Opening up a Staircase

Opening up a Staircase

While most stairs can be substantially altered simply by changing the style of handrails, balusters and newel posts, there are times when more radical changes are called for. If you really do not like the look of your staircase you always have the option of tearing it down to the bare essentials or replacing it completely for an open tread set of stairs. If you decide to embark on such major projects you must make sure you do not compromise the safety of anyone using the stairs.

Removal of Handrails and Balusters

Opening up a Staircase The complete removal of handrails and balusters will make any staircase feel more open. Opening up stairs in this manner is certainly one way to give an appearance of a larger space, though it may not be appeal to everyone. Remember that any staircase should have an adequate handrail. If you remove the balusters and newel posts then you should provide a handrail on the wall instead, and it is not advisable to remove balusters if you have children in the home.

Spindle baluster

Closed-in baluster panelling was very popular in the 20s and 30s and many older homes will have such panelling. Removng this and replacing it with spindle balusters will make a huge difference to the look of the stairs. An added benefit is that it will afford more light and space, creating a more contemporary feel.

Opening Up to Sell

If you are considering opening up a staircase, bear in mind that you may want to sell your home at some time in the future. Many purchasers might be put off by a stairway that strays too far from the norm. If you do decide to go ahead with this option, do not tamper with the strings, treads or risers or any other part that may compromise structural integrity.

Converting to Open Tread

A less radical approach for a stair opening project is to change existing closed tread stairs to make an open tread staircase. This will usually involve the complete removal of the existing stairs, for you cannot simply remove the risers and expect the treads to remain stable — replacement stairs are always required. This may sound daunting, but you will be surprised how quickly such a project can be completed. It is usually possible to change the stairs in a day or two.

Bulkhead Opening

Another way to give a more contemporary look is to pierce an opening in the bulkhead wall of a stairway. This will make the area appear larger and allow more light into the stairwell. If the wall is internal you can simply knock through, but on an external wall a window will need to be inserted.


Before beginning a stairway opening project consult a structural engineer to check you are not undermining the integrity of the stairs. Your alteration plans may require building regulations approval, in which case you will need to discuss the proposed changes with the Building Control Officer at your local authority before commencing work.

15. December 2010 by admin
Categories: Stairs | Tags: | Comments Off on Opening up a Staircase


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