ADVERTORIAL | STAIRS & BALCONIES
Iain McIlwee, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation, explores the importance of a safe staircase installation.
JUNE 2018 | BUILDING PRODUCTS 15
A STEP IN THE
Stairs are one of the most common areas
for accidents in the UK, with more than
800 recorded deaths attributed to slips,
trips and falls on staircases every year —
that equates to more than two people dying every
day. Shockingly, someone falls on a staircase every
90 seconds and there are an estimated 250,000
stair-related injuries a year that are serious enough
to warrant a trip to A&E.
Lack of lighting and visibility, rogue objects
and distractions are often the reason for a fall but
poorly installed staircases, loose handrails and
steps that vary in height can also cause accidents.
With the skills shortage continuing to blight the
industry, expert fitting support and guidance onsite
is becoming increasingly rare. Manufacturers
are having to take on an advisory role when it
comes to fitting responsibilities, which hasn’t
historically been part of their remit.
Poor installation practices can reduce the
stability of the stairs, potentially leading to
premature failure of components and ultimately
the collapse of the stairs. Some issues can go
unnoticed, such as those concerning the number
of fixings in the wall string needed to secure the
staircase in place. Once installed, these are no
longer visible, so it can be difficult to know if
the right number of screws and fixings have been
used, if not carefully counted out during the
The accuracy of mortise and tenon joints ensure
that handrails, which are crucial for providing
support, are firmly fixed in place to prevent them
from coming loose. Put together correctly, they are
the strongest of woodworking joints but if corners
are cut and the joints are not secure, the quality of
the fitting will be hugely undermined.
Equally as important to ensure safety is depth
and tread consistency. When walking up or down
stairs, we judge the depth and tread of each
step subconsciously during the first one or two.
Consistency is particularly important for public
staircases where most people will be unfamiliar
with any irregularities.
With so many elements to adhere to when
correctly installing timber staircases, a single
mistake or missed fixing could render a stair
unsafe. To help address the issue, the British
Woodworking Federation (BWF) Stair Scheme
has produced an installation guide. Providing
insight from manufacturers that build with the
BWF’s Stair Scheme badge, the guide outlines key
areas for installers to help them meet industry
standards while providing best practice guidance.
Five steps to staircase installation safety:
• Preparation – Early engagement with the
stair manufacturer is vital and will ensure the
correct design and dimensions are provided.
Before beginning, be sure to check all parts and
components are present and in good condition.
• Get it tight – Wall strings should be correctly
secured in place to provide the full strength
of the stair. Loose joints are the main cause
of squeaks, so ensure that any fixings (screws,
bolts etc) are right for the structure being fitted.
• Follow manufacturer guidelines – Follow
the fitting instructions exactly and do not
modify or cut corners, because this will
impact on performance and could void any
guarantee or warranty.
• Don’t use it – A stair is unsafe until it’s fully
installed. During installation, a temporary
guarding system should be used until the final
guarding is fixed in place.
• Build with the badge - The BWF Stair Scheme
offers accreditation and certification for stair
manufacturers. They carry a badge with a
unique serial number for complete traceability
By collaborating with manufacturers and
using expert best practice guidance, the supply
chain can provide quality installations, reduce
site callbacks and help combat the industrywide
For more information or to download a copy
of the BWF Stair Scheme Installation Guide visit: