Stairs and Elevators: Types, Dimensions, and Examples


Stairs are used to move from one floor to another. Their form and size are decided based on the requirements of the space. If designed correctly, they can also serve an aesthetic purpose and be multifunctional.

Parts of stairs

staircase labeling
  1. Riser- the vertical board that forms the face of the step
  2. Tread/Going- the horizontal surface of a step
  3. Nosing-the protruding fronts of tread
  4. Newel- vertical member at either ends of a balustrade
  5. Handrail-protective rail for support
  6. Baluster- vertical members that comprise the handrail
  7. Stringer- inclined boards in which treads and risers are enclosed
  8. Landing- resting place that breaks a flight of stairs

Standards for designing staircases

  • Tread for houses: 250mm
  • Tread for public places: 270mm
  • Riser for residential spaces: 160mm
  • Riser for public spaces: 150mm
  • Riser for factories: 190mm
  • 550mm<2R+T<770mm where R stands for riser and T for tread.
  • Minimum vertical headroom above any step: 2m
  • Maximum number of risers in a flight: 12
  • Minimum width of stairs: 850mm
  • Width of public stairs: up to 1.6m
  • Minimum width of handrail: 900mm
  • The dimension of landing in the direction of traveling should be equal to at least the width of the stair. 

Types of staircases

1. Straight stairs

Sorrento beach house by Pandolfini architects
Sorrento beach house by Pandolfini architects
  • They connect floors with no change in direction.
  • If the rise is greater than 4m, they may feature a landing.
  • They are easy to navigate and easy to build.
  • They take up considerable amounts of linear space 
  • They provide less privacy between floors. 

2. L shape staircase

Bayside house by Matyas Architects
Bayside house by Matyas Architects 
  • They are achieved when straight stairs take a bend.
  • The bend is achieved by a landing.
  • They save space if located in the corner.
  • They provide a visual and sound barrier between floors.
  • Might be difficult to transport goods. 

3. Winding stairs

Greenknowe 71 by Alexandra Kidd
Greenknowe 71 by Alexandra Kidd
  • They are similar to L shaped stairs but have angled steps instead of a landing.
  • They take up less space.
  • Might be difficult to navigate.

4. Switchback stairs

IH residence by Andra Martin
IH residence by Andra Martin 
  • They consist of two parallel flights of stairs joined by a flat landing.
  • They are easy to build.
  • They save space.
  • Might not be aesthetically pleasing.

5. Half turn stairs

Half Turn Stairs
Half Turn Stairs
  • They feature two parallel flights of stairs connected by bending staircases.
  • They are visually interesting.
  • They are harder to build.

6. Spiral stairs

House in Akitsu by Kazunori Fujimoto architect and associates
House in Akitsu by Kazunori Fujimoto architect and associates
  • The stairs radiate around a center support pole.
  • They're very compact and can be built in small spaces.
  • They are aesthetically pleasing. 
  • Multi Person usability is not possible and might be hard to navigate.

7. Bifurcated stairs

Contemporary 6 bungalow
Contemporary 6 bungalow 
  • A single flight of stairs at the base that splits into two or more flights towards the top. 
  • It is extravagant and seen in grand buildings. 
  • They take up quite some space and are costly.

8. Floating stairs

House 42  by hildebrand
House 42  by hildebrand 
  • The space under the staircase is left open.
  • The lack of risers creates the illusion that they are floating.
  • They are supported underneath by stringers.

9. Cantilevered stairs

Pye house by BAM! Arquitectura
Pye house by BAM! Arquitectura 
  • They are similar to floating stairs except they are attached by only one end, to the wall.
  • Treads are attached using metal frames, wall pockets or stringers attached to walls. 
  • They allow for light but pose a safety issue.

Staircase design ideas

  1. Railing made of different material like glass or ornamental metal rails can be used to make the stairs decorative. 
  2. The riser space can be utilized for decoration
  3. Runners can be placed on the stairs adding warmth, grip and a pop of color.
  4. Space below the stairs can be used for storage.
Decorative riser seen in project flower street by Blackband design
Decorative riser seen in project flower street by Blackband design 
Newport coast
Newport coast 


Lifts are used to facilitate vertical movement in buildings. They are most required in high rise buildings and help people move between the floors in less time. Lifts are convenient for the disabled and also help in shifting goods.

Standards sizes for lift- 

  1. 4 person lift- 9mx10m cabin
  2. 6 person lift- 9.5mx13m cabin
  3. 8 person lift- 11mx14m cabin 

Types of elevators

1. Platform lift

Platform lift
Platform lift
  • Used for the transportation of the disabled
  • Usually moves only a few floors
  • Slower than passenger lifts

2. Passenger lift

Passenger lift
Passenger lift 
  • Used to carry people
  • Finds uses in high rise buildings and moves fast
  • Can be customized both inside and outside to make it consistent with the design.

3. Freight lift

Goods lift
Goods lift
  • Used to transport goods.
  • Can be modified and safety features can be added allowing it to transfer people.
  • They are built to suit the industrial environment.

4. Service lift

Dumb waiter
Dumb waiter 
  • They are smaller lifts designed to carry smaller loads.
  • They are too small for people to enter.
  • An example is the dumb waiter, used to transport food from kitchen to serving area.  

Based on the space requirements and the building’s aesthetics, a suitable staircase or elevator can be used that not only make circulation easy but also improve the look of the place. 

Meta desc- Types of stairs, types of elevators, staircase standards, elevator standards, staircase design ideas.

Stairs and Elevators: Types, Dimensions, and Examples