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Renovation tips

10 min read

Merging Modernity and Style with Floating Stairs

Renovation tips

10 min read

Merging Modernity and Style with Floating Stairs

Renovation tipsMerging Modernity and Style with Floating Stairs

Let go of your inhibitions and get swept away by the sheer modernity and design of floating stairs. Marked by their minimalism, they seem to hover in mid-air, devoid of any apparent support, thereby creating an open space. Made of several different materials, such as wood or metal, floating stairs can blend in perfectly with your interior decoration or become a signature, stylish piece. Uncover the different options at your disposal.  

How to Build Floating or Suspended Stairs

Source: Canva

Floating stairs are a highly intricate project to execute. To establish a safe environment, standards must be upheld, and the load-bearing capacity of the staircase-adjacent wall must be analyzed. Aesthetically speaking, this type of open-concept staircase is simply stunning.

Floating Stair Design Principles

A floating staircase is a structure that must give off the impression of hovering, in mid-air, without any visible supports, whatsoever. To render such a concept possible, the anchors holding the steps are concealed differently:

  • Under the steps

  • In the wall

Therefore, suspended stairs not only ensure an aesthetic component, but also open up the area in question, making it bright and airy.

The stair stringer allows for this so-called zero-gravity look. The stringer is actually the structure onto which every step and riser will be secured. When it comes to suspended stairs, the stringer can be: 

  • Central (beneath the staircase)

  • Wall-adjacent

However, designing a floating staircase can also be done without a stringer. In such an instance, every step is cantilevered, meaning directly anchored to the load-bearing wall. At the other end of the tread, the side that isn’t wall-adjacent, the balusters on each step can be used as supports secured to the handrail, which is hung from the ceiling. 

Aesthetic Component

Touching on the aesthetic aspect, neither balusters nor handrails are essential to modern staircases. As a matter of fact, sturdy load-bearing wall anchors are plenty to support the weight of the foot traffic this type of stairs will see.

You can, without a doubt, integrate a handrail or guardrail into a suspended staircase design. Naturally, doing so will take away from its floating appearance, but the aforementioned safety features are especially warranted should you have small children or elderly family members residing in your home to prevent falls. 

Several different types of materials are used to build floating stairs: 

  • Wood

  • Stone

  • Glass

  • Metal

  • Composite materials

The Cost of Floating Stairs

Source: Canva

Building a floating staircase requires the expert knowledge of a skilled professional. Skip the DIY route on this one as it could mean gambling with your safety and that of your family members, unless you have the required skill set to proceed. 

It’s rather tricky to put an exact price tag on a floating staircase building project since costs depend on:

  • the company or skilled tradesperson; 

  • the complexity of the project and; 

  • materials chosen.

To secure the best possible pricing, feel free to request quotes from different contractors, with different material options. 

Building Steps: Planning, Measuring, Prepping

Source: Canva

Step 1. Choose a floating stair model

With or without stringers, that is the question. The epitome of minimalism comes in the shape of a stringer-free staircase. The steps are anchored directly into the adjacent load-bearing wall. Therefore, the treads must be extremely sturdy. 

A little piece of advice: steer clear of too-thin or too-wide steps. They will render the installation process much more complex and project costs soar. 

Step 2. Strengthen the load-bearing wall 

As you may have already gathered, if the floating staircase’s steps solely rest against the load-bearing wall, the latter must be strong enough to bear the weight of users.

To make certain of it, cement blocks or concrete posts can be used the strengthen the wall. Therefore, conducting a feasibility study prior to undertaking any stage of the work is a must. 

Under extraordinary measures, suspended stairs may be installed on a partition. In such a case, the partition must absolutely be reinforced by a steel structure concealed by plaster. 

Step 3. Is the load-bearing wall straight?

A perfectly vertical load-bearing wall results in a well-executed floating staircase project, one fitted with a cantilever stringer. In fact, if the load-bearing wall isn’t straight, the cantilever stringer can’t be pegged into it. 

Step 4. Secure the steps

The steps can be secured using anchors or wall-mounted brackets. We’ll provide more in-depth information regarding the matter down below.
 

