benefit of that safety improvement was increased overall rigidity in the entire stair assembly.

Definition & Properties of Spiral Stairs & Curved Stairs

A [spiral stair is a] stairway having a closed circular form in its plan view with uniform section-shaped treads attached to and radiating from a minimum-diameter supporting column.- IBC-1002 - [14a]

Our spiral stair photograph (left) illustrates this design in a building in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico.

[Click to enlarge any photo]

1009.9 the 1 last update 2020/07/13 Spiral stairways.1009.9 Spiral stairways.

Spiral stairways are permitted to be used as a component in the means of egress only within dwelling units or from a space not more than 250 square feet (23 m2) in area and serving not more than five occupants, or from galleries, catwalks and gridirons in accordance with Section Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for 1014.6.

A spiral stairway shall have a 7.5-inch (191 mm) minimum clear tread depth at a point 12 inches (305 mm) from the narrow edge.

The risers shall be sufficient to provide a headroom of 78 inches (1981 mm) minimum, but riser height shall not be more than 9.5 inches (241 mm). The minimum stairway width shall be 26 inches (660 mm).

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for  

Below: tread dimensions for winder stairs. [Click to enlarge any image]

Above; minimum tread dimensions for a Winder stairway, adapted from the 2006 IRC as published by Juneau AK IRC R311.5. Details are at WINDER or ANGLED STAIRS

What''s inner radius by welding to the tank sides.

Circular Stair Kit Choices and Tips

Circular stair kits such as the 1978 kit shown in our page top photo and in our sketch at left are a quick way to add a stairway between floors. that stair was produced by the Iron Shop, a Pennsylvania company in the U.S.

Companies offering stair kits offer an advantage to inexpert stair builders: the stair manufacturer knows a lot about stair codes, dimensions, trip hazards, and tips and tricks for installation.

Which way to face the circular stair: 

The sketches at left show the basic construction of a typical circular stair kit. The right-hand sketch explains a "right hand" circular stair layout. Notice that for most circular stairwells, the user enters and exits the stairway facing in the same direction.

This "direction facing" detail for circular stairs is important when determining where to place the stairwell, since you don''s we had intended to save floor space by ordering the smallest-diameter available circular stair that we could buy.

The stair company''5".

My architect says min. is 6''2". Can someone clarify for me? I would like to do this before the snow flies outside Rochester, NY. And this 150-yr-old house deserves an entry that is not a cob-job!!

This question was originally posted


Reply: IRC Stair Building Code Citation:

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Deb: from my reading, the BOCA Code, UBC Code, IRC Code, and IFC codes all specify: [We use the terms circular stairway and spiral stairway synonymously and assume there is a center post - a feature not present on some custom circular or spiral stairways].

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for If your architect has found a different citation requiring 6-foot diameter circular stairs as a minimum, please ask her for it and share that with me - we need to know about it.

Or perhaps the architect''t fit on the stair treads.

Users can grab onto a vertically-hung knotted rope as they swing out into space while attempting to arrest a fall down these steps - I had to let go and totter on these steps while taking the photo. Imagine having to run up and down these stairs carrying bows and arrows, lances, or buckets of hot tar!

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