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What stair design and construction method is best for fire stairs?

What stair design and construction method is best for fire stairs?

Stairs are an essential part of every multi-level building. We often think of them as just a way to move from level to level but it’s important to consciously consider the type of staircase that will be used.

How many types of stairs are there?

Flights of stairs can be designed in an endless combination of different forms and types that best suit the space, function, and aesthetics of the specific project. Some types of stairs are more common in residential buildings, while others are more common in commercial or industrial buildings.

  • Straight Stairs.
    Straight Stairs are the most basic stair design. They are a single linear flight with no change of direction, most used in residential and commercial stair applications.
  • Straight Stairs with Intermediate Landings.
    This is a version of the Straight Stairs, but they include a central landing that breaks the long expanse of the stair flight and are more commonly used in large commercial buildings.
  • Quarter Turn Stairs (L-Shaped).
    This is another variation of the Straight Stairs with a 90-degree turn after a landing creating an L-Shaped Stair. These types of stairs are most used in both residential and commercial buildings and generally when there is wall support on only one side of the stairs. The Quarter Turn Stairs are more visually appealing and interesting than straight stairs, they take up less space and can be used in the corner of a room. They’re also safer and easier to navigate than Straight Stairs with the landing providing a resting place and reducing the number of stairs you could fall at once.
  • Circulation Stairs (U-Shaped).
    Another form of Straight Stairs, the Circulation Stairs feature a 180-degree turn at the landing between two parallel flights of stairs, these are mostly found in office buildings and many fire shafts. Again, a more visually appealing option of the Straight Stairs that takes up less space and can be easier to fit into an architectural plan.
  • Scissor Stairs.
    Scissor Stairs consist of two different flights of stairs providing two separate paths of ascending or descending within the single stair shaft. Scissor Stairs are most effective in buildings with smaller footprints requiring two vertical means of exiting such as residential apartment buildings and high-rise commercial buildings. Scissor Stairs generally save space and the cost of a second stair shaft and are visually striking to look at.
  • Winder Stairs.
    Winder Stairs are similar to Quarter Turn Stairs or Circulation Stairs but instead of a flat landing where the turn is, winder stairs are continuous with triangular stairs at the corner transition. Winder Stairs are more common as internal apartment stairs.

And then there are different functions of a stair.

  • Fire Stairs / Egress Stairs.
    Egress Stairs are exit access stairs that include the exit access, the exit, and the exit discharge. Egress Stairs don’t have to be enclosed.
  • Internal Apartment Stairs.
    Where a more aesthetic finish is required, stairs with profile-cut stringers are ideal. The stringers are cut to the profile of the risers, customised to suit any project and making it easier for finishing with tiles, carpet, vinyl, timber or paint.

The anatomy of a stair.

  • Handrail.
    A protective rail is designed to prevent people or objects from falling into an open stair shaft, or for stability when using the stairs.
  • Tread.
    The top or horizontal surface of each stair.
  • Riser.
    The front of each stair. The panel that rises to the next tread.
  • Stringer.
    The side of the flight of stairs. The inclined panel where the risers and treads are joined together.
  • Landing Angle.
    The Fast Tread® Landing Angle rests on the upper landing formwork.
  • Throat Thickness.
    The width measurement from the stair soffit to the corner where the back of the tread meets the riser.
  • Rise.
    The height measurement from the bottom of the last riser to the top tread.
  • Run.
    The width measurement from the front of the bottom riser to the top riser.
  • Soffit.
    The back or under-surface of the flight of stairs.

Different ways to construct stairs for multi-level buildings.

  • Conventionally Formed Stairs.
    PROS. Conventionally forming concrete stairs is a well-established construction method that appears cheaper on paper. There is more flexibility for custom stairs for more architectural aesthetics and external stairs are no issue for conventionally formed concrete stairs.
    CONS. Conventional formwork for concrete stairs is very labour intensive and subject to human error and being out of tolerance which means the stairs will need to be rectified and/or patched for compliance. Conventional formwork requires a lot more skill and experience onsite and needs to be stripped of the formwork, therefore creating more waste.
  • Precast Concrete Stairs.
    PROS. Precast Concrete Stairs enable a higher level of finish on the concrete. Precast stairs are shop drawn to the exact project measurements and are fast to install with reinforcement preinstalled in the stair flights.
    CONS. Precast stairs are more dependent on cranes on-site and require a larger crane capacity. The concrete risers are easily chipped during the construction phase. Deliveries of precast stairs are a lot less efficient due to the weight of the concrete and fewer flights of stairs can be delivered to site at once.
  • Preformed Concrete Stairs.
    PROS. Prefabricated Concrete Stairs are faster and easier to install and they’re shop drawn to the exact project measurements. Preformed stairs are safer with the handrails able to be installed at the same time as the flights creating immediate edge protection in the stair shaft. There are fewer trades on-site for preformed formwork because most of the work is prefabricated off-site.
    CONS. Preformed Concrete Stairs may look more expensive on paper, even though when looking at the big picture they’re often a lot more cost-efficient. Prefabricated formwork is an innovative construction method that may be more unfamiliar.

How FTI Group fits in with all this.

FTI Group is a manufacturer of Fast Tread® preformed concrete stairs with a number of added benefits when compared to conventional formwork, precast stairs, and other preformed concrete stair options.

  • Safer with Safe-T-Tread™ temporary treads creating immediate and safe access to upper levels during the construction phase.
  • Cleaner and stronger with a signature Lamiboard soffit which consists of a fibre cement sheet for added strength and a galvanised stair soffit with no weld spray marks to the stair soffit or the risers.
  • Consistently accurate stair treads due to the screed fold which the concreters use as a guide for screeding the treads ensuring level treads every time.
  • Extensive experience with stair designs with a dedicated Technical Team flagging compliance issues.
  • Flexibility for custom stairs and the ability to manufacture preformed stairs for winder stairs, curved stairs, tapered stairs, skewed stairs, and wide stairs.
  • Reliable with excellent customer service and a range of formwork products, positioning FTI Group as a one-stop-shop for formwork.

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