S&A have been crafting stairs for 100 years. In that time,
we have become synonymous with consistency, quality, and style.
Whether you are restoring an original masterpiece or building a faithful reproduction, thought must be given to the finer details of the staircase. This applies equally to period and contemporary designs.
Whilst traditional or period staircases can be easily reproduced by our expert craftsmen, there are some things that we can't pull out of a hat, such as timber species that were prevalent many years ago but are no longer available, and the same applies for timber sizes. What was a solid piece of 100mm x 100mm Australian Red Cedar handrail a century ago, may these days need to be laminated out of two pieces of 100mm x 50mm in a different species of timber altogether, such as Honduras mahogany or similar.
The following is a guide to the most popular architectural styles that have been built in Australia over the past two hundred years.
Colonial & Early Victorian (1836 to 1870)
The Colonial style is notable for its symmetry. A central front entrance with windows either side and wide verandahs are typical characteristics of the Colonial period. It is not uncommon for the verandah to encircle the entire structure. Usually single story buildings, Colonial homes are simple in style and often feature subtle touches of the Georgian or classical detailing that were popular in Britain in the mid-19th century. The Colonial style expresses a sense of dignity and spaciousness. The mouldings of the era are simple. Having a few decorative elements, they typically feature straight lines with smaller detail at the top.
Victorian (1840's to 1901)
The Victorian style is particularly elaborate and richly detailed. Its main characteristics are balance, proportion and elegance. This architectural style refers to the reign of England's Queen Victoria, which began in 1839. The period is commonly divided into Early Victorian (1840 to 1865), Mid-Victorian (1865 to 1880) and Late Victorian (1880 to 1900). During the Victorian era, Georgian and Regency styles were dominant styles for public buildings, while Gothic was the style of choice for most churches. Grand residences built in the Victorian period were designed to exude affluence and express social standing through the size and detailing of the home. They were a reflection of the progress and prosperity of England's colonies. Mouldings of the Victorian era tended to be elaborate and rich in detail. Door blocks were a common feature and many of the larger Victorian homes incorporated highly decorative two and three piece skirtings.
Georgian (1826 to 1860's)
This architectural style is named after England's four King George's and draws heavily on classical influences. It is typified by formality, straight lines and fine detail. Georgian designs are symmetrical. Paired chimneys as well as decorative "crowns" above the main entrance are commonly featured.
Federation (1890's to 1915)
Australian Federation architecture had a wide variety of influences and a dozen "sub-styles". Classical motifs were commonly featured in Federation-era public buildings and were used to express authority, wealth and a sense of culture. The Gothic style and, later, the Romanesque (then popular in the United States) were often applied to churches during this period. Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts and Bungalow designs were typically the choice of the day for homes.
Edwardian (1901 to 1910)
Named for Edward VII, who ascended to the English throne after the death of Queen Victoria, the Edwardian architectural era is characterised by highly decorative ornamentation in its early period. Later, the ornamentation was pared back and a simpler, more masculine look prevailed.
Art Nouveau (1890 to 1914)
The first truly modern architectural design style, Art Nouveau represents a rejection of the Industrial Revolution's mass production techniques. It departs from earlier architectural practices of refining historical and traditional designs, and, instead - looks to nature for inspiration. Its underlying idea is to elevate the decorative arts to the level of the fine arts by applying high standards of craftsmanship in the design of everyday objects. Art Nouveau designers adorned their buildings and interiors with stylised flowers, vines and other motifs taken from nature.
Californian Bungalow & Between the Wars (1916 to 1940's)
In Australian society, the era of mass communications technology brought with it an expanded interest in the cultures of overseas countries - particularly in things American. The demand for new housing was high after 1918. Functional simplicity was the order of the day. Californian Bungalows, with their asymmetrical facades, were less ornate and less formal than Queen Anne homes. They were the style of choice by the 1920's.
Art Deco (1930's to 1940's)
Heavily influenced by the Paris Exhibition of 1925 and the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922, this style incorporates the zig-zags and geometrical shapes of cubism as designs inspired by Ancient Egypt. Art Deco homes and public buildings typically feature facades with zig-zags and stylised floral, geometric and "sunrise" motifs.
Contemporary stairs are difficult to define due to the fact that contemporary architecture in its purest form hasn't been design yet. Contemporary stairs can be shown in a pictorial sense, however, because they are designs of the moment, they are not yet classified in a period of their own - in the same way Victorian and Federation styles are.
The stair has one fundamental purpose - to move the user safely between different levels in a building. To begin with, the staircase fulfilled no more than this need, with the design determined by the location of the staircase and the needs of the user. The fundamental method of staircase construction and design did not change until evolving cultures and their different building styles had specific requirements that began to change the form and style of staircases.
The impact stairs can have on a building can be seen throughout history. Consider the Mayan and Inca Pyramids, the European castles and the Spanish Steps in Rome. All of these homes and historic public buildings have compelling visual impact and communicate a message of economic and political strength.
Designing a stair
As time and architecture has evolved, the staircase has become a fundamental element of the architectural design. A well designed staircase makes a powerful statement aesthetically while still needing to functionally perform. The staircase design must meet technical requirements that ensure safe and functional construction that complies with the Building Code of Australia and the appropriate Australian Standards.
Also, with the introduction of more socially responsible building standards that require continuous handholds thus allowing better and safer access to buildings for the disabled and visually impaired, the importance of staircase design allowing for handrail installation has never been greater.
Staircases perform many functions in a home. The staircase allows simple and economical access between floor levels and can make a statement that enhances the architectural style of a home. For example, contemporary glass balustrade designs allow for an openness that is in demand.
The influences at work when managing the spaces in and around the stairwell can be complex. As an example, designing the final layout of a feature staircase can create conflict between spaces in a dwelling. Each space has a function, it may be a narrow hallway, a doorway under the staircase or breathing space from the front door. Often a stair builder finds them the negotiator seeking a harmonious outcome that benefits all stakeholders and allows each space to function as it was intended. Entry and exit points of a staircase must be well managed and need to take into account a dwellings heavy line of traffic. Small design adjustments here can greatly decrease the occupant's travel distance.
Utmost importance needs to be given to ensure the stair complies with the Building Code of Australia and the appropriate Australian Standards. Staircases by their nature can be a hazardous and litigious component of any building project, therefore care should be taken when engaging and informing the stair builder of your needs. It is essential that the stair builder is aware of all aspects of what is required of them and are provided with whatever information they require from the builder etc. Specifically the stair builder must be aware of the floor finishes to the adjacent floor areas to ensure that the riser heights throughout the stair are uniform and that level handrail meets a minimum height of 1m above the finished floor levels.
Selecting a stair builder
Most reputable stair builders are keen to assist with staircase design. Technology allows the designer and owners not only assistance with design but a wider range of options at a more reasonable price currently than at any other time in the history of stair building. Many designs in the past have been labour intensive and therefore quite expensive. The stair builder who has modern CNC machinery is able to provide cut stringers, open stairs, central carriage stairs and geometric stairs at prices that in real terms have never been cheaper. The other advantage of modern technology is a high degree of accuracy. Across the range of different stair types, there has never been a higher level of accuracy and quality than what is available now.
Other considerations when selecting a builder is whether they are a licensed to construct staircases. In Victoria, the licensing process is done by the Building Commission and the stair builder must be a Registered Building Practitioner (RBP). It is required under building legislation that any work greater than $5,000 be done by a RBP and that practitioner protects the clients with guarantees of their work and insurance cover for work greater than $12,000. In some cases the client and building surveyors can also be prosecuted if a RBP is not used. It is advised that if there are any doubts in matters of registration that the Building Commission be contacted for clarification and recommendation of appropriate RBP's who manufacture and install stairs.
Deciding how to finish your stair can be quite a tough decision. So, we've put together a comprehensive list of things you need to consider when it comes to applying those finishing touches. From floor coverings, through to colours and lighting - you'll be able get those details just the way you want them.
Floor Coverings: Carpet or timber
The finished surface of a staircase will most likely be dictated by the finishes of the floor surfaces on both the lower and upper floor levels. Generally if the lower floor level has a polished timber finish, the stair would be of a similar finish. If the upper floor is a carpet finish then you may wish to carpet the stair. Carpet has many advantages. For one, it deadens noise. It is also an excellent non-slip surface.
There is a down side to carpet however which is that it will wear faster than in the rest of the house because traffic on a staircase tends to be concentrated near the centre of the staircase, but the same applies to a polished finish as well. . If you have a narrow set of stairs, a carpet runner could be used as an alternative as it still reduces noise, but because it is narrower than the staircase, it helps increase the apparent width.
Traditionally a very strong and distinctive way of applying a high sheen polish. It uses a product known as a shellac which is a naturally occurring product from beetles. A high degree of skill is involved in the application but the results are impressive and easy to clean (it even reduces the amount of dust a stair collects).
Often it can be best to keep floor treatments as simple as possible particularly in smaller areas, if a floor gets over complicated, the space will be spoiled. Therefore, if you have natural, good looking floors, don’t bother to carpet them unless the noise is too much. If you must have carpet, go for a plain version in a strong wearing weave or in smaller houses a striped runner is good. If you leave the floors relatively plain, you can go crazy on the walls with colour and the stairwells lighting.
It is compulsory to have a non slip surface to steps or a non slip leading edge. If you intend carpeting then it is not required. But if you intend to have timber treads there are several ways you can achieve this. Inlay aluminium or stainless steel strips that protrude from the surface of the front edge of the tread. Alternatively, a specific non slip finish can be applied after staining the timber.
Lighting your stair
Falls on staircases can be major cause of accidents in the home, surprisingly it is often the smaller staircases e.g. split level stairs which can be the most dangerous. Often risks to a stairs user can be caused by lighting that falls in pools, leaving other areas dark or encourages shadows when it is necessary to see clearly. It is essential that practicality and safety is placed first over bespoke lighting design features.
Staircases should convey a sense of airiness and be welcoming. Quite often, stairwells and landings do not have windows or at least ones that cannot be opened. Even if fresh air is circulating through open doors from ventilated rooms, the air will not appear to be fresh. If a stairwell does have a window, the sunlight streaming in will give the impression of freshness, and these windows should have the minimum amount of curtaining possible.
If there are no openings for natural light, you will have to create the impression of sunlight by trickery. One common trick is the skylight, which allows the maximum daylight stream down the entire length of the stairwell with the added bonus of being toplighting.
Another is to put in plain glass doors that lead into rooms off the staircase and borrow the light from their windows. Finally, in new houses there are small openings with wide reveres which can be designed at strategic angles of the stair. These tricks can be supplemented by introducing artificial light to increase the effect.
Light “borrowed” from other rooms can be enhanced by placing table or floor lamps in areas of the room where their rays can blend with the daylight. The wide ledges created by the obtuse opening angles of the wall slits can be used for table lights or lights concealed in the opening’s top.
With new houses, it is easier to allow the maximum light to flow into the halls and staircase because you are able to construct the house to suit, unlike older houses with other conditions.
Diffused light created by translucent shades or other covers placed in front of both daylight and artificial light provide an overall soft glow. This technique is excellent for halls and stair landings where close work such as reading are never done, but where you need to see steps and obstacles.
Strong lights can be built into the staircase wall at baseboard level, giving the treads a beam of brightness. Modern light fixtures can be mounted into the staircase itself, great care and attention is required when considering this technique.
Colour: Choosing the right tones
Choosing colours for narrow spaces such as staircases is quite challenging. The big problem is that colours do not have a chance to diffuse between walls. Any strong colours you pick will become concentrated and more powerful, which is not always a bad thing. Stairways are sometimes dark and poky. The trick is to use colour to reduce the sense of enclosure. Light and shadow are used to emphasise angles and features. If you own an older staircase such as an 18th century one, don’t mess it up. Plain colours accentuate the generous width of the stairs and ornate banister.
Light shades are preferable for dark and narrow areas that need all the help they can get. A staircase painted entirely white can be too minimal and clinical, but if you vary the shading and tone, you are able to emphasise the woodwork against the plain white walls.
Halls and stairways are areas where it is possible to be rather more decoratively adventurous than elsewhere in the house. For example you can use a strong combination of colours of equal weight such as a rich red and yellow. You could also use the same colours as on your doors and doorways on the staircase.
Wallpaper doesn’t always work on staircase however it can be used on the walls between the flights. Well chosen wallpaper can make a ground floor entrance hall welcoming and help to divide it from the stair. However there should be a connection between the two - a major colour in the wallpaper could be matched to the plain walls of the stair or the pattern could be copied to curtains higher up. Colours should also have continuity on the stairs. It is not a good idea to start the ascent with grey and then suddenly burst into pink.
1. Closed Stair
A closed stair consists of both treads and risers.
2. Open Stair
An open stair is a stair that does not have any risers, allowing you to see the space in between all of the treads.
3. Cantilevered Stair
A cantilevered stair is where treads project straight from a wall, using complex engineering.
4. Centre Carriage Stair
This is a stair that is supported by a central beam only, the beam can be either steel or timber.
5. Spiral Stair
A stair that winds around a central upright pole.
6. Part Open/Part Closed Stair
A stair that can be up to 1/3 overhanging using timber supports.
7. Fire-rated Stair
A stair that complies with the building code for fire resistance.
These are the horizontal boards that you walk on.
These are the vertical boards that go between each tread.
3. Cut Stringers
Are cut to follow the profile of the treads and risers. From the outside of the stair you can see that the edge of all treads and risers are exposed.
4. Closed Stringers
When a stair has a closed string, the treads and risers are supported by what looks like one straight solid beam running along the bottom of the balustrade.
The smaller posts/rods fitted between the stair and the handrail, usually decorative, and in timber, steel or stainless steel.
6. Bullnose Step
The step at the base of a stair which usually has a protruding semi-circular end.
The piece of timber that forms the edge or border for the carpet or other floor coverings, usually located at the edge of the floor on the upper level.
The shaped piece of timber or stainless steel that you hold on to as you walk up or down the stair, usually fixed to the top or side of the balustrade (or wall).
9. Handrail Scroll
The decorative handrail piece at the start of the stair that curls around and sits above the bullnose step.
10. Handrail Wreaths
The sections that curve around corners to form a continuous handrail.
The flat platform usually located where a stair changes direction.
12. Newel Posts
The larger posts at the start and at the corners of the stair. They are usually turned, fluted, paneled or decorated in some way.
Larger steel or stainless steel posts at the start and at the corners of the stair which sometimes support glass panels.
14. Winder Steps
The triangular treads used to change the direction of a stair, usually around right angled corners.
15. Tread Brackets
A decorative design placed on the cut stringer.
The rounded or square leading edge of a tread.
Hint & Tips
Below are a variety of hints & tips which you may wish to consider when thinking about planning and designing your new staircase. It's not an easy thing to do, so if at any stage you feel you need some extra help or professional advice, feel free to get in contact with one of our experts.
Tip 1 - Location
Staircases, balustrade and handrails are an integral component of the styling of your home. When the staircase occupies a prominent position in the home it is essential that close attention is paid to the detail early in the process.
Tip 2 - Saving space
Winder steps. Space dictates the need to have winder steps in a staircase. If you can afford the space, landings in lieu of winders are preferable.
Tip 3 - Balustrade heights
Balustrade heights are set at one meter above first floor level for safety reasons. If you have an open area at the top of your stair, designed for use as a TV or recreation area for children, make sure that there is ample room for sofas other than against the first floor balustrade.
Tip 4 - Long flights
Try to avoid extremely long stair flights. They can be intimidating when you're standing at the top looking down. Long flights can be split up with landings and changes in pitch/direction.
Tip 5 - Stair generosity
Stair generosity. Encourage your architect to allocate a generous amount of space for the staircase. A few centimetres can make an enormous difference in the walking comfort of the stair. Again it pays to speak to the manufacturer early in the process.
Tip 6 - Planning
Careful planning of the staircase and the void allocated to incorporate the stair is vital. It’s never too soon to involve the stair manufacturer in the planning process. Early involvement achieves a better result for the consumer every time.
Tip 7 - Dimensions
When an architect or designer dimensions the stairwell, (at one meter width, for example) the end result will never be a one meter clear width with a straight flight staircase; it will be up to 150mm less than that. Constraints such as handrail finger room and balustrade on the upper level always restrict the clear width. Again planning is the best defence against disappointment.
Tip 8 - Changing plans
If changes are required to the stairwell, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to change things earlier than later on in the process.
Tip 9 - Check with the experts
If you are choosing a geometric (curved) stair and you wish it to be devoid of obvious support (floating), check with the stair manufacturer rather than accept the designer’s guarantees.
Tip 10 - Design
If you are unsure about what style of stair best suits your period of home ask us for advice. We can help you design and build stairs that will suit any recognised style of architecture, even one that's unique to you.
Tip 11 - Colour variation
Being a natural product, all timber is subject to variation of colour and grain. We always match our colours and grains, though, it is always hard to find a seemless match. If you're worried about variation, we can help you chose a species of timber that minimises the issue.
Tip 12 - Safety
We all loved playing around the staircase when we were kids. They are the closest thing to monkey bars in any suburban home. While it's a source of great inspiration for your young kids, the stair also presents some dangers. Never mind, they are easy to fix. There are products available that provide temporary barriers at the stairs entrance. It provides all the necesary protection for as long as your kids are learning. You can also build more permanent features, but often dampen the staircases natural beauty.
Tip 13 - Continuous handrail
Continuous handrail doesn't stop and start at a newel post or where the stair changes direction. It continues in smooth curves from the bottom of the stair to the top. Continuous handrail is an art form and an old world technique in producing a barrier. It is particularly important to seek advice should your stair require continuous hand railing. This type of handrail design is extremely technical and the result is totally dependent on the knowledge and expertise of the maker. The line of the handrail is critical when creating a timeless feature staircase and without this attention to harmony between the staircase and balustrading the whole focal point can fail.
Tip 14 - Component positioning
Riser positions, the size of handrails, the line of best fit between the riser lines, position of balusters, internal and external radius, are all consideration for the craftsman, while constantly considering not exposing the wreathing components to short gain. Over use of short gain can greatly weaken the rail at points where it requires the greatest strength.
Tip 15 - Finishing
Are you painting or polishing your staircase? If you don't know, then you could consider a few of these suggestions.
Traditional stairs are almost always stained, polished or clear finished, likewise with contemporary stairs. If you are more concerned about the form and structure of your staircase, you can use lower grade timbers which can be carpeted or painted. The other positive of carpet, is that you can chose small parts of the staircase to feature high quality polished timber.
If you're house has lots of exposed timber work, sometimes the stair is more definitive with a contrasting stain. We recommend a lighter stain, which will also help in brightening the stairwell. Stainless steel and glass is used on contemporary stairs to create the same effect, channeling light through the stairwell and into surrounding areas. Georgian era stairs usually have painted risers and stringers, polished treads, painted timber turned balusters and polished handrail.
Unlike other timber in the house, stairs tend to be more defined as furniture than floors or doors for instance. From that stand point we believe it’s important that more time and effort is spent on the finishing of the stair, particularly the handrail. The handrail is something that’s constantly used, the hand is automatically drawn to it so even more attention needs to be paid to that. Experience shows us that it doesn’t matter how much time and effort, craftsmanship and skill goes in to making the stair, if similar time and effort doesn’t go into the finishing of the timber then our time and your money have been wasted. It is also of utmost importance to get at least one or two coats on the stair as soon as installation is complete. This prevents grit and dust becoming ingrained into the timber through use by trade’s people after we have completed our job. French polishing is a most beautiful finish that can be applied to a staircase or more particularly a handrail. It has a rich luster and is soft to the touch, it even has a pleasant earthy smell. While French polishing is not as hard as other products, it tends to improve with age rather than the other way around. It can also be easily rebuffed and repaired if necessary unlike polyurethane.
Timber is a natural, reusable, recyclable and sustainable product. S&A Stairs acquire timbers from accredited and responsible contractors and mills which follow the strictest of private forest management practices to sustain a viable industry without placing unrealistic demands on our resources. A hardness rating is provided for all timbers as a measure of their resistance. Hardness is an important consideration when deciding on a timber for your stair.
Below is a more detailed breakdown of our timber varieties and their hardness ratings.
Alpine and Mountain Ash are tall trees found in cooler, high altitudes. This wood is a pale pink to yellow brown in colour. Both species are fast growing and often show clearly distinguishable growth rings. The grain is generally straight with occasional waviness.
(Hardness Rating - 4.5)
One of the most important hardwoods of Australia. It is a tree of striking appearance and can grow to 75 metres in height with its straight trunk rising to at least half its height. The wood is renowned for both its strength and versatility of application, with attractive colouring from cream to pale brown.
(Hardness Rating - 9.1)
Brushbox is a large hardwood that tends to be found on the edge of rainforests. The heartwood ranges from rich reddish brown through lighter browns to pinkish greys. The texture is fine and even, with the grain usually showing an interlocking characteristic. This is an attractive feature, particularly in exposed/polished situations.
(Hardness Rating - 9.5)
*Not recommended for all applications
American Oak is a hard and heavy wood. It has medium crushing and bending strength and low stiffness. American Oak has excellent steam bending properties. It is almost waterproof and has an exceptional resistance to wear. It can vary in colour from light tan or pale yellow-brown to dark pale brown and can have a pinkish tint.
(Hardness Rating - 6)
Spotted Gum is a large hardwood that can grow up to 50 metres in height. It is known for is shredding elliptical strips of bark and it weathers. The heartwood colour ranges from pale browns to very dark browns. The grain is often interlocked and generally features some 'fiddle-back' figure. The wavy grain type may be quite distinctive.
(Hardness Rating - 11)
*Not recommended for all applications
Sydney Blue Gum
This tree can grow to more than 60 metres in height and is found along the New South Wales coastline. The timber is usually straight grained, showing some interlocking grain. The texture is moderately coarse. The heartwood colour ranges from dark pink to reddish brown and has moderate durability.
(Hardness Rating - 9)
The wood is heavy, hard and compact - therefore can be difficult to work with. The heartwood ranges from light grey or light chocolate brown with some darker reds and browns sometimes occurring. The heartwood is highly durable (class 1) and so is also used for external applications.
(Hardness Rating - 14)
*Not recommended for all applications
A large sized hardwood only found in Western Australia. The bark is rough, covering the whole trunk. The heartwood varies from rich reds to deep browns, with sapwood being a clearly distinguishable pale yellow. The texture is coarse and generally straight grained, although some interlocked grain may feature. The rich red colour deepens over time into a soft burgundy. Renowned worldwide for its density and resistance to insects.
(Hardness Rating - 8.5)
The name Tasmanian Oak is used to describe three species of Eucalypt commonly found in Tasmania. This oak produces a blend of colouring from pale cream to pink and reddish brown. Tasmanian Oak logs are cut in a way that produces an extremely straight and even grain.
(Hardness Rating - 5.5)
Our Job Process plan gives you a complete run down on how your project will progress through our system, from the initial client request for a quote, through to your project being installed. Should you have any queries or concerns, the relevant departments have been highlighted - depending at what stage your project is currently at.
- Quote is sent to the client
- Order is accepted by client *
- Project is scheduled for measure *
- Project is measured
- Shop drawings are sent to the client
- Client signs off on drawings *
- Installation scheduled and communicated to client
- Project is manufactured
- Project is delivered to site
- Project is installed
* Denotes client interaction
This will be your first dealing with S&A Stairs. Your sales consultant is here to help you with the design and quoting of your stair. You will be dealing with the sales team up until you sign off on your job, at which point you will be appointed a technical detailer who will take over management of your project.
Your technical detailer will be responsible for measuring your stair and providing shop drawings. The technical detailer can also help with your final design touches.
Our scheduling department will be in contact with you to arrange all measure and installation dates. You can contact the scheduling department at any time to find out the status of your project, otherwise, wait for our call to receive your update.
As the name suggests, your installer will be the final link in the chain and will be responsible for installing your stair. Much care is taken in this final step to ensure a perfect outcome for you.
Finishing - staining, carpeting & painting
Timber stairs are generally finished by external trades other than stair builders. After staircase installation, S&A Stairs have no control over varying site conditions - which may include dust and grit. Care should be taken to minimise the levels of dust and grit in or around the stair before it is painted or stained.
Excessive moisture over time may have an effect on movement of stair components resulting in the form of cracking or mould. Ideally, timber stairs should not be installed until there is a permanent cover to shield it from moisture.
When cleaning timber elements of your stair, we recommend using a damp cloth or mop to remove dust or dirt. If using cleaning products, water based variations are best, as products that contain harsh chemicals (e.g. Acetone) may damage surfaces and finishes. For steel or glass elements, window cleaner (e.g. Windex) produces a clean and clear finish.
For timber stairs, prolonged exposure to heat can result in shrinkage and movement of the timber. We advise that stairs should not be positioned close to heating vents, heaters or hot electrical appliances.
Wear & scratch damage
Damage to timber stairs may occur due to continual heavy foot traffic and in particular 'stiletto-heel' type loading or dragging heavy objects over the stair. Depending on the hardness rating of the timber, we recommend that you take care to avoid these types of damage.
Stainless steel indoors
In order to care for stainless steel indoors, an ordinary household cleaner with low chloride used regularly with plenty of water is all that is required. Drying afterwards will avoid leaving any streaky marks.
Fingerprints, oils & grease marks
Mild detergent can shift most light marks. CSG Cleanox minimises and prevents fingerprints in high usage areas. No rubbing or rinsing is necessary, the application of CSG Cleanox also provides extra protection against staining and preserves the stainless steel surface and minimises the need for cleaning.
Rainfall can be expected to wash of accumulations of dirt and other deposits efficiently from well-designed facades and fittings. However, it is usually recommended to supplement this natural process by washing stainless steel at least once or twice a year. A lot depends on the amount of exposure and severity of the environment. Special attention needs to be given to sheltered areas during routine cleaning.
Rust marks & tea staining
Early action after the onset of tea staining is most desirable to avoid the underlying surface from being affected. Once the surface suffers from pitting then it would probably require mechanical re-polishing and passivation. Tea staining can be removed by using Polinox US Stainless Steel Rust & Stain Remover. This product will clean and remove rust and stains, such as those caused by coastal environments - this is achieved without affecting the finish of the material.
Grease, oily film and other organic contamination
Oils and grease may be removed by alkaline formulations or hot water and detergents, or if necessary, by hydrocarbon solvents such as alcohol, Acetone, thinners or eucalyptus oil. In cases the surface should be rinsed with clean water and preferably dried. For directional polished finishes, wiping along the polish direction with very hot, clean water and a soft absorbent cloth is a very good final step to reduce smears.
Stainless steel cleaning intervals
- In environments that are more than 15km from the beach front or a sheltered bay, stainless steel should be cleaned every 12 months.
- In environments that are 1 - 5km from the beach front or a sheltered bay, stainless steel should be cleaned every 4 - 6 months.
- In environments that are 0.5 - 1km from the beach front or a sheltered bay, stainless steel should be cleaned every 3 months.
- In environments that are within 0.5km of the beach front or within 0.1km from a sheltered bay, stainless steel should be cleaned weekly.
Shapes and Styles
Modern is defined as of recent times or the present - this definition also equates to modern stairs. These structures are associated with clean lines with bright and illustrious features. Modern colour schemes generally lean towards naturals or neutrals.
What is the difference between modern and contemporary we hear you ask? Well, that's an age old question - and there is a difference. Contemporary stairs are difficult to define due to the fact that contemporary architecture, in its purest form, hasn't been designed yet! They are creative with regards to architecture, continually pushing the boundaries away from the norm and are characterised by a stark boldness.
"Wow..." that is the reaction you're looking for when you install a feature staircase in your home. This staircase is a major focal point in your home and in many instances a work of architectural art in its own right. Feature staircases are a S&A specialty, one which we have honed in over our 96 years of stair building.
Traditional stairs are stairs that have been created in a period style or to compliment a specific era. They are generally designed to respect the origins of a particular time and blend with the history of the home.
Classic stairs can be similar to traditional stairs but are not designed to image a specific era and are conceptualised in a more timeless manner. Classic stairs can be situated in a modern or period home and can cross the divides of both styles.
Curved stairs can be made from a variety of materials and can create a hugely impressive structure in any home. We believe that a beautifully created and functional curved staircase is the embodiment of modern architecture. The design challenges both the designer and the stair builder to let their mind run free - resulting in either the gloriously simple or the wonderfully intricate. A curved staircase can dominate an entrance foyer or form a home's internal back drop.
The major difference between curved and spiral staircases is the internal beam which all spiral staircases are constructed around. This beam is not required in the construction of the curved staircase as these are more of a free standing creation.
This stair shape is generally used where space may be an issue. Overall a straight flight of stairs is easier to design and construct than one with landings.
L Shaped Stairs
An L shaped stair will have one landing and usually changes direction by 90 degrees. An L shaped stair can create a beautiful feature and can resolve any issues you may have with straight stairs such as the visibility of the top floor, as well as reducing the danger of falling. An L shaped stair can be both an elegant and functional structure in any home.
U Shaped Stairs
A U shaped stair may employ a single wider landing for a change in direction of 180 degrees, or 2 landings for two changes in direction of 90 degrees each. A U shaped stair is a grand addition to a home and creates a fantastic impression in any entrance lobby or living space.
T Shaped Stairs
A T shaped stair is ideal for your grand entrance. This is a design that commands attention and truly establishes the tone of a building. T shaped stairs are usually large scale offerings, however, have been known to be adapted to suit smaller homes and cottages in the past.
