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When you think of a spiral stair you tend to think of the structure in its entirety. Just as with any larger structure. Unless you’re an engineer, architect, or you work in construction, you don’t think of the concrete and steel rebar that goes into the foundation of a building. You just think of the building. Unless you’re an auto mechanic or have some other background dealing with cars, you don’t think of anything like the shocks or drive train (until they malfunction and you have to pay a garage an arm and a leg to have them replaced or fixed and want to know why), you just think of your car.

The same goes for your stair. But luckily, you don’t need an education in architectural or automotive engineering to know all the parts of something simpler like a spiral stair.

Plus, just by knowing what all of the separate parts are, you can better determine what you want out of each of them in terms of function and aesthetics.

Steps
The primary purpose of a spiral stair is to provide egress from one floor to another. To do this, you need something to walk on. So the first thing you think of when you think stairs is steps.

When it comes to spiral stairs, steps tend to be pie shaped. A single step extending from the central post, or column, in one direction acts as the radius. One going in each direction creates a diameter. When we talk about the size of a stair in the spiral stair industry, we tend to refer to height and diameter.

A larger diameter is primarily due to larger steps. How large they should be can depend on if satisfying building code requirements is a necessity, and your own personal comfort. The last is really more important.

As for material, you’ll typically be dealing with either steel, aluminum, galvanized steel, or various wood species. Each metal can have a different finish from powder coating for steel and aluminum to galvanized for steel.

There are also such concerns as traction/safety. Stairs meant to be placed outdoors usually have their surface finished with a diamond plate, perforated, or grated pattern. Some kind of texture such as these creates greater friction/slip resistance and, in the case or perforation and grating, allow for different kinds of precipitation to fall through rather than accumulate atop the step.

Wood Step Covers
In addition to such options as diamond plating or grating, there’s also the possibility of adding wooden covers to your steps. Tread covers can come in a variety of wood species to add both bright or dark tones and accents to your stair. They can be of varying thicknesses and even be designed to be carpet ready.

The beauty of adding wooden covers is that, with the right kind of wood, you can custom stain it to your ideal shade and finish it to an eye-catching luster.

Wood covers aren’t confined to indoors either. Using the right species, such as a cedar like your deck may be made out of, you can enjoy the natural beauty of wood outdoors as well

Step Collars
The use of collars, essentially a solid ring attached to the step itself so the two are one solid piece, allows a simple assembly for your stair as such collars slide right over center support columns like perfectly fitted rings over a finger.

This approach is vastly superior to the use of hardware to affix a step to a center column. When you have the exact measurements for a project, it also allows each step collar to be built with a preset height so each step seats exactly where you want it and your column maintains a clean look.

Risers
Risers are a relatively obscure piece that most don’t really think about. Risers are either the pieces connecting (or partially connecting) the vertical gap between two steps or they are the vertical gap between two treads (if there’s no piece there). They’re essentially what your toe hits as you climb the stairs.

As risers are a part of the step (in the case of spiral stairs), they tend to be made out of whatever their connected step is made out of.

Risers also present an opportunity for developing a unique aesthetic. How you use the space between your steps, whether you leave it “open” (minimal to no piece occupying it) or closed allows you to move the look of your stair along the spectrum from modern minimalist to traditional.

Also, even if there is a larger piece occupying that space, it can still have an open, even ornate, look. Through the application of cutout patterns in this piece, you can give your stair a very decorative feel. Such an application would have a great use in elegant settings.

A riser’s relation to code requirements is that it must close the gap between two treads enough so that a 4” ball cannot pass through. However, if code and your own personal safety requirements don’t call for this, then the gap can be greater to create that open look.

Spindles
You know spindles. Those upright bars (the balusters as they’re usually referred to in the industry) also offer several options for customizing the aesthetic of the stair.

They can be made of various metals using the aforementioned finishes. They can also be made from different wood species in the dark and light tones spoken of before and given the same staining and finishing treatments mentioned before. Metal will typically offer a more simplistic tube shape—which is great for emphasizing that modern appeal. Wood, however, can be carved with various shapes and patterns if you want to lean more toward that classical elegance such as with the pattern cutout in the risers. Iron breaks the rule of metal providing a modern look as its aesthetic makes you think of old-world Victorian beauty.

And spindles, even if they’re of a uniform material, do not necessarily need to have a uniform look. You can create a pattern with two or more differently carved/formed spindles for a more textured look.

Another aspect of spindles that affects the aesthetics is the amount you have per step. Fewer spindles will also help with that more modern minimalist look. More per tread will obviously do the opposite. As with the riser gap, keep in mind that if code is a concern for you then you need at least enough spindles per tread that you can’t pass that same 4” ball from before between the spindles. This should also be taken under consideration if you have small children or pets.

Handrails
It might not be accurate to say that the handrail is the most important safety feature of a stair, but it probably is the one you’re most conscious of.

Opting for a metal with this component will give you that tube shape again. Which can be comfortable in your hand. Comfort under your palm is important to consider when it comes to your handrail. An additional metal for the handrail is polished brass, which adds a gleaming element to your stair perfect for rooms with plenty of natural lighting.

Again, wood is also an option. Part of the beauty of wood in the case of handrails, besides its literal beauty, is that it can be cut to shapes like a bead and groove shape, which is comfortable for your fingers.

Handrail End Post
Salter’s Solid Wood stair line features handrail end posts. The additional posts augment the already stunning handcrafted look of this category of stair.

They can be carved with a similar pattern to the spindles to create a uniform look or a drastically different pattern to create a nice contrast.

The addition of a handrail end post also provides the handrail with a strong focal point that can be striking. To create an interesting outline effect, people will often leave the wooden end post and wooden handrail itself exposed for a natural look while painting the spindles. Such a setup has a contrasting and outlined effect.

Well Enclosures
Before you can know what a well enclosure is you need first to know what a well is. The well is the opening that allows the tome end of your stair to come through (if you install your stair in such a way that it goes through a floor rather than attaching to the face of another floor such as what is commonly done for a loft or raised deck).

This well, especially if it is close to an edge, needs a safety enclosure. That enclosure is usually just an extension of your railing system and will have the same handrail and spindle makeup.

All of the same aesthetic choices that apply in terms of material and design to your regular railing will also apply to the well enclosure. Additionally, there is also the aesthetic choice of what outline you wish the enclosure to create.

Imagine seeing the enclosure from above—would you prefer this outline to be a circle or a square? Those are the typical options. The gentle curve of a circular enclosure might mesh well with the overall curved feel of the spiral stair. Or, you can go for the contrast approach again. Plus, the harsher angle of a square enclosure could work with a metal stair that strives to create that modern feeling.

It may also depend on the shape of your well cutout itself. A circular enclosure might make more sense with a circular whole and likewise for a square hole.

Caps
Caps are purely an aesthetic choice. They’re an excellent way to top off the theme of your stair overall. You can keep it simplistic with a simple cap for your stair. That cap can still be wood, so mildly elegant in look but basic in outline.

There are also ball caps, which are comfortable for gripping, stand out a little, and still have a basic geometric shape. These ball caps can also be wood, but there are also polished metal options, such as brass, which gives an interesting look in well-lit rooms thanks to the distortion of reflections that’s omnidirectional.

Then there’s the direct hood ornament approach analogous to what you may find on a luxury brand car. Cast iron ornaments, pineapples specifically, pop and will have all of your guests asking about the design of your stair.

Center Columns
Your column is the central support of your spiral stair and has to provide a reliable structural quality for decades.

The material of this structure will reflect your material choice for the rest of the stair: steel, aluminum, galvanized steel, or wood.

But more than the quality of the material, the engineering of the material in the column will be indicative of the overall quality of your stair. Does this center column offer a system of nearly indiscernible seams between step collars? Something with a clean look denotes quality and time investment on the part of the manufacturer.

Another feature to look for when a project calls for it is a stair’s ability to be flexible. If you won’t be able to get any more than a general measurement for your project’s height, you want to know that your stair will still fit when it arrives. So something that offers the flexibility of adjustment is ideal. In designs like this you may sacrifice the seamless look of a stair pre-cut to an exact height, but you still have the confidence of a perfect match.

Platforms

Your platform is what bridges the gap between your stair’s last step and the second floor to which you’re traversing.

The shape of this platform will depend on the angle at which your last step approaches the upper floor, which in turn is determined by the rotation of your stair. Typically, you’ll be looking at a square platform if the back edge of your last step is parallel to the front edge of your upper floor. If the back edge of your last step sits at more of a 45 degree angle in respect to the front edge of your upper level, then your platform will have a more wedge/pie shape.

The surface of these platforms are best executed when they match the surface of your steps. So if you need diamond plating for your steps, you want diamond plating for your platform. Your well enclosure railing will encompass your platform.

That said, it’s a given that your manufacturer should make your platform available in all of the exact same materials as your steps. They should also work with you on the rotation of your stair and shape of your platform to make sure your last step and platform mount perfectly to your upper level. So make sure they take the time with you on this step.

Platform Covers
As mentioned, a platform is best executed when it meshes perfectly with your step surfaces. As steps can have covers, it only makes sense for platforms to have the option of covers. That entails all of the same wood species and non-slip precautions as steps. And just as with the platforms themselves, these can be custom cut to various shapes to match flush with the edge of your upper floor.

So take the time to evaluate these options with your chosen stair manufacturer to find the ideal fit for your stair needs.Call Salter at (800) 368-8280and see what options we offer for your spiral stair part needs now.

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