This section is from the book "A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction Vol3: Stair Building, Ornamental Ironwork, Roofing, Sheet-Metal Work, Electric-Light Wiring And Bellwork", by The Colliery Engineer Co.. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction.
1. Stair building grew out of the necessity of securing an easy and safe passage from one level, or floor, to another. Such a passage might therefore be regarded in its inception as an inclined plane which connects two horizontal planes and provided with a series of equal risers, or steps, formed for the purpose of giving a sufficient footing to facilitate travel.
The construction of wooden stairways is considered the highest branch of joinery; more care and knowledge are required in their planning, more ingenuity in setting them out, and more skilful workmanship in their execution, than in any other work about a building.
The architect, in studying the plan and treatment of a stairway, should consider its adaptability for the building in which it is to be placed, its proposed situation, the weight likely to come upon it, the width to accommodate probable travel, and, especially, the ease of travel. It is not enough, as is sometimes done, to roughly calculate the treads and risers and sketch on the winders, leaving the stair builder to make the best he can of the conditions.
The first and most important consideration in designing stairways is their disposition for obtaining the utmost facility of access to the various stories to which they communicate. Care should be taken to secure proper headroom while ascending and descending, and the treads and risers should be arranged so as to secure easy travel. The proper width of the stairway has also much to do with its appearance; in a private house, it should never be less than 2 feet 8 inches wide, and in public buildings never less than 4 feet 6 inches. The staircase wherein the stairway is enclosed should be given special attention, and the correct length and width should be carefully considered. It is not conducive to sound construction to be obliged to cut out trimmer beams; neither is it good practice to have to piece out a few inches when the staircase has been framed too large.
The importance of proper arrangement of stairways is evident, when it is considered that they are seen by every one, their convenience and beauty being readily appreciated, and their faults and defects instantly detected.