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Everything to Know About Spiral Staircases

Last modified: 2022-12-28 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Cynthia Pigeon

Rather elegant with its sinuous curve, the helical/spiral staircase is an urban, structural beacon in Montréal and a guaranteed head-turner.

Whether one appreciates its indisputable charm or critiques its lack of functionality, this type of staircase leaves no one indifferent. However, what does one need to know about it? To help answer this question, here's everything you need to know about the helical/spiral staircase.

What There Is to Know About the Helical/Spiral Staircase

Benefits of purchasing a helical staircase

helical staircase_Everything to Know About Spiral Staircases

Source : Canva

As mentioned in this article’s intro, the helical staircase has an indisputable charm when compared to other types of staircases. Its design is a sharp contrast to the traditional squared-off edges of most other staircases.

Still, in terms of benefits, the spiral staircase is especially well-suited to smaller spaces. Since it rarely exceeds 1.60 metres in diameter, it takes up little space in a loft or a small apartment. As it spirals around a fixed point, it also allows a lot of space gain. Furthermore, it allows easier access to higher-up spaces.

While this type of staircase is most commonly selected for its space-saving feature, some love it in large, open spaces. Choosing a model with a much larger circumference tends to create a very impressive and stately effect, so it's a great option if the size of your home allows it.

More so regarding its function within its environment, it's also worth noting that it can be adapted to both square and round staircases, which is a testament to its versatility. The same versatility is also reflected in the possibility of choosing a solid or hollow core staircase (the former doesn't have an empty space in the centre). Lastly, the spiral staircase, due to its structure, takes up very little space on the floor, which means the floor plan can be cleared as much as possible.

Drawbacks to a spiral staircase

helical staircase in building_Everything to Know About Spiral Staircases

Source : Canva

Because of its curvature, which extends from the ground floor to the top floor, and the narrowness of its steps, it can be difficult for people with limited mobility and children to move freely and safely. Also, this winding structure makes it very difficult to go up or down with large objects such as furniture. 

As far as price is concerned, it's impossible not to underline the fact that this type of staircase is expensive. If you want to save money on this type of staircase, you can choose a store-bought model. However, you may end up regretting your choice. Some models can be rather shaky, as the steps tend to slide, left to right, if the staircase has a central stringer (which supports the treads), or slip along the centre column.

Guidelines for purchasing a spiral staircase

Source : Canva

If you choose a store-bought model, prioritize raw wood staircases; they’re more likely to last through the years. Stainless steel is also an interesting and durable choice if its modern, metallic look appeals to you.

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Standards of Spiral Staircases

Source : Canva

To begin with, note that all steps must have a 225 mm-wide tread, which is measured 500 mm from the central point of the staircase's rotational axis. As far as dimensions are concerned, it needs to have a minimum clear width equal to or greater than 860 mm if it's adjacent to a wall, and at least 760 mm in other cases.

Lastly, note that such a staircase can't be the sole means of exit on a floor, but it can be authorized for a small mezzanine. In all cases, the stairs must always turn in the same direction. Note that the Construction Code in Quebec allows a spiral staircase with wheeling or balanced steps to be installed as long as certain safety standards are met.

The Truth Behind the Spiral Staircase in Montreal

Montreal_Everything to Know About Spiral Staircases

A mere walk outside is all you need to admire these magnificent, wrought iron staircases, which appear to be ascending towards the sky and bewitching the eye with their sinuous curves. Although it may seem as though they've always been a part of Montréal's streetscape, they actually date back to the beginning of the 19th century, a time when people from the surrounding areas decided to move to the city due to financial reasons.

As a result of this influx of new residents, spiral staircases quickly became an effective way to maximize indoor living space. Moreover, it was a definite advantage in terms of energy consumption. In fact, since the buildings no longer had any shared spaces, property owners were no longer required to dish out money to heat these non-existing communal spaces.

If the initial plan was to build the main staircase on the outside of buildings for the reasons mentioned above, then choosing a spiral staircase turned out to be a far more convenient option than that of straight staircases. The latter requires much more space, which is why spiral staircases are rapidly gaining popularity in the city. 

Interestingly enough, this type of staircase was banned in the 1940s because of its less-than-noble appearance according to the city's elite at the time. It was only in 1994 that this type of staircase was reinstated to maintain the original architectural features in neighbourhoods which already had them.

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