Spiral staircases may seem to many as a modern trend in home design, but they date back hundreds of years as a result of their functionality and visual appearance. Today, spiral staircases are available to almost anyone with their various sizes, materials and ‘build your own’ kits.

History of spiral staircases

Spiral staircases date back to medieval times, where they were used in castles and made from stone. Spiral staircases were used as a clever defence mechanism. They would usually be wound in a clockwise direction in order to give the defender an advantage. As swordsmen were typically right-handed, the attacker would be impaired by the position of the central pole of the staircase.

In addition, because they were so narrow, spiral stairwells only allowed for one person to ascend or descend at a time. This meant that if fifty men were attacking one defender, the fight would still be one on one.

Why choose a spiral staircase?

Today though, there is very little need for a strategically advantageous staircase, yet spiral staircases remain highly popular for a number of other reasons:

-Space saving

One of the main advantages of spiral staircases is that they take up less space than straight stairs. Per square foot, a straight staircase can take up almost double the amount of space. It is a common misconception that spiral staircases are steeper than straight staircases; in fact, they must comply with the same building regulations as straight staircases regarding rise.

These regulations state that the maximum angle of pitch of a stairway should not exceed 42º at a private residence and 38° at a public property. Furthermore the maximum rise and going for a private staircase is 220mm regardless of type, so spiral staircases are no steeper than any other kind.

As spiral staircases do not take up as much room, they can fit into areas where a straight staircase is not an option. They can fit into practically any corner, making them ideal for use into areas such as cellars and lofts where space is limited.

-Versatile

There are a number of ways in which you can customise a spiral staircase to suit any home. They can wind clockwise or anti-clockwise and have either open or closed treads, whichever best suits your space. They can also be made out of a number of different materials including wood, metal and glass, and are available in multiple colours. So whether your home is modern or traditional, you can find a spiral staircase to fit any interior.

A metal spiral staircase can be used indoors or outdoors as long as the metal is protected. They can be made out of lots of different metals including steel, aluminium and iron and can be a stylish way to connect a deck or balcony to ground level, without blocking any views you may have.

Metal staircases are low maintenance, as they are resistant to changes in temperature and humidity. Furthermore, metal is extremely durable so it will last a long time even in outdoor conditions or in areas of high traffic.

– Visual appearance

One of the main attractions of a spiral staircase is its appearance. Spiral staircases make a home unique, adding character as well as value. Although you may not be considering moving home, adding a feature such as a spiral staircase can give your home the edge over others and increase its value. The right spiral staircase can provide the wow factor and this is why they are often used in grand design and restoration projects.

Metal staircases, in particular, can be customised due to the flexible nature of metal which allows it to be moulded to create both modern and traditional styles. Metal also works well with other materials. Combining materials such as wood and glass can be a perfect way to create a bespoke staircase for your home.

-Safety

Despite having winder treads, a spiral staircase is not necessarily any less safe than a straight staircase. If you trip on a spiral staircase you will probably fall against the balustrade or just a couple of steps, stopping at the curve instead of falling all the way to the bottom.

They can also be more difficult for children to walk up because of the winder treads. However this does not make them unsafe as, to comply with building regulations, there must not be a gap greater than 100mm anywhere on the staircase.

-Architecturally pleasing

Because of the variety of material and colour options available for spiral staircases, they can easily blend into the background if desired. In addition, their open trades and vertical design allow more light into a property and do not cause an obstruction like a straight stairway might.

-Heights achieved

Spiral staircases can also reach many heights and multiple floors without any extra support if the structure is against a wall. They are often used on the outside of buildings, serving as fire escapes or for back door access, as their design allows them to easily accommodate numerous openings. As long as the staircase is of a certain diameter, even a stretcher can be carried down comfortably during an evacuation.

Their height also makes them popular in the conversion of old industrial buildings into lofts which often have different levels and great heights.

One of the most impressive spiral staircases in the world is situated on the side of the Taihang Mountains in China. It climbs a huge 300ft and gives tourists a safer experience of mountain climbing in the middle of an actual mountain range. The Taihang Mountain spiral staircase has impressive views but its length pales in comparison to the longest spiral staircase in the world which sits inside the Canton tower in China, and is a huge 1000m (3280ft) long.

-Accessible

Spiral staircases are available today for almost anyone. Stair kits mean that you can build your own spiral staircase without it costing a fortune. Furthermore, technology now allows companies to design almost any style and height of staircase to fit your needs.

Disadvantages

Despite all of these benefits, there are some instances where a spiral staircase may not be right for your home. Due to their curved nature, it can be extremely difficult to carry furniture up or down them and their diameter normally allows for only one person to use at a time.

Building regulations can restrict the diameter of your spiral staircase to regulate its steepness; they do not normally allow diameters of 1200mm treads, instead, 1400mm are normally used. When looking into buying a spiral staircase, it is essential that you weigh up all the pros and cons, as a spiral staircase is not for every home. It is also important to check building regulations for your home and area.

Spiral vs Helical

Although, at first, they may look similar, helical and spiral staircases have key qualities which make them different. A spiral staircase is a circular in shape and is wrapped around a central newel or pole. Helical staircases, however, are not necessarily circular as they can be oval or just partly curved and do not have a central pole, which makes them look more freestanding. Because they do not have a central post, they have a handrail both sides of the staircase, whereas a spiral staircase often only has one.

Due to their design, helical staircases often require stronger materials and construction for their support. However, their design does allow more than one person to climb or descend at a time. As a result, they are often used in commercial situations.

One of the biggest problems faced by almost any sash window company that are producing external joinery is the quality of wood and timber the day using. Green wood is ok but it needs seasoning and not quite ready for the job. In this article we’re going to go through and take a good look at all of the possible benefits of using high quality timber and wood from there we can then see which ones between softwood and hardwood make the most sense for sash windows and external joinery in general.

Pine Tree
Pine Tree

One of the best woods that can be used for external joinery if considering softwood is Pine, or BC Pine. These timbers are hard wearing and if treated can last a long time if exposed to the elements. This is most definitely a favourite choice for anyone that’s making sash windows and wants to specify softwood. The cost of this timber is relatively low to the performance and it’s extremely easy and fast growing so very sustainable.

Sapele the hardwood of choice for sash windows

wood window frame
wood window frame

Many older style joinery shops and sash window manufacturers use sapele as the go to wood for external joinery it’s been one of the most used hardwoods for external joinery over the last 20 years. This timber originated from Africa and is very dense as well as hard-wearing. “Having this kind of quality timber on your external joinery is a real bonus and it actually can even help increase the value of your property” according to Managing Director Christopher Richard from London Sash Window Repairs Ltd. One of the great things about manufacturing with sapele is how dense the material went there for when cut leaves a really crisp finish. “This is ideal for sash windows that have intricate mouldings and you really want to have that quality finish and what better timber to use when considering sustainable forestry” He goes on to say. That pretty much confirms the governments stance on wood sustainability too.

Meranti for the sash window manufacture process.

sash windows
sash windows

Meranti is a relatively new timber on the block, when considering external Joinery. This timber is much the same as sapele and also classed as a similar mahogany. The cost is almost identical to Sapele. Personally, I would suggest a using Sapele, as it’s definitely stood the test of time. That said, many high end sash window manufacturers are using this material to create quality windows.

When selecting sustainable timber to manufacture sash windows it’s important to consider that you won’t always find the ideal piece of wood because as we use the timber, stocks diminish and you might not actually be able to source the required products. But that said, if you ensure that you are using pine that’s been well treated either pressure treated or chemically then things will be fine. You could use a high quality hardwood such a Sapele and you can’t really go far wrong.

A lot of the length joinery will last is actually dictated by the paint used. If you’re using a high quality paint that won’t break down easily then the quality of timber becomes less important. This is good because it allows us to use more sustainable timber like softwood Pine, rather than Hardwood to take much longer to grow. So, what this really means is the quality of paint is backing up the lack of quality in the timber itself. Almost any Wood centre will let you know that softwood will be durable but won’t last anywhere near as long as hardwood. So it’s important to make sure that you’re using the right quality treatment before you actually paint the windows.

One of the biggest problems with Pine is the grain density. If you look at the number of growth rings in modern Pine, Scandinavian pine or Redwood as it’s often referred to as you’ll see that they just are really that many growth Rings per inch. This is a bit of a problem in the sense that using timber that effectively quite not dense can act almost as a sponge and absorb water. Obviously, this isn’t good for external joinery. But with that said, it’s pretty if it’s painted well can properly last.

sustainable timber
sustainable timber

Sash windows made from sustainable timber.