Step 5. Conceal the cantilever stringer

Should you decide to move forward with a mono stringer that’s anchored to the wall, you can also choose to conceal it. To do so, use BA 13 gypsum panels. These panels further emphasize the concept of hovering steps. 

How to Secure Floating Stairs

Source: Canva

Anchoring Methods

 

Concealed anchors

Concealed anchors are achieved using the following methods:

  • brackets;

  • mortar-set treads pegged directly into the wall;

  • a tread stringer concealed by gypsum.

The anchoring system depends on the stair manufacturer. Some are designed to be secured with rods or cables, while others are pegged into the wall, etc. Therefore, the anchoring method will depend on the load-bearing wall in question as well as the desired aesthetic. 

Wall-mounted anchors

It can consist of a metal frame positioned beneath the tread or, depending on the materials used, a steel frame that’s secured to the wall using chemical anchors. Chemical anchors are a fastening method that replaces mechanical anchors with a resin. 

The Relevance of Stability 

Stability ensures safety. Just like any project of the sort, suspended stairs must have sufficient mechanical resilience to withstand up and down motions, but also additional loads being carried from one storey to another (most notably furniture).

Hence, most manufacturers limit the size of their treads to 25 inches (90 cm) in length, while each step is at least 2 ½ inches thick (6 cm). 

In terms of safety, the Government of Quebec ensures that staircases are code-conforming, whether it be the size of the step or the height of the handrail, nothing is left to chance. 

Truth be told, in the province of Quebec, a handrail or guardrail isn’t only mandatory, but it also must always be on the same side. Height-wise, it must be at least 34 inches off the ground. 

Should this standard not be respected, your municipality may fine you $100. 

Tips for a Flawless Installation

  • Conduct a feasibility study

  • Verify that the load-bearing wall is suited to this type of structure

  • Hire skilled professionals

Should you not have any basic carpentry know-how, or generally speaking, in construction-related trades, don’t attempt to DIY your own suspended stairs. It’s a complex endeavour. 

Due to the apparent lack of structural support, which gives the desired zero-gravity effect, extensive technical knowledge and skills are required to build code-compliant suspended stairs. 

Step-Specific Characteristics of Floating Stairs

Source: Canva

The Most Common Types of Steps Used

Steel or wooden steps are most commonly used when building a floating staircase. However, the materials at your disposal are much more wide-ranging, since even ashlar is featured in this list.

Let’s take a closer look at their perks, shall we?

The Aesthetic and Functional Advantages of Stair Step Materials

Wood

Wood’s biggest perk is its aesthetic appeal. It’s not a matter of being more appealing compared to other materials, but it’s, in any case, the most customizable option. Wood can be finished in a myriad of ways, which means it suits any and all interior décors. 

Now comes its weight. Wood is more lightweight compared to most other materials. Therefore, it’s more than suitable to use to build a floating staircase. 

Lastly, wood is often preferred given its cost, since it’s grouped under the most cost-effective materials.

Glass

Glass has a unique advantage over other materials listed: it’s clear. This perk, especially in terms of suspended stairs, makes all the difference. In fact, glass is unmatched in terms of further conveying the perception of floating.

And its perks don’t end here since glass can also be paired with other materials. Therefore, while the steps are made of glass, the handrail can be made of wood or steel.

Glass is also less dust-prone than wood, and it can also be shaped to will, spiral-like too. 

Concrete

Concrete is ideal for budget-friendly household projects. This material isn’t only affordable, but it’s also very sturdy. Much like glass and wood, it can take on many different shapes.

Another significant advantage is that concrete doesn’t squeak. Note that a stair runner can’t be installed on suspended stairs, an important factor to consider to ensure a peaceful household.

   

Steel

Steel is: 

  • 1,200 different shades;

  • 120-year service life (outdoors!) and;

  • a 250 on the Brinell scale (tensile strength).

For comparison’s sake, hardwood has a maximum tensile strength of 10 HB and copper scores a 35 HB, whereas glass is 550 HB. 

In other words, choosing steel means opting for a sturdy material that’s also suited to stylish interior décors.  

Handrails and Guardrails

Source: Canva

As we already mentioned, in Quebec, guardrails are a mandatory safety feature next to all staircases. Fortunately, a good number of guardrail designs align seamlessly with the aesthetic of suspended stairs. 

As for the anchors, it depends on whether you decide to move forward with a cantilever stringer (concealed in a load-bearing wall), a mono stringer (apparent), or adding beams to alleviate part of the load anchored by the wall. 

Striking the Right Balance: Guardrails for Safety and Aesthetic Purposes

Falls happen every day; in Canada, it’s 1,800 daily emergency room visits. Amongst these, there are falls down the stairs, which are a result of:

  • used or uneven stairs;

  • poorly maintained stairs;

  • an unconventional handrail height.

To prevent falls or stair-related injuries, many different types of guardrails can be installed. Among these, one can account for rods and cables. These are perfect to give your home’s interior design a modern flair. Therefore, it’s perfect for floating stairs.

Guardrail balusters fitted with cables are suited to all surfaces (wood, concrete, composite materials, etc.). If this system’s aesthetic component doesn’t suit your taste, you can opt for a handrail made of:

  • Wood

  • Steel

  • Glass 

A glass handrail is especially appealing due to its subtlety. A beautiful, clear glass handrail perfectly suits suspended stairs.

Floating Stair Anchor Options: Support Beams and Cables

The type of structural support required to uphold your floating stairs will depend on the load-bearing wall’s materials. For example, if the suspended steps can be directly anchored to the wall in a concealed fashion, the wall must absolutely be reinforced with concrete.

If not, the tread can be anchored by a steel plate that’s positioned inside the wall.  

Generally speaking, concealed anchors may be:

  • brackets;

  • mortar-set treads pegged directly into the wall;

  • a tread stringer concealed by gypsum.

When the structural support is positioned beneath the step, it’s fastened with chemical anchors. 

How to Build Concrete Floating Stairs

Source: Canva

Pros of Using Concrete 

Concrete accounts for at least 6 perks:

  • Non-flammable 

  • Vibration-resistant

  • Soundproof

  • Heat-storing capabilities

  • Easy to install

  • Customizable, aesthetically speaking

We’ll do a deeper dive on the last point, which concerns décor and is of utmost importance in a home.

Building Steps

  1. Outline the intended location of the staircase on the floor

  2. Build the stringer(s) mould

  3. Add the steps

  4. Install structural support

  5. Pour concrete

  6. Remove framework

Pointers for an Aesthetic and Durable Finish

Concrete isn’t the dull and grey mass that you might be thinking about, it’s quite the opposite actually. Concrete suspended stairs can be:

  • Tile-covered

  • Coated in an epoxy resin

  • Coloured

  • Marbled

  • Textured

The plethora of finishes available makes it so that everyone can choose the option that best suits their interior décor, ensuring the concrete suspended stairs don’t clash with the surroundings.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Floating Stairs

Source: Canva

There are two types of outdoor stairs: 

  • Standard stairs 

  • Backyard stairs

Standard outdoor stairs allow one to travel from a building’s ground level to an upper storey, and vice versa. Backyard stairs are simply built according to the yard’s slope. Both can be floating stairs. 

Much like indoor floating stairs, outdoor suspended stairs must have a guardrail to prevent falls. The relevant standards vary according to your municipality, but will typically fall in between the following criteria: 

  • A mandatory handrail for stairs with more than three risers

  • A guardrail that’s at least 35.4 in (90 cm) high

  • Steps must be at least 34 in (86 cm) wide

  • Treads must be between 9.5 - 14 in (23.5 - 35.5 cm) deep  

Outdoor suspended stairs intended for backyards can be done by a landscaper. Each and every step can be placed atop a concrete beam that’s either concealed by the step itself or by the surrounding landscape. 

Floating Stairs: Merging a Modern and Stylish Living Space 

Floating stairs represent a seamless merging between modernity and style, adding a stunning aesthetic to any and all indoor spaces. Its open and minimalist look makes for a striking visual feature, further making your stairs the central decorative element in your home. It perfectly blends into contemporary and minimalist living spaces, contributing the a trendsetting and sophisticated ambience. However, working with a team of qualified professionals is of utmost importance when it comes to the installation process to guarantee both structural strength and safety. 

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Last modified 2023-11-15

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