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What is a floating stair and how do I buy one?

13 May 2020

It’s almost a contradiction. A state of the art stair engineered to conform to all building codes, built to last, and we call it a ‘floating stair’. The fact is the floating bit is mostly to do with its looks. Floating stairs are designed to hide or downplay their well-thought-out supporting structure and to draw attention to an architectural statement.

Here’s a list of some of the questions we’ve been asked over the years.

1. What are the different types of floating stairs?

The 3 main methods we use are listed below. The relevant links will help you visualise each approach.

  1. Mono stringer
    One strong stringer supports the stair from underneath. In this example the matt black stringer blends in with the dark timber used in the treads.
  2. Cantilevered. Here the cantilevered steel structure is hidden, leaving the blonde American ash treads to seemingly float on their own.
  3. Side plate. You can also keep your risers open by using side plate stringers. In this case Australian oak treads sit securely on steel stringers allowing light to stream through to the music room below.

All of these styles can be customised. One client had us incorporate a stunning zig-zig feature into their side plate design stair. Take a look.

2. Is there any price difference between the 3 types of floating stairs?

Generally all 3 designs are within the same ballpark. Expect a maximum variation of high hundreds to low thousands.

A cantilevered system designed to float off a concrete wall will possibly cost less than one floating off a timber wall, but not significantly so.

Larger price variations stem more from layout, materials used and size. Quantity and type of balustrades used are also factors.

3. How much does a floating stair cost?

This question is covered in our blog ‘How to calculate the cost of stairs in NZ’.
However, we love talking to people about stairs so be free to give us a call or shoot us your questions by email.

4. How is a floating stair made?

Floating stairs are made in four separate sections which are then assembled on site.

The components include:

  • The steel structure
  • The treads
  • The balustrades
  • The handrails

To ensure consistent quality and streamline scheduling, we make all four of these segments in house. The only part we outsource are glass balustrades (however, we still design and install these as part of the staircase).

If you’ve chosen lighting in the handrail or treads, this will be pre-wired and connected on site by your electrician.

5. How is a floating stair installed?

Usually for a new build the steel components are installed first – typically when frames are up and you’re closed in.

Towards the end of the project, when there’s less construction happening, we’ll come back and fit the treads, balustrades and handrails. This reduces the likelihood of damage to finished components.

6. Are floating stairs compliant?

Absolutely! All our floating stairs are designed and engineered to comply with all NZ Building Code requirements.

7. Are floating stairs dangerous?

No. Floating stairs are completely safe to use.
The NZ building Code is very strict on safety requirements for stairs.
Our stairs follow all of these requirements – safety is front and centre for us.
You can be assured that you are getting a very safe product.

8. How long does it take to make a floating stair?

  • There’s usually a lead time of roughly 4-6 weeks to install the first components of your floating stair (the steel structure).

If you’ve pre-booked your project with us, we can often reduce this time to accommodate your tight timeline.

  • Following the steel installation, there is usually an 8 – 12 week period before you’ll be wanting the treads and balustrades on site. Of course this depends on your project timelines and how quickly the build proceeds.

As with any building project, touching base with us early in your project will ensure that we meet your timelines.

9. How do I order a floating stair?

Check out Our Process page to find out where to start. We’ll be glad to help you at any point along the way.

10. What should my floating stair quote include?

Good question.
Stairs are a technical product and quotes can vary widely from company to company. This is because not all stairs are created equal.

Determine whether your quote is offering you a turn-key solution.
This includes:

  • Site measure
  • Design
  • 3D drawings
  • Engineering documents
  • Documents for council sign-off (PS1 + PS3)
  • Manufacture and installation of all components. This includes:
    • Steel structure
    • Treads
    • Balustrades
    • Handrails
  • Will you have to project manage the stairs yourself or can you count on the quoting company for that.

A floating stair is a high quality architectural feature. High quality finishes are a must
Make sure you check on the actual specs for all components.

Check specifically on the engineering and finish of:

  • The steel (if visible). Sandblasting and powder-coating results in a high quality finish on steel. This process removes any small imperfections and gives a smooth, durable finish.
  • The treads. Look for a long-lasting oil or poly product that will bring out the beauty of the timber.
  • Balustrades should be a fully engineered design. Aim for top quality materials and finishes – preferably sourced in NZ.
  • Handrails, whether timber or steel, should match in with the treads or have a high quality steel finish as relevant.

A floating stair is far more than a way to reach the upper storey. It’s an investment, like a quality piece of art.

Choose an experienced company dedicated to providing you with both a beautiful stairway, and a pleasant, seamless experience.

A trustworthy enterprise knows how important communication is and will keep you updated.

So don’t cut corners. Done right, you’ll enjoy that WOW! factor for years to come.

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