One of the biggest things with sash windows is to ensure that the timber using is well treated then covered properly. If you’re using a high quality paint system then it’s actually possible that the timber you’re using doesn’t have to be the highest or best quality, what’s most important is that you ensure that you using the correct procedure to ensure that the timber is well treated and therefore remains well protected. If you keep your timber well protected then you can almost be sure that it will last and it will be ideal for sash windows. This obviously ends up helping the sustainability with sash windows considerably.

Base Requirements For Your Building

All buildings will require a base of some kind. If the site is not level this may require some excavating. If this is the case, always make the site larger than the building to provide airflow around the sides of the building.

Buildings With Timber Floor

These buildings will require a level site. This may be of earth, stone, concrete or tarmac. Generally, only purpose built concrete pads will be perfectly level. If the site has a small slope of less than 40mm per metre, need to supply heavy timber bearers to form a level platform. These will be set level with the use of packing where necessary. Sites that slope more steeply should be levelled first.

Larger buildings should have a stone or block base. The stone should be of 40mm scalpings. Blocks should be 100mm thick laid on the flat side. A purpose made concrete pad could also be considered.

Buildings Without Timber Floor

Garages and stores, which do not have a timber floor, will be bolted down using sleeve anchor fixings. These buildings will require a level concrete pad which is 10mm less, in size, than the footprint of the building. In this way the shiplap cladding will pass down over the side of the base, while the sole plate (bottom rail) of the wall is bolted to the concrete.

  • The pad should be at least 100mm deep and a damp proof membrane should be installed under the concrete.
  • The base must be at least 75mm above the surrounding ground to ensure that water is kept out and the timber remains dry.
  • Any ramp for vehicles should be kept 40mm below the floor level of the base. This will allow the doors to pass down below the floor level by 20mm to keep out the rain.
Bases for Timber Buildings
Bases for Timber Buildings
source johnshieldswoodwork.co.uk

Eco Building designed to minimise the negative impact on the environment :

  • High levels of efficiency
  • Non-toxic and environmentally low impact building products
  • Use of local renewable timber and other wood products
  • Innovative timber structure utilising low value local timber

Efficiency

  • Solar radiation – The position of the building was largely dictated by railway regulations, however, within these limitations, the orientation of the building was designed to optimise the amount of solar radiation entering and warming the building. In contrast the large overhangs are intended to prevent overheating in the summer.
  • Heat Exchanger – The heat exchangers take the heat from outgoing air and is used to preheat the cold fresh incoming air, which is then distributed around the building. It is calculated that the heat exchangers alone will maintain an average temperature of 11 degrees centigrade, which means that only a small heating system is needed to top up the building’s requirements.
  • Windows – incorporating double glazed units and low emissivity glass, together with insulated spacer bars and extra deep window frames means the windows allow more heat in over the year than they let escape, leading to a net gain.
  • Heat Storage – The internal walls are built using dense concrete blocks in order to store heat gained during warmer periods and retain warmth in the colder periods. This helps to maintain temperatures inside the building when temperatures are fluctuating outside.
Double glazed
Double glazed

Building Products

Modern building products can seem simple and easy to use, but often have a high environmental impact due to the way in which their raw materials are quarried, transported and manufactured; the by-products of these processes can create large volumes of industrial waste, some of it toxic.

The Eco Building was constructed using only materials that are non toxic and local products to minimise the environmental impact.

Use of Local Products

The UK imports around 90% (43 million tones per year) of its timber and wood products, much of which comes from environmentally damaging and unsustainable sources. Indigenous people’s lives are lost in the violent quest for extracting timber from virgin forests and huge numbers of animal and plant species are being driven to extinction.
UK forests in contrast produce around 4 million tons of timber per year. However, due to low prices that timber commands the bulk of the timber goes to low uses such as pulp wood, fencing and into the chipboard industry. For this reason woodland owners are unable to invest in good woodland management, leaving woods being seen as wasteland and at risk from development. It is therefore crucial to develop ways in which this large volume of timber can be put to higher value uses, invigorating the health and economies of local woods.

The Eco Building was designed in such a way to demonstrate the possibilities of this “higher value” approach. Furthermore, by demonstrating that buildings can be constructed using “green” techniques, the college building illustrates the possibility of reducing the build up of hazardous toxins in the environment that we live in and share.

Innovative Timber Structure

The columns and roof supports which can be seen inside the hall are the main structure holding the building up, which carry the weight of the roof and support the external walls against wind forces.
The columns are made out of chestnut and the upper structure uses peeled ash poles, which have been designed to allow them to be removed and replaced to reduce maintenance problems in the future.

Eco building examples

This is a versatile building. Built with a mono-pitch roof sloping along its short or long side, depending on where the main entrance is positioned. Large overhanging eaves create shade from the sun and drive rain off the walls. The floor plans range from 10-30 square metres, while the interior height is a generous 2.1 metres. The sizes given here are internal sizes.

A pitched roof and is a taller building, extending in height up to 3.9 metres. A standard glazed gable wall, which is a great natural light source, and is an ideal wall to position towards a great view. The sizes given here are internal sizes.

This is a clean power plant in your garden with a roof integrated solar array above the main entrance. This is ideally oriented due south in order to generate the most energy from the solar array. The floor-plan chosen from the range determines the size of the solar array. Larger buildings usually have a greater energy demand; hence a larger array with greater output.The floor plans range from 10-30 while the interior height is 2.2 metres.

This building around fitting the maximum amount of solar panels per metre square of roof area. It is a home solar-power station that delivers you clean energy while earning you an income through the Governments Feed In Tariff.The sizes given here are internal sizes.

The solid wood furniture not only can please the people’s eyes, but also can protect the environment. Therefore, it is welcomed by the middle and high grade customers. While the board furniture is cheap and has lively effect, but the density board it used contains formaldehyde. It is harmful for people’s health for long time touching. Through comparing, most customers are willing to buy the solid wood furniture at a high price.

The Problems That Often Happen When Buying Solid Wood Furniture

1) STEALING CONCEPT

Because of the environment protection concept, the wood is becoming a rare source. Therefore, even for the most common solid wood furniture , it is three times higher than the board furniture. While, there are lots of complaints on this kind of products.

The manufactures that have been complaint did not mix up truth with falsehood, but using vague concept. The most frequent one is that the salesman told the customer that the cabinet made by solid wood, but customer found out that it was not solid wood. When arguing with the salesman, the customer was told that the frame of the cabinet was solid wood. As to the surface and back board, though they were high density board, they pasted solid wood peel on the surface.

2) DECOMPOSITION OF THE PRICE

In recent years, the furniture business starts to polarisation. The qualified companies focus on the middle and high grade market. Some small companies for the sake of possess the market, so they take advantage of customers’ seeking cheap psychology. That is to say, they adapt decomposition the price, inferior material acting as superb material to cheat customers. What is worse, some companies subcontract their business to the guerrilla and get some management fees. You can tell the skills from the guerrillas. They do not expect the reputation but the profit. Even worse condition is that some companies change the materials for their profit. For example, though the flooring tiles are bought under monitoring. But it could be replaced by the inferior ones at the endif you do not take it seriously.

Solid Wood Furniture
Solid Wood Furniture

Four Things You Need To Check When Buying Solid Wood Furniture

1) SEE THE CERTIFICATES AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY HAVE ALL OF THEM

You had better go to the stores with all the certificates. And you should check out the quality and environmental protection promise they made. The business license is a must and proofs for their promises.

2) SEE THE CONTRACT AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE SELF-CLAUSE.

Do not easily believe the oral saying by the salesman when buying furniture, it requires to use the unified buying and selling furniture contract. You should check the content carefully such as the type, style and material. What is more, do not neglect the self-clause. Some stores draw up some requirements which have no good to the customers.

3) ASK FOR THE INVOICE

After deciding the price through a log time bargaining, some salesman may not give you the invoice for there is no profit for them if giving the invoice. They just give you the receipt. Some customers for the sake of cheap price will give up the invoice. However, if the quality problems occur, the force of law of receipt is much smaller than the invoice.

4) SEE THE COMMON SEAL

After buying the furniture in the shopping mall, you may ask a common seal from the front desk if possible. For some brands will leave when they reach the lease. You can get an extra insurance form the shopping mall.