Stair safety – accessibility and the self-build project

Home accessibility and functionality are important considerations when planning a self-building project. Typically however, the stairwell and adjoining areas are often seen as the ‘poor relatives’ after the glamour of the kitchen and family rooms. Yet this area of your home is critical for maintaining successful upstairs/downstairs living, especially if you wish to remain in your refurbished family home well into your later years.

Unless your house has a large footprint, it is likely that hallways, landings and stairs may be relatively compact. In the future, stairwell conditions such as lack of space and insufficient lighting, may compromise the way you live within your home and could unfortunately result in the need for a move from the home you’ve lovingly created.

If you are contemplating building work or home alterations do make sure the space linking multi-floor living areas can provide a reassuringly safe and user-friendly experience for all house occupants, now and in the years to come:

  • Whether extending, new building or just changing room functionality, look at how footfall to the stairwell may be affected. If you are approaching retirement age, or are newly retired, it’s worth keeping in mind those extended family visits, not forgetting the grandchildren. Will sufficient hallway and landing space exist for safe access to and from the stairs on all floor levels for everyone?
  • In your own mind, fast forward a number of years and plan for when getting up and down the stairs may be more challenging. Get it right from the outset by allowing enough space and light into the stair and landing areas. You can relax knowing your home is future proofed for the next twenty to thirty years and any further alterations will only need to be minimal.
  • Open-tread stairs can be hazardous to younger children and those with reduced mobility, as can steps with deep treads and high risers. Identifying practicality issues at the start of your project may help avoid the need to move again if stairs become difficult to use, rendering upstairs rooms inaccessible.
  • Keep in mind UK Building Regulations, should it be necessary to install a completely new staircase. This design and installation can be a costly project, with extra building disruption and reduced accessibility within your home during the construction phase.
  • As an alternative, it might be worth considering the fitting of a home lift or domestic house lift to safeguard home accessibility, or provide space for one to be easily retro-fitted at a later date. Home lifts, are an increasingly popular solution which install quickly and simply; perfect for small or large renovation or build projects. Home lifts also bring a contemporary design twist to the home whilst offering extended independence and accessibility, allowing self-builders to stay put in their much-loved homes for longer.

Safeguarding multi-floor accessibility as the years progress is an important consideration when weighing up self-build criteria, alongside the traditional metrics such as timescales, budget and finished appearance. Adaptable and accessible living spaces can readily accommodate lifestyle changes and adjust easily to meet the changing demands of the family within.

Make sure you consider future ease of access and incorporate future-proofed designs and solutions into your finished build, to enable enjoyment and ease-of-living for you and your family, now and well into the future.