Stair Case Designs, and their Advantages and Disadvantages

Share this content on social media

Choosing the right staircase design for your commercial building or fit-out design can be a difficult decision unless it is naturally dictated by the building’s shape or other constraining elements. Sometimes it may be that the client has a particular concept in mind, but regardless, stairs are such a crucial element of your space, which is why you want to ensure it contributes to a cohesive interior theme. There are many different stair designs you can choose from, as well as materials, balustrades, finishes, and other customisable features you can add to achieve the right aesthetic for the space. Read on to learn more about the different types of stair designs on offer, as well as the benefits and downsides of each. 

Straight flight 

The most common type of staircase you will find, straight flight stairs, like the name suggests follow a straight line without any change in direction, and can only be made with a maximum of 18 continuous treads. If your height between floors requires more treads than this, you will need to add a mid-landing to your staircase. Straight flight stairs are the simplest of designs and are quite space-efficient in terms of losing the least amount of lettable floor space in a tenancy. However, they are rarely the hero of the space given that they are dimensionally small and often placed for efficiency rather than show.

Plinth based

The plinth stair design can be used with any staircase design. It combines a raised platform area with your choice of staircase shape and is often used primarily to use up a tread and riser where the height between slabs is higher than usual. However, the plinth base adds an element of uniqueness, and can be used as an option to integrate planters and casual meeting zones. The disadvantage of this design is that you may need a larger area to facilitate a compliant design. 

Splayed flight 

Splayed flight stairs are wider at the bottom and narrow at the top, or vice versa. The benefits of this design are it can be used with any staircase type and make it look more inviting. It is often done when there is a restriction that won’t allow a full-width stair all the way. 


Floating stairs are one of the most modern and impressive staircase designs you can choose from. With this design, the supporting structure is hidden or minimised which offers a modern, minimal, or floating look. Structurally it may be challenging to make the design work, and often there are specific requirements around access standards that need to be considered.

Spiral or helical 

The spiral, or helical staircase is a unique design that adds a wow factor to any building or commercial space. A true spiral will generally have a central column that the staircase follows, whereas a helical design is free form and features a balustrade on both sides. However, the spiral is still the general term that is used to describe both spiral and helical staircases. While they are a compact option if a small diameter is chosen, there is nothing quite like the wow factor of a larger scale helical stair, especially when they are set in a well-proportioned space. The disadvantage of spirals is really only that they are more challenging to engineer and fabricate and slightly higher in price than an equivalent switchback.  

Switchback (cantilevered, post supported, suspended, splayed)

Switchback stairs are also called U-shaped and sometimes scissor stairs. They will have at least two flights of stairs that are positioned adjacent to one another with a landing between them. The benefit of this design is that the shape, similar to a spiral staircase, efficiently uses the space to provide access between floors. 

There are several types of switchback stairs you can choose from. 

  • Cantilevered – has no support under or over the staircase
  • Post-supported – has either one central post or multiple posts to support the landing 
  • Suspended – support comes above from the ceiling or upper floor, down to the landing 
  • Splayed – this creative design as the names implies, splays the flights of stairs in different directions, it can either be cantilevered or post-supported

Right angle or L-shaped 

The right angle staircase or L-shaped or “dog-leg” stair is a common design that is usually dictated by the building’s features or a fit-out layout plan. They can make a very efficient use of space, especially if installed at the perimeter of a building. L-shaped staircases are similar to switchbacks in that they can be cantilevered or supported with posts or hangers. One disadvantage can be headroom on the lower flight so keep an eye on this. 


The curved stair design is generally a sweeping curve that is a segment of a circle but doesn’t make a full circle or else it would be helical. It’s often chosen to make a statement or to match a building’s shape or internal wall. The benefit of choosing the curved stair design is that it offers an elegant architectural aesthetic. The downside of this design is that it is more challenging to engineer and build. 

Get in touch with the Active Metal stair specialists today 

If you have a commercial building and you’re looking for a standout element like one of our stunning architectural staircase designs, speak to the team at Active Metal. We will gladly find a customised solution that will enhance and add functionality to any commercial site. 


Leave a comment