A focus on Timber Staircase Regulations and Standards

In this sectionStairs we look at various technical aspects relating to stairs that architects, specifiers, other parties and indeed manufacturers should be aware of.  In 2004 the British Standards Institution (BSI) declared the standard ‘BS 585 Wood Stairs’ Obsolescent, and since this point there has been increased pressure on the staircase market related to a mismatch between UK and EU standards, regulations and codes that have arisen to deal with specific domestic situations.  From this environment the BWF Stair Scheme emerged with a focus on effective design and manufacturing principles to support the sector in defining effective design amidst the mêlée of oftentimes conflicting standards and the proliferation of Building Regulations across the UK.

Download a FREE copy of The BWF Stair Scheme Design Guide here


For the detailed guidance regarding the Building Regulations which are applicable to stairs please refer to the relevant regional link.

Fire Safety

Stairs will provide a means of escape in the event of