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The Truth About Spiral Stairs in NZ

A staircase not only connects one story to another, but it can also be a feature that dictates the design of a space. As trends move towards space-saving homes, industrial looks and bespoke design, spiral stairs have recently made their way as a must-have feature in the home design industry. However, this has also brought forward questions such as: Are spiral stairs legal in New Zealand? Can I have a spiral staircase in my home? Is it compliant to build external spiral stairs outside the home?

The answer to all those questions is yes! There is a misconception here in New Zealand that spiral stars are non-compliant but, luckily for you, that is not the case! So let’s explore the truth behind spiral stairs.

Can you put a spiral staircase anywhere?

In a residential build, as long as the location has adequate space, a spiral staircase can work!

In a commercial build, the main instance in which a spiral staircase is non-compliant with New Zealand’s Building Code is if it is an accessible stairway. An accessible stairway is the main entrance for people to access a space, which could be frequented by people with disabilities. What this means is that if you want a spiral staircase in a commercial build, you will have to provide another option to be used by those who are less physically able.


What are some things you have to consider aesthetically for a spiral staircase?

The ribbon on the outside of the stair is called the stringer. It’s not always structurally

required but it expresses and enhances the visuals and helical nature inherent in a spiral staircase.

Round handrails are the most user friendly but people quite like the square or flat look because they have a more contemporary aesthetic.

Open risers allow the passage of light as they have horizontal gaps between the treads. So if the stairs have to be installed in front of a source of light, open risers are always a good idea (bear in mind the gap between the risers can be a maximum of 100mm).

We can install L-shaped treads that have a downstand on the leading edge to reduce the size of the gaps (such as our Upland Road project) which reduce the open riser gaps to make sure they comply with building code, or you can use a riser bar (such as our Dally Terrace project). On the other hand, closed risers (such as our Langs project) can look better from underneath because it gives you a more solid, continuous look.

When it comes to balustrades there are various options available. Curved glass is a more luxury option while the vertical metal balusters are more of an industrial style. Perforated metal or steel mesh can add some privacy to the spiral stairs, whilst laser cut and shaped spindles can often give an art deco look, while a solid steel balustrade can create an artistic helical ribbon effect.

How can you as a homeowner make decisions?

We have an in-house designer and a catalog of previous project images that can help with your design decisions.

What other factors affect the stair design and aesthetics?

If the entrance to the building isn’t big enough to get the staircase through in one piece, if access is an issue, or if access is restricted to the location of the stairs (oftentimes found in renovations rather than new builds), we may have to assemble the staircase on site. This can lead to the fixings being visible. So you may want to consider either incorporating those visible fixings into your design or using materials to hide it. Timber treads are ideal because we can recess the bolts into the timber.


What kind of budget do you have to have in order to have a spiral staircase?

Material selection and aesthetic will be built around your budget and we can offer options around price brackets. Our customers are often surprised because none of the work is subcontracted so it’s a lot easier to work around a budget when we’re in control of the costs.

Instead of having a bespoke custom made wood tread, we can have a steel tray and your building contractor will infill with the timber flooring you selected. Another example is if the spiral stairs are a lean-on and an independent structure that attaches to the mezzanine, that's an easier install and can help lower the budget. If you need to close risers, using a riser bar rather than filling the space fully can cut costs. Site painting instead of powder coating also decreases cost, and in terms of balustrades: curved glass will be the top end of the budget, while a steel balustrade will be less.

Is there a big difference in the cost of spiral stairs versus other styles?

Not really, because every project is bespoke, you can’t just pick a price out of a catalog. A conversation with our team and a look at the project and materials is how we can produce an indicative cost.


Orientation of the staircase is an important factor we always consider. It’s important to get the entrance and exit of the stairs to follow the flow of the room. This is especially important if you have a spiral that leads to a closed off second story or is placed in the corner of the room versus an open plan spiral that leads to a loft. Placement is important in terms of the rotation but it doesn’t necessarily affect the price of the stairs.


When considering a space, you have to consider the space of the room to know how tightly wound the spiral staircase needs to be, as well as the vertical space so you don’t risk hitting your head when going up them. This must also take into consideration the New Zealand building standards such a:

  • Maximum riser for residential is 190mm

  • Minimum tread depth along the pitchline is 280mm

    • Pitchline is measured 300mm from inside of handrail

  • Maximum pitch is 37 degrees

Another thing to consider is if this is not the only way to access the next floor, or if the floor is not in common use, then the spiral staircase can be built smaller.

All these considerations can be answered by our staircase designers and team with a site visit in order to guide you to the right size and design for the space you have.


Are spiral stairs less safe?

We have gotten this question many times over the years due to misconceptions about spiral stairs, and the simple answer is no, spiral stairs are not less safe. New Zealand has strict building regulations and codes that ensure the safety of any style staircase built, spiral stairs included. There will be benefits and disadvantages to any style or design, but luckily safety is not compromised.

There are many elements you can add to make your staircase feel more safe. The style of handrail, textured or non-slip treads, lighting, closed risers or adding a bar are just some examples of safety features Stairworks can incorporate into your staircase design.


Our design package includes engineering for counsel consent and a full drawing package. We use visual drawings to give you a complete idea of the end product as the end user responsibility for the full package is us. The design includes a PS1 for counsel consent/engineering sign off, meaning they are satisfied that the staircase is fit for purpose.


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