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A guide to stair standards

Are you looking to renovate or build on to your home by adding a second level? Have you considered how your new staircase might factor in design and functionality? Designing or planning a staircase installation might seem straightforward, but there are many standards that must be met. These standards fall under Australia’s National Construction Code Standards — a set of rules that ensure that your staircase is in an appropriate location, safe, comfortable and secure. We understand that trawling through a set of Australian building standards isn’t likely to be high on your reading list, so we’ve highlighted five key considerations below.

1. Location

Determining the location for your staircase should be one of the initial steps in your design process. The location is important as it should provide easy access to central locations, while also maintaining privacy by avoiding more intimate areas within your home or building. Although you might have an ideal location in mind, it’s important to discuss this with your architect or designer as some areas may not fit the safety standards. Some safety considerations that may affect this include minimum head height, maximum rise, gaps or spacing, angle and risers. You can find more information about the minimum height and spacing standards here.

2. Riser height

The riser, as its name suggests, refers to the vertical part of the staircase which is found behind the tread, providing the height between each step. In Australia, risers must have a consistent height across each flight, and have a maximum of 18 risers before the requirement of a landing (rest platform).

Riser height requirements and consistency is important to eliminate the hazards of trips and falls.

3. Open risers

When discussing your design options, you may decide that you want a staircase without risers. This modern design is becoming very popular, and features requirements to ensure child safety. The requirements say that a 125mm sphere must not be able to pass between the openings of the open risers.

4. Headroom

Headroom refers to the distance between the nosing line of each step and the ceiling. The minimum requirement for headroom in Australia is 2000mm. This requirement is to ensure that the average person can walk freely on the staircase without bumping their head on the ceiling or any features that are hanging from the ceiling. Although the minimum is 2000mm, we recommend allowing for a larger space for headroom if you are considering hanging features such as pendant lights.

5. Safety

When designing a staircase, it’s important to consider the people who will use the staircase. Will there be any small children or elderly who utilise the staircase daily? If so, there are certain design features you may want to consider to ensure functionality and safety for these users. These features include a smaller rise, wider tread and the feature of railings for support. The national standard for minimum tread width is 240mm, although for elderly, we recommend a width of 300mm to allow for the safe placement of a four-pronged walking stick. The national height standard for a riser is between 150mm–180mm, with 150mm being a safer height for elderly.

Ask a staircase standards professional for help

While it’s wonderful to have all of the information at your fingertips, it’s always best to consult a professional who can advise you on the best approach for your staircase project. If you have any questions regarding the National Construction Code standards or you’re curious to see if your current staircase meets the requirements, please contact the Budget Stairs team online or call (02) 9774 2066.


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