In Renovation, Stairs

Stairs Regulations – The Ultimate Guide To Stairs

Every staircase must meet regulations for safety so know your stairs regulations before you begin.

The staircase is one of the fundamental design elements within every multi-storied home. So when faced with the challenge of designing your dream staircase, where do you start?

What Is The National Construction Code? 

Of course, choosing your stair design is dependent on your available space and your budget. However, one of the key elements you need to consider before selecting your staircase design is the regulatory code for your area. The National Construction Code (NCC), formerly known as the Building Code of Australia (BCA) regulates stair construction and design in Australia. It covers areas such as the requirements for balustrades, handrails, anti-slip surfaces, height and depth ratios of stair treads and the necessity of landings. (For further information, see this article about the National Construction Code.)Stairs Regulations

But What About The Stairs I Have Seen in Magazines? 

You may have flipped through a design magazine in the past and lusted over a magnificent floating staircase that did not feature a balustrade. However, it is important to note that often magazines feature photographs that have been taken prior to the building passing inspections by certifiers. In most cases, a balustrade will subsequently be installed before the building is deemed habitable as per the NCC standards.

What Is Covered By The NCC?

There are two regulations covered by the NCC, one for stairs serving habitable rooms (ie. living rooms, kitchens and external stairs) and one for stairs servicing non-habitable rooms (such as attics and storerooms which are not used on a daily basis).

Some of the key code regulations for stairs serving habitable rooms are:

  • Each flight must not have more than 18 or less than 2 risers
  • The height and depth of stair treads must be consistent throughout each flight of stairs
  • If the stair is higher than 10m or three stories, the treads must be solid (ie. not of mesh or perforated metal)
  • If the stair is an open stair, the riser openings must be less than 125mm
  • The gap between balustrade railings, whether vertical or horizontal, must be less than 125mm. - Ultimate Guide to Stairs - Part 2 of 3 Stair Riser and Going Dimensions in mm

Ultimate Guide to Stairs - Balustrade or Other Barrier Construction |


Before you read the code, you will need to be familiar with a few of the terms:

  • “flight” refers to the area of stair that has a continuous slope or series of risers. A flight is limited in length to restrict the distance a person could fall down a set of stairs.
  • “going” refers to the horizontal dimension from the front to the back of a tread (or the width of the stair tread you place your foot on).
  • “riser” refers to the height between consecutive treads
  • “landing” refers to the top or bottom of a flight or the area of flat space between two flights

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Stairs with Drawers & Stairs with Shelves

Stairs with Draws & Stairs with Shelves - The Ultimate Guide To Stairs Design - Stairs Regulations Part 2 of 3 - via Houzz & BuzzFeed

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Showing 7 comments
  • Annie Frances

    I had no idea that there is a national construction code that gives certain regulations for stair construction. It’s cool that there are rules though, so that every staircase is safe and secure. Now I will look at staircases showcased in magazines very differently. Thanks for the info.

  • Braden Bills

    I’ve been trying to figure out what I should do for my home stairs handrails. I didn’t even think about making sure that it’s under regulation! I’ll make sure that the handrails are safe. Thanks for sharing!

  • Charles Probin

    I’m curious to know how (and if) the open staircase with shelves/book case under – as shown in the photograph – is actually legal or compliant as it has no balustrade.

    • Liane Cooper

      The open staircase with shelves/bookcase under legal or not? Charles, it is hard to say if it would be legal from the image from the angle the photo is taken and many times images are taken before balustrades are added. But from a safety point of view, it looks a little concerning to me and I would not feel comfortable with young children and would need to add some sort of balustrade on both sides.

  • Amya Amanda

    Thank you for sharing ultimate guide while choosing the stair balustrade! After reading this article one can get huge knowledge about stairs barrier construction.

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