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How To Winder Stairs

how to winder stairs

This is what the current building code mandates for winder stairs. Look below for the explanation of the measurements. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

How To Winder Stairs - They Save Space

"Winder stairs were very common in houses built in the early 1900s. It's a shame they're not used in more homes today."

Tim Carter - Founder www.AsktheBuilder.com

Winder stairs allow you to turn a corner and change the direction of a staircase.

The most common turn is 90 degrees. Circular stairs are a continuous flight of winder stairs as the treads create a corkscrew sometimes turning a full 360 degrees or more.

Do Winder Stairs Comply with the Building Code?

Winder stairs are permitted in the building code as of 2019. The code says the minimum tread width on the inside radius needs to be 6 inches. It also says that the tread depth at walk line of the stairs measured 12 inches in from the inside tread edge must be no less than 10 inches.

The Winders in the Video Do NOT Meet the Above Code Requirement - Why?

I'm not the builder of the house and steps you see in the above video. The builder and his carpenters built the steps. Local building inspectors have the right to wave code requirements. They can also make parts of the code more stringent.

At the time this video was recorded, the builder had not yet met with the local inspector. If he's required to rebuild the stairs, you'll see new photographs and a new video.

how to winder stairs

This is what the current building code mandates for winder stairs. Look below for the explanation of the measurements. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

Related Links

How to Build Simple Stairs

Building Stairs eBook

What's the Best Winder Stairs Size?

Building codes mandate stairs should be at least 36 inches wide. This width is great for three winders to make a turn of 90 degrees.

This means each winder stair creates a 30-degree angle. The center of the winder tread is always going to be greater than 10 inches if the stairs are 36 inches wide. This is plenty safe.

Is it Hard to Make Winder Stairs?

It's easy to make winder stairs. The simplest way to do it is to make two or three platforms.

Note the drawings of mine below. Read the captions for a full understanding of how to build the winder stairs.

The bottom platform is a square usually 36 inches. The second platform might be an odd polygon and the third winder would be a simple triangle. It's best to just make a full-size template using cardboard if you're not a seasoned carpenter.

how to winder stairs

This is what the current building code - 2019 - mandates for winder stairs. Look below for the explanation of the measurements. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter



how to winder stairs

This is step one of the winder stairs built the way before the RECENT CODE REQUIREMENTS. You build a platform that the other two winders will sit upon. The tread above the winders on one of the flights of steps in the illustration would be 22.5 inches HIGHER than the platform level. I always try to build steps with a 7.5-inch riser and a 10-inch tread. This combination of tread depth to riser height creates ideal, comfortable, and safe steps. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

how to winder stairs

This is the second step. The second platform is an odd shape and the angle of the orange line is 30 degrees from the black platform line beneath it. If you recreate the dashed walk line on this set of steps at 12 inches from the inside of the 90-degree angle, you'll discover the tread depth at the walk line is just over 7 inches. While this is not to code, it's not exceedingly dangerous. If it were, you would have seen this exact design outlawed decades ago. This platform would be 7.5 inches higher than the one square one beneath it if I was building it. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

how to winder stairs

The third and last winder is the triangle platform that is marked #3. Its riser is also at a 30-degree angle to the stair riser to the RIGHT of the #3. If you need help with winder stairs I can CALL YOU ON THE PHONE. Click here to set up the phone call. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

How To Winder Stairs - They Save Space
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How To Winder Stairs - They Save Space
How to Winder Stairs | Winder stairs are a great way to save space and change direction. They're safe if you use no more than three to make a 90-degree turn.
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11 Responses to How To Winder Stairs

  1. Dear Tim:
    Your "winder stairs" brought back a pleasant memory... I purchased an older home in Oregon which had these type stairs. The house had been seized for drug sales. Under the stairs and turn was a storage closet.... I was inside, painting the closet when I noticed a board with a "catch".... I opened the secrete hidden door and found over $20,000 in gold and diamonds! Sure brought the cost of the house down!

  2. Tim - Your winder stairs don't even come close to meeting the International Building Code. The Code requires a stair tread to be no less than 4" deep at the narrowest point. And there is also a minimum tread depth of 9" required at the "walk line" 12" out from the inner edge of the stairs. I suspect your triple tread suggestion won't meet that requirement. You might want to make that correction.

    Old houses had winders like you are showing. But they proved to be very unsafe. That's why the current Code says what it does. Looks like you'll need to do some reworking of your daughter's staircase.

    • William,

      As I said in today's newsletter, I'm NOT the builder of the house. This problem is his. He owns it. The local inspector in the town may permit these stairs.

      I know what the current code requires. Thanks for your observation.

      The problem with the building code is the authors don't always get it right. There are several things I can point out in the code that are what I call 'worst practices'.

      As for the old winders, I had some just like you see above in one of my homes and they were never an issue. If you stayed in the center of the stairs, you had plenty of tread.

      • Tim - You might want to correct your drawings. And just because an inspector does not catch a violation of the Code, it is still a violation. And it is still a safety hazard.

        Lots of things used to be allowed but now are not. For example, chimney flues did not have to be lined and could be "shared" by two fireplaces. That caused fires. Now it is against the Code. Stair winders in a "means of egress" staircase are dangerous if they don't meet the Code. People will use these stairs to escape a fire. They need room to place their feet and exit safely.

        I agree that there are silly requirements in the Code. But emergency exit pathways (means of egress) are not one of them.

        Keep up the good work with the other valuable information you have on your site.

  3. How are you going to handle the 6" tread depth minimum on the complete stairway? Ours is only 4" in NC, but I believe it's 6" most places.

  4. Tim, I need to build 1 winder step. I already built the 36” x 38” platform that goes under it. Do I cut the inside stringer at an angle, and add length to the wall stringer? Wouldn’t that be stronger than a 2nd odd platform that the top 9 steps need to sit upon?
    Building it this week here in Meredith NH.

  5. Sounds easy enough, except there’s 9 steps above it that need to rest on something solid. If I extend the triangle back 10” over my platform into thin air to meet the stringer, won’t that triangle step be teeter-tottering from weight of 9 steps above? Suppose I could slide my 38” platform under it more. Double the rise, with no tread behind the triangle? Hard to visualize since I don’t see one picture online of how triangle steps attach from behind, nor how steps from above sit on the triangle. Anything you can draw? Pictures?

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