Helical and spiral staircases are often confused because they look to be quite similar but in reality, their structures are different.
Post or Void
An easy way to tell the difference between the two is the presence of a central post or column. The treads of a spiral staircase wind around the column which supports the steps whereas a helical staircase has a void at the centre, instead of a post.
Spiral staircases don’t have to be circular in plan. A squared stairwell may have a spiral staircase where the treads are expanded into the corners to fit the square space. Likewise, helicals are not always circular and can assume an oval, elliptical or curved plan.
A lot of people think, or have been told by building professionals, that they must have a spiral because that is all the they have room for. In the majority of cases, this may not be the case at all. Consulting a specialist staircase designer will explore more options and suggestions for alternative shapes which can be created in the allocated space, including helical.
Kit spirals are popular because of cost, but some kits can end up looking a bit like fire escapes when installed in the property, although when well-designed a spiral can also be a thing of beauty.
A helical staircase design offers more options in shape and style and has the ability to look more sculptural than a spiral.
Because of the easier going and looser curve of the staircase, going up and down a helical feels much easier than a spiral.
Safety in Use
Anyone who has ever carried a laundry basket, small child, or tray of china up or down a spiral staircase can probably testify to how unsafe the experience made them feel. The rise on a helical is likely to be less steep and the curves much gentler.
In Mediaeval times right-handed swordsmen defended castles from the top down and spirals wound clockwise for this reason. It was easy to hang onto the central column with your left Left: Spiral staircases Equally stunning when viewed from any side Forged bronze balustrade and helical staircase with grand sweep hand and slash away at attackers coming up the stair holding the sword in your right. Not so easy for the invader coming up the stair with the column blocking his useable hand. Today you can specify tread direction on spirals to suit left hand or right-hand preferences. Typically, a spiral will just have one handrail at the outer edge, although building regulations do cover design for a handrail on the column if you are going down the bespoke spiral option and prefer two.
If the usable width of a staircase (both helical and spiral) is over 1000mm, a handrail is always required on both sides.
A helical staircase will remain useful for longer in your forever home due to it being easier to use. Both helicals and spirals can be functional and sculptural if designed carefully and in empathy with a property. Spirals are not for everyone though and if you plan to sell your home at some stage in the future, you should factor in that potential buyers may be put off by the thought of having to replace the staircase.
On the face of it a spiral, especially kit or modular types are much cheaper than a helical staircase which will be designed to work using the space to the best advantage.
Getting the Right Staircase for Your Space
To make the most of the space you have you should always consult a staircase specialist as early on in the design process as possible. A specialist will evaluate your space in the context of your home and your needs. Alternative layouts for spaces initially ear-marked for a spiral may well be possible. Ideally, consult a specialist designer at planning stage, and certainly before the builder has started with walls, flooring and landing edges for the best outcome. On the other hand, if it is a remodelling project and the space is already existing, then a bespoke solution designed in empathy with the fabric of the building will look much better than a kit or modular staircase. Look for a company who will survey the space and provide some layout options, taking into account how you use the space, the direction of traffic, and the materials you would like the staircase made from.
Bespoke Bisca staircases start from £22,000
Tel 01439 771 702