S&A Stairs have been the curved (or geometric) staircase builder of choice in Australia for over 96 years. The art of building a curved stair cannot be learned overnight. We carefully select and train a specialised team of people who have the patience and the skills required to visualise, design and craft a geometric stair. Alec Acquroff learned the art of crafting curved stairs in Edinburgh over 100 years ago. Today our state of technology provides us with precision and speed while our team ensures Alec's legacy of superior detail and design remains.
Spiral staircases are curved staircases with the difference that they're supported by one internal beam. These are beautiful structures which in the past have been categorised as a period or traditional style, however, this is now changing and this stair shape is now being used in more modern and eclectic designs.
Warranty & Policies
Our 10 Year Warranty
We put a lot of care and attention into everything we make to ensure your stair will stand the test of time. That's why we're happy to provide you with product care instructions and a 10 year warranty for your piece of mind. S&A Stairs products are covered by a 10 year warranty for manufacturing and installation faults.
Our warranty does not cover products that have been exposed to extreme conditions (including prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and moisture) which can result in shrinkage or swelling of timber components. Post-installation scratches, burns and or damage to glass caused by inappropriate use are also not included.
Our Timber Policy
Timber is a natural, reusable, recyclable and sustainable product. It has a wide range of properties and due to its ready availability is widely used within the building industry. Timber is derived from sustainably managed forests and is an environmentally friendly building material. Of all building products that are readily available, timber requires the least amount of energy to produce. Timber stairs are special elements in any building design, defining the flow of spaces and movement between different levels.
S&A Stairs acquire new harvest timbers from accredited and responsible contractors and mills. They follow the strictest of private forest management practices to sustain a viable industry without placing unrealistic demands on our resources.
Timbers come in a large range of colours and textures. The harsh Australian environment produces various marks in timber including patterns caused by insects and marks caused by fire. These variations enhance the unique nature of timber.
Colour – A characteristic feature of most timbers is the variation in colour between species and within species. Further colour variations may also occur with use, exposure to light and can be influenced by the application of different finishes.
Grain – Grain broadly describes the timber's appearance referring to the general direction, size arrangement, appearance or quality of the fibres in wood.
Texture – Timber can be coarse, fine, even or uneven in texture and is dependent on size and arrangement of wood cells.
Figure – Figure refers to the patterns produced on the surface of timber resulting from the nature of the grain, the arrangement and relative dimensions of timber cells and colour variations. Reflection and absorption of light have an influence on figure.
Timber properties relating to timber stairs
Moisture content and movement in stairs – Timber is a natural product that responds to changes in weather conditions. The term "movement" describes periodic small dimensional changes that occur in seasoned timber due to environmental changes. During periods of consistently high humidity, timber will absorb moisture from the surrounding air causing it to swell or increase in size. Unless timber is placed in a permanently controlled environment, it will always move in response to changing environmental conditions. Gaps between individual timber components will occur as the stair shrinks in dry weather.
Localised shrinkage may also occur when areas of stairs are exposed to heat sources such as fireplaces or sunlight through large doors or windows. The overall movement and rate of movement of timber varies depending on timber species. Small moisture content variations in timber at the time of installation and differing conditions within the house (i.e. from sun exposure or fireplaces) will also cause variation in timber movement. Consequently, some gaps between stair components can be expected. Timber stair finishes will not prevent timber movement, but may reduce the rate of response to climatic changes. Applying a finish to the underside of a stair may further assist to reduce seasonal movement.
Hardness – Hardness of timber refers to its resistance to wear, abrasion and to indentation. Damage to timber stairs may occur due to continual heavy foot traffic and in particular to “stiletto-heel” type loading. If soft timber species are used in a timber stair, indentation can be expected whilst the selection of hard timbers ensures improved resistance to indentation and abrasion. Timber finishes will not significantly improve the hardness of the timber stair.
Grade – The character of the timber stair is influenced by the species characteristics and therefore the grade. Grading is a process that sorts timber according to the number and size of features present (e.g. veins, knots, splits and shakes). There are three main grades of timber, all graded to Australian Standards.
Select Grade is the highest grade with minimal features or marks, creating a sleek and 'unblemished' look. Select grade timber is chosen from the best of the best timber grades and looks great in modern style homes and commercial properties as it offers a more even finish without losing its warm and natural feel. Some gum vein is allowed within select grade timber.
Standard Grade falls in between Select grade and Feature grade and is a subtle showcase of the timber's natural features, such as gum veins, splits and holes. Standard grade timber has more
diversity than select grade but less than feature grade. Standard grade timber looks great in old period style homes or when a more weathered and natural appearance is required as it displays more of the natural characteristics.
Feature Grade contains imperfections such as knots, gum veins, branch and insect markings, displaying all the natural appeal of the timber.
Acceptable appearance post installation
Uniform timber appearance – Installation and finishing practices are major factors which affect the in-service performance of timber products. The following outlines some problems that affect the surface of the timber and these should not generally occur in timber stairs. However, specific heat sources from appliances or sun exposure through large uncovered windows may induce some cupping of boards in the affected area. Similarly, wide boards or thinner overlay boards may also show some slight cupping in certain house environments.
It should also be recognised that the actions or inaction of owners can contribute or even cause these to occur.
- Cupping - timber board edges are either higher or lower than the centre of the board. Heat in a specific location or a very dry environment above the stair may result in cupping. Moist sub-stair spaces can also cause timber to cup. Cupping can occur in overlay staircases as well as stairs using and standard thickness boards.
- Tenting to landing boards - where the adjoining edge has lifted above the level adjacent landing board. This is often associated with high moisture situations beneath the stair.
- Shrinkage – wider gaps between timber components due to changes in the moisture content.
- Delaminating – is the failure of the bond between laminated stair components. Ultra violet light and moisture can adversely affect timber laminated components.
Maintenance of a timber stair after installation
Internal environment – Within a dwelling, a number of different climates can develop, causing areas of stairs to respond differently within the same dwelling. These include large expanses of glass, fireplaces, air-conditioners, appliances that vent warm air, the aspect of the house, all of which can have an effect on the dimensional movement of stair components. When timber stairs are exposed to the sun through large glassed areas, protection should be considered before, during and after construction. Evaporative coolers add moisture to the air and raise the relative humidity, resulting in moisture contents in the timber stair that are higher than under ambient conditions. Air conditioners and fireplaces may reduce average moisture contents causing gaps between stair components. Appliances that vent warm air may cause localised shrinkage in that area.
Movement after installation – Shrinkage may occur after installation when air conditioning or heating systems commence use. Some movement usually occurs in timber stairs after installation as the stair adjusts to the climate and although stair finishes may retard moisture content changes, they will not prevent this movement. High density species are extremely strong and those that take up or lose moisture more quickly will also follow seasonal moisture changes more closely than slower responding species.
Newly finished timber stairs – Timber stairs may be finished in several ways - painted, carpeted or stained and polished. Once the stair is installed, S&A Stairs will provide cover boards so the customer can protect exotic timber stair treads and will seal laminated components with a single coat of satin polyurethane or some similar product during summer months. Stairs are generally finished by external trades other than stair builders. Whilst the site environment is not always dust free, the timber stair can be expected to have an even appearance. A minimal level of contaminants, minor sanding marks and small depressions of finished stair components and in nail holes may be visible. A mirror finish is an unachievable and some finishes with yellow with time. A timber stair is subject to heavy wear and although a good quality finish can be expected, the same finish as furniture should not be expected.
Sand or grit on footwear poses a big problem to timber stair finishes. Direct sunlight can also pose a problem contributing to gapping and possible cupping of stair components. It will also cause a
chemical reaction resulting in the colour of some finishes to change with time. Some timber finishes are more prone to darken with age and direct sunlight accelerates this process.
S&A Stairs quality policy for clients
There are no standards governing the acceptable appearance of timber stairs. However there are standards that relate to the manufacture and installation of timber stairs, namely the Building Code of Australia. Stairs constructed of the same timber species can differ markedly in appearance, depending on the timber source, age of the tree, timber board width, the type of finishing used and the lighting in which the timber stair is viewed.
Factors influencing the appearance – Timber is a natural product that will shrink and swell in response to changes in atmospheric humidity. No building environment is the same as another. With stained stairs, the sanding and finishing is not undertaken in a dust free factory environment and finishes may darken with time.
The S&A quality standard – Problems such as tenting, buckling and crowning should not generally occur in timber stairs. However, cupping, shrinkage or expansion may off occur if areas of the stair are affected by heat, sun or moisture.
It should also be recognised that the client’s actions or inaction's can contribute or even cause problems to occur. Stairs exposed to heat sources or moisture after occupancy (e.g. no curtains,
operating fireplaces and vents from appliances, and/or houses closed up for extended periods of time or underside of stairs enclosed with no ventilation or exposed to sub floor environments) may cause cupping, shrinking or expansion. Cupping, shrinkage or expansion from such sources may be the owner’s responsibility.
Clients can expect:
- S&A Stairs will endeavour to keep variation in timber colour and grain to a minimum, but cannot guarantee that timber used will be exactly the same.
- A timber stair that is free from split boards.
- A small amount of noise when walked on (a stair is often more noisy during drier weather due to loosening at the joints).
- The stair may show some indentations over time depending on the hardness of the species used, volume of traffic and footwear worn.
- A stained and polished finish with minimal sanding marks.
- S&A Stairs to provide complimentary cover boards to protect the stair for installation by the owner or builder.
- Exotic hardwood laminated components sealed with a single coat of satin polyurethane during summer months.
S&A Stairs timber stair finishing recommendations and waiver
Due to the nature of timber, imperfections are part of the character of timber and S&A Stairs do not take any responsibility for cracking, movement, splits’, timber variation or general deterioration due to regular use. Once the stair is installed, clients must take reasonable care and responsibility to ensure the stair is not damaged by other trades, and is maintained free of dust created by other trades. S&A Stairs recommend that the stair be stained, polished or coated (sealed) within four weeks of installation.
Slattery & Acquroff Holdings Pty Ltd acknowledges the following information sources in preparing this policy document:
- Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation
- Timber Queensland