Building, Design, Loft Conversion
comments 48

Banisters, balustrades and building regs

Open plan landing and staircase

So where were we?

That’s right, we were here. Awaiting new carpets, a banister and handrail.

White landing staircase Negative Space

I did not want a banister or a handrail. But the building inspector does. And I guess it’s not that realistic to keep it like this forever. Even though is looks so purty.

After mulling over several ideas (metal, glass, A.N. Other, you can check out all of my ideas here on Pinterest) we stuck with what we knew and also what we liked best.

Birch Plywood Spindles


Not just any old timber though. Two 24mm sheets of birch ply laminated to form a 48mm depth board and then ripped into cross sections. These lengths
would become our “spindles”.

Baton fixed to ceiling

We fixed a timber baton to the ceiling to make sure the top of the spindle, once screwed in, aligned itself vertically so the bottom of the spindle attached perfectly to the side of the staircase stringer.

The baton was filled and sanded back several times, then caulked and painted over in emulsion to make it appear part of the plastered ceiling. In fact you can’t really see it in the next photo, but that’s what Chris my lovely joiner is screwing the top of the spindles into.

Banister being fitted

Fixing the spindles to the stringer

All of the fixings were countersunk so we can fill, sand and paint the facings of the spindles white in due course.

Fixing the spindles to the stringer

So from this view, you won’t see any screw holes. It will all appear white.

Birch ply spindles

But from this view, you will get to see all the beautiful lamination in the ply. Just like you can in the stair treads.

Open Riser Staircase

Full height ply spindles

The spindles were fixed 95mm apart in order to comply with building regs. Apparently if you can get a 100mm sphere through a gap, it’s considered dangerous. You might fall through or your child might get their head stuck or something. Which is ridiculous, as Charlie has a massive head, just like his dad.

Design detail

Loft extension staircase

Open plan landing and staircase

We’ve still got a few bits to sort and a handrail to fit, but we’re getting there. If anyone would like to read more about the stairs by the way, click over here.

More pics…

Full height ply banister

Minimal Staircase and Banister

Minimal Staircase and Banister

Here’s how the spindles look at the top fixed onto the baton.

Full height spindles and picture ledge

They’ve been fixed so they sit slightly higher than the baton as I want to use this as a picture ledge for artwork, post cards and the like. Should be a pretty cool feature as you come up the stairs.

Loft staircase

Unfinished ply spindles

And a couple of pics from the stairs below.

Birch ply treads with open risers

Looks pretty cool doesn’t it?

Birch ply treads with open risers

So what do you think peeps? Do you like? We’re really happy with it, will be even more so when we’ve painted two faces white.

Open Riser Staircase

Wish us luck in finally getting our build signed off peeps. I’d better get practising my best smile for the building inspector hadn’t I.



  1. Gina Anderson says

    I actually love how it looks now! Love the way the light makes a pattern on the ceiling too <3

    Great design – well done.

      • Cherie Winchester says

        Hi, we’re having to do this for building regs and I’m going to copy what you’ve done. Do you have any pics of the finished project? I’d love to see how you attached the hand rail. We have to put the hand rail on the same side as the guard rail, wondering if you had to do the same and if so how did you do it. Thank you for sharing this. If you could show me the railing pics that would be so helpful.

        • What about the 100mm gap between the stairs or am I missing something you normally need a downstand has the DS not asked for this??

  2. Gilly says

    That looks totally fab Karen, the spindles are very sculptural, but minimal. Really lovely. I think you should smile at your building inspector just like that! He’ ll pass the work straight away…..or he’ll run a mile! X

  3. I love those spindles and I love how the light comes through them and the shadows it creates. looks great!

    • Karen Knox says

      Haha. I’m sure i’m not, but i’ll take it, thanks Sandeep!

  4. Mel says

    It looks amazing, well done! I was wondering if it was a total fluke that your ceiling lined up perfectly with the stairs so it’s good to know the timber baton trick!

    • Karen Knox says

      Ha. I’m not that good. It’s virtually impossible to plan it all down to the mm.
      Glad you like it Mel, thanks!

  5. Deirdre O'Brien says

    Love it. But I think I’d just fill the screw holes and leave as is….looks amazing!

    • Karen Knox says

      We did think about that, and if our landing was bigger, we probably would have done. We’re pretty certain about painting the fronts and backs white as it will blend in more with the wall, which is what we wanted really. Glad you like it though, thank you.

  6. Trish Mahon says

    Cleaned lined and light, it’s stunning. Worth doing it your own way!

  7. Now, that is rather special, isn’t it!
    I’m going to send a link to some peeps I know who’ve just laid a ply floor. It may be just the thing – although I know they hanker after something wonderful in blackened steel (with a chimney breast to match). Fancy, eh!

    • Karen Knox says

      Fancy indeed!!
      Glad you like it Linda, cheers for sharing too ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. The way the light shines through the spindles is another interior feature in itself; very clever! Despite wanting to keep many spaces open plan and light, I always feel that a banister makes a staircase look complete and, as well as adding safety, makes it truly accessible and family friendly, which I think is the sign of a well-thought out house. I for one would be slightly terrified of walking up a staircase with no handrail, even though I know I’m completely capable of it!

    • Karen Knox says

      Other people have said the same. But this is up to a guest bedroom and second bathroom so isn’t a space we use all the time. I maybe go up there twice a week…? A handrail is on now, but I don’t like it at all.

  9. Oh I love it – it really makes the whole stairs into such a beautiful feature and I love the interplay of light and shadows it creates! Really clever and gorgeous design Mrs!! xxx

  10. I was just going ‘nooooooooo’ to the idea of a banister, then scrolled down to see what you did and wow, it looks wonderful! Great work Karen, such a beautiful feature x

  11. Looks fantastic. Love the pale colour of the wood with the whites and the way the light filters into the space. It’s so nice. Bet you can’t wait for carpets so that it is all done ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I think it looks incredible. I know you didn’t really want to have anything at all, but I love the lines. And having a little shelf is a great idea. That will be a nice touch as you walk up the stairs.

  13. I’m back to see how this project is going. What a fabulous choice, Karen. The banister, with the light wood looks amazing. I love the ply and the layers of wood look so effective. The light, the airiness…Just gorgeous.

  14. Beverley says

    Hi Karen loving this project we are in the early stages of a similar project with the loft. We also have a box room like yours & are thinking of going open plan like yours. Re the stairs how did you get on with building regs? Did you need to put bars across the risers to comply with building regs? Do you have any photos to show how you got around the 100mm min gap on the risers. We would love to do something fancy with our stairs like you have done. But we we worried about complying with all the regs. Thanks for the blog it’s been a great help. Your lofts looks amazing!

    • Karen Knox says

      Hi there, glad it’s helping with your planning! We’ve been signed off now (thank god). We fixed a handrail and stuck boards to the back of the risers for the building inspector’s visit. Then the house was ours again. I do have photos but can’t post them here in this reply bit i’m afraid. Good luck with your project!!

  15. Beverley says

    Thanks, it’s great to hear you’ve been signed off Karen. Your idea of using birch plywood has also caught my attention it’s looks fab. Having a look around the internet its seems it’s not commonly used on stairs. How thick are your treads? Also any tips on finding a supplier to make the staircase should we decide to follow you with birch plywood? I’m slightly concerned about future wear on the treads from regular use.

    • Karen Knox says

      The treads and stringers are 45mm thick. We used a local company that specialised in staircases, our building company put us in touch. For us, it’s not a high traffic area as our upstairs is a guest space. But then we kind of like the look of worn/aged wood. It’s been dinked and marked a few times already, but it’s a staircase. All part of family life at home.

  16. Beverley says

    Hi Karen I would really appreciate your help. As I note you don’t have your stairs enclosed. I wondered how they signed your loft off? We also want an open plan staircase.

    We have had some companies look at our house in order to make up our loft stairs. When we enquiried with building regs what was needed they stated…

    “The stair enclosure needs to be 30 minute fire resisting from top to bottom. Partitions faced with 12.5mm plasterboard on each face would achieve this. Doors in the partitions should be FD20 minimum (fitted with intumescent strips and 3 hinges”

    Thanks for any advice.


    • Karen Knox says

      Hi Bev, with regards to fire regs, we didn’t need to update all of our doors to fire doors or have any problems with knocking out the box room wall as we had smoke alarms wired into each room and floor of the whole house. We have a fire door for the actual loft bedroom that met those requirements, but it wasn’t necessary elsewhere due to the wired in smoke alarm system.

  17. Beverley says

    We also having smoke detectors wired into each floor. What I’m trying to explain they want us to have is explained here on this website it’s called a fire corridor

    This would mean walls enclosing the stairs on either side as can be seen on the website above. All these regs can really ruin the look of our homes.

    Your home layout looks almost identical to ours apart from we don’t have a window on the stairs like you do.

    Thanks Bev

    • Karen Knox says

      Nope, none of that applied to us. And I have a lot of other neighbours that have had the same conversions done, some with the box room wall rebuilt and others with the wall taken down like we did. Not sure if that’s only for terrace properties, but it doesn’t seem right to me. Have you checked the Planning Portal and Approved Documents? They are the only documents you need to worry about. Good luck!

  18. Helen Curley says

    You may have just solved my massive issue with my stupidly low banisters which I have actual nightmares about (clumsy 4 year old and carrying newborn down the stairs) ๐Ÿ˜ญ I wake in puddles of sweat most nights!
    Absolutely beautiful design, makes me feel very peaceful

    Well done, thank you and much love

    • Karen Knox says

      Oh well that’s good to know. Good luck sorting your banisters out Helen!!x

  19. Joe says

    Hey there, really appreciate the process images you posted of this project. We’re thinking of doing something similar so this post is quite helpful.

    Did you ever end up painting the faces white? If so, I’d love to see the finished product!

  20. Jenny says

    Hey! About the wood – โ€œTwo 24mm sheets of birch ply laminated to form a 48mm depth board and then ripped into cross sections.โ€ – Did you prepare the wood itself, I mean buy two sheets, glue them & then cut them? Or were the sheets already prepped when you purchased them? Thanks!

    • Karen Knox says

      The plywood was just bought as 1220 x 2440mm sheets. Then my joiners had to glue the sheets together first and then rip the spindles to size.

  21. Hello, there. Great project!
    Sorry if this question had already been covered but I was wondering what product (and name of brand) you used to coat the steps. It looks to have a satin sheen and nice.

    • Karen Knox says

      Sorry i’m not sure, Ray. The staircase arrived from the joiners already finished before it was fitted. I just asked for as matte a finish as they could do…

  22. Tim says

    That looks amazing.
    I have a question. you stated how the spindles were created.
    “Not just any old timber though. Two 24mm sheets of birch ply laminated to form a 48mm depth board and then ripped into cross sections. These lengths
    would become our โ€œspindlesโ€. ”
    What was the specific measurement of the ripped cross sections or what is the width of spindles? I am trying to recreate the same look for my project. Thank you in advance.

    • Karen Knox says

      Hi Tim, The spindles were cut square, they’re actually 45x45mm exactly. Good luck!!

  23. Anonymous says

    Thank you for sharing this! We used this to do our own spindles & looks fab & loads cheaper than anything else we looked into ๐Ÿ˜

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