A staircase's main job is to cast a bridge between one floor of a home to the next. But, as one of the architectural focal points, it's also about looks, especially since many staircases are designed to go in the entryway or great room where they will stand in full view.
When it comes to log homes, many people are looking for log stairs—half-log with log railing to be exact. While this style is a natural fit, don't feel obliged to go overboard with the logs. "Some folks will put in a more traditional set of stairs and get the style points with railings because your eye tends to go more to the railing than the stairs itself, especially if you're going to have a railing surrounding a loft," says Lang Hornthal, who builds custom stairs and furniture at his company Appalachian Designs, in Fairview, North Carolina.
As far as where to put your stair in your floor plan, the most important thing to consider is traffic flow; what is the best way to move between levels in your home? The foyer is a favorite spot, either off to the right or the left of the door. We also like a centered stair in the great room that serves as a natural room divider with the kitchen on the other side, or off to the side of the great room as a sound buffer between private and public living spaces. Indeed, along a wall is the best option for most homes since it doesn't encroach on living space, according to Lang.
A straight-run staircase works best in smaller homes, but there are a several stair shapes that are just as viable.
| Straight Run
Credit: Armstrong Creek Dual Cope Stairway
Credit: Rocky Top Log Furniture photo
Credit: York Spiral Stair photo
Credit: Precision Pine's Traditional Southern yellow pine spiral kit
Credit: Ryan's Rustic Railings & Furniture Douglas fir stair
- Baluster: A narrow vertical member that supports the handrail.
- Balustrade: Refers to the newels, balusters and handrail.
- Newel: A post at the start of the rail that anchors the handrail at a landing.
- Riser: The vertical board that forms the face of step.
- Step: The combination of the tread and riser.
- Stringer: Runs the length of the stairs and is the supporting member for the treads, risers and balusters.
- Tread: The horizontal surface you step on.
The railing is certainly a place to dress up your staircase with twig or iron designs. But there are some safety standards that should not be left up to interpretation.
- Install a railing on open sides of stairs at 36 to 39 inches high.
- Even if the right side of the stair is enclosed by a wall, install a handrail on the right wall as you go down the stairs.
- Make sure your handrail is small enough to grip.
- Spacing between balusters should be small enough to prevent a 4-inch sphere from passing through.