Housing with safe staircases

Interior staircases with guardrails help one not to trip. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA

Most home owners do not take the staircase as another means of adorning the house. To them, stairs serve the mere function of ascending or descending between floors forgetting that if you manipulate the basics like materials used and the finishing, you can have a multi-purpose staircase.

However, having a beautiful staircase is not just a matter of mixing building materials and simply making what you call a staircase, there are certain aspects that you have to consider.

According to Mr Julius Maweje, an architect with Design Skills Associates, a staircase should be of good quality. “Since it is normally a busy area, a staircase has to be strong so you should use materials like steel rods because they make the staircase firm.

Also, use a consistent mixture of cement, sand and aggregate,” he says. He adds that this is the same material used for every type of staircase.

Staircase categories
Spiral staircase: This type is round-shaped and it is the best type for a house that has limited space because it occupies a very small area.
Straight staircase: Mr Mawaje says it is the most common and cheapest type. It is normally used for the balcony and in houses that are built in two different levels.

L-shaped staircase: This type is L-shaped and it is normally used in homes that have two to three floors.
U-shaped staircase: It is another option for a staircase which is in the form of U. Just like the L-shaped one, this one is also used in homes that have two to three floors.

Basic considerations
Mr Mathias Tumwine, a Draftsman at Design Skills Associates, says all staircases are named according to their shapes and that the only difference that exists in them is their shape.

“A standard staircase has a riser of 100 to 150mm; it should also have a landing of 300mm because this space is wide enough to prevent colliding on the staircase. There should be a maximum of 10 steps depending on the level that the staircase has to cover,” he says.

Mr Tumwine says before constructing or choosing the design for your staircase, you need to consider the available space, cost of the staircase you have chosen and the number of floors because some staircase designs cover much more space than others whereas some are more costly.

“The amount of money you have will determine the type of staircase you will get because if you are to build a spiral staircase, you will use more money than one who will build a straight staircase,” he says.
He adds that this also applies to the finish because a sand scribe ( normal cement) finishing will not cost the same as a timber staircase. That aside, a straight staircase is the cheapest because it has no curves.

Mr Andrew Kikomeko, a quantity surveyor with QS Initiative, says for one to construct a standard straight staircase with a riser of 150mm, 300mm landing and 10 steps, one needs a minimum of Shs700,000.

Their importance
Staircases help to move from one level to another. Some people use them as exercise kits whereby they move up and down the stairs for 15 minutes and this will be enough work out for a day.

If well decorated, staircases can also act as a centre of attention in a house and this can be attained by using the right finishes in form of sand scribe, tiles, timber and laminate floors.

Mr Atal Anan, the director of Crane Roofings Uganda Limited, says you can adorn your stairs with rails. “Use rails in materials like bronze, gold, metal and steel to make your staircase look trendy, these can be made in designs like medals, flowers, animals or any other design of your choice.

A runner is also a good way of making the staircase look appealing and Mr Douglas Bishanga, the managing director of Carpet Store Ltd, along Kampala Road, says these runners come with different designs and in an array of colours. However, you should put a rubber pad below the runner to prevent it from slipping.

The risks
Despite their importance in the house, staircases can be one of the most dangerous places for anyone, particularly the elderly, handicapped and children. These people can fall off or trip in case they are not guided.

One should therefore keep children who are too young to navigate the stairs from reaching the staircase and avoid wetting the floors. Also, have sufficient lighting and install handrails on both sides of the staircase which can be used by the elderly people while going up and down the stairs.

Mr Tumwine also discourages people from using slippery finishes like slippery tiles and glass for the staircase because these materials can also cause accidents. He says, in case you build a staircase but later realise that you do not like the finishing, you can easily replace it but it’s hard to change the design because this means that you will have to demolish part of the house.


Materials used

•Steel rods cost between Shs5,000 to Shs7,000 per rod
•Cement costs Shs26,000 per bag
•Sand costs Shs70,000 per Dyna truck
•Aggregate costs Shs100,000 per Dyna truck
•Timber costs Shs10,000
•Bricks range from Shs300 to Shs1,500 per brick
•Rails range from Shs3,000 to Shs5,000 per piece
•Runners range from Shs100,000 to Shs1m depending on the size and design

L and U-shaped staircase
•They are good for houses with more than one floor.
•There is room for decorating them with stylish rails and runners.
•They are expensive to construct since they have a number of covers.

Straight staircase
•It is cheap to construct and does not need a lot of space.
•It has a plain design.

Spiral or round staircase
•It covers minimal space.
•It is unique
•It is expensive
•Children can easily trip

Safety tips
•Have sufficient lighting which will be helpful at night.
•Put a rubber pad below the runner to prevent it from slipping.
•Put handrails on both sides that can be used by the elderly and children while climbing the stairs.
• Do not use a slippery finish like glass and slippery tiles.
• Make the staircase spacious to avoid colliding.

The contacts
•Design Skills Associates, Tel: 0772 431 778
•National Housing & Construction Ltd, Tel: 0414 330 002
•QS Initiative, Tel: 0774 394 505
•Creative Engineering Ltd, Tel: 0414 348 708