Tag Archives: staircase design

Staircase Transformation

WEEK 20: Fresh on the heels of last week’s set-back, we’ve made some steady progress this week, albeit not nearly enough for my liking. The majority of the work effort has been restricted to the new front staircase. It’s great to see the transformation, but what I’d really like to see is a beehive of activity on my house. You know, like they show on TV where an extensive renovation takes 4 or 5 days on a shoestring budget. But, this is hard-core reality here, definitely not for those with weak inclinations.

JULY: Back in early July, while we were busy celebrating the Declaration of Independence, the front of our house looked like this:

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House elevated and separated from the foundation – July

AUGUST: By mid-August, our construction crew had nearly completed the new foundation walls:

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House lowered onto newly built foundation – August

SEPTEMBER: About six weeks after the above photo was taken, the crew began to construct what would become our new front staircase:

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Frame work for new front steps

Of course there was a lot of work that went into the formation of these steps including digging a sizable trench, forming the underground footings, and building the majority of the rest of the staircase out of cinder blocks. But by the end of the month, we had a front staircase:

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Front staircase framed, poured, and cured

OCTOBER: Nearing the end of October, the stonework has been added to the front staircase. Missing, however, is any semblance of a railing. At this point we’re not sure whether we’ll go with wrought iron or natural wood. Likely which ever gets us back in the house sooner.

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Front steps having stonework applied

The picture above also shows other key updates. The front left corner of the house show a new gas meter. That was a hard-earned element of the project and we’re happy to have it behind us. Also the new “basement” windows have been framed out and shingles have been added to this side of the house replacing a damaged white border.

Sure beats what we were doing a year ago – riding out the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

Staircase Options for an Elevated House

NEW STAIR DESIGN: One of the trickier elements to elevating a house is creating the new access stairs. Whether you are lifting your house two feet off the ground or a full story, functional yet attractive stairs will need to be designed for your home. Three things will greatly dictate  your options: the number of steps you need, the size of the property, and where your house is located. For instance, beachfront property (“V” zone on a flood map) is restricted by FEMA e.g., no massive staircases that would act as an obstruction to flowing water are allowed. For everyone else, you have more choices.

STRAIGHT STYLE STAIRCASE: One of the standard designs is the straight staircase (see photos below). On these elevated homes, the stairs enhance the look of the house and blend into the neighborhood. There is always the option to add a landing 1/2 way up the run of steps to break it up a bit, provided you have enough property to extend out that far. One of the limiting factors to using the straight style staircase is a shallow front yard. Straight style stairs extend roughly one foot per stair, plus however big the landing to your front door extends.

straight style stairs

straight style stairs – 10 steps

straight  style steps - 12 steps

straight style steps  with a flair at the end- 12 steps

Straight style with a landing in the middle.

Straight style steps  with a landing in the middle

L-SHAPE STAIRCASE: This shape is great at breaking up a long run of steps or using when your front yard has a small set back. They are an attractive alternative to consider based on your personal preference.

The "L" style staircase on a house in progress

The “L” style staircase on a house in progress

T-SHAPE STAIRCASE: This design is similar to the L-shape, except the run of stairs tends to extend closer to the ground before landing on a platform that splits off in two directions, in a T.

This single family home is designed with an L-Shape staircase

This single family home is designed with a T-shape staircase

U-SHAPE STAIRCASE: The U-Shape staircase is a spacious design that allocates room for planting beds to be merged into the structure. As a result, they take up quite a bit of room and are best reserved for wider homes on an expansive property. Otherwise, the stairs will overpower the house.

Note how much real estate these stair consume. Fine on a wider property, like this one.

Note how much real estate this staircase consumes. It works on a  wider property, like this one.

SWITCHBACK STYLE STAIRCASE: Very similar to the U-style stair design except that the large planting bed in the middle of the U is eliminated to condense the size of the staircase. This style works well on a house that requires many stairs in the design, but does not have a lot of space in which to work. Like the U-shape, this style of staircase utilizes landings to break up a large run of stairs.

Initially, we had hoped to utilize a straight stair design on our house (and we still might). On closer inspection, we realized that our house will require more steps (about 16) than the ones we had seen with a straight style design. The verdict for our house is still out …

The choice of staircase style is a personal one that the homeowner will make based on what they prefer and what works best on their property. One upside to all of those stairs – a regular workout for your derrière. Another bonus – your house is above the flood zone.