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Staircase Designs for Modern, Contemporary and Traditional Style Homes

Planning a staircase update? Know your options and learn the lingo before you talk to a contractor or a designer.

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Photo: Lucy Call. From: LMK Interior Design.

Staircase Anatomy 101

Staircases — you probably use them every day, but do you know what all the parts and pieces are called? Find out before you call a pro or tackle a staircase update yourself. Building codes for staircases can vary greatly even in a small geographic area, so your design may be limited by your location. If you plan to DIY your staircase updates, find out the codes before you start. Check with a general contractor or a call a master codes professional in your municipality; they’ll likely send you documentation with all the code specifications.

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Photo: Stephanie Diani

Stringers: The Bare Bones

This very basic staircase illustrates how the stringers are the main framing component of a staircase. A typical staircase will have two to three stringers to hold the treads and risers. They are commonly made out of 2x12 boards and most often are not visible when the staircase is complete unless, of course, it's part of the design. The notches are a standard size so pre-cut stringers are readily available at lumberyards. Big-box hardware stores will carry stringers for outdoor decking.

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Photo: Barley|Pfeiffer Architecture. From: Barley|Pfeiffer Architecture.

I-Beam Stringer

Stringers can be hidden or be a big part of a staircase's design. This set of metal-beam stringers works beautifully with the architecture of this industrial-rustic home. Twin posts protrude up from the stringers to support the hefty wood treads.

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Photo: Getty Images/Gilles Mingasson

A Very Brady Stringer

Here is another example of the staircase stringers being a prominent architectural feature of the home. The redux of this famous TV staircase is supported by two large stringers that match the wood finishes in the surrounding area. The stringers are not notched to hold the treads, instead, the tread supports are secured to the inside of the stringers.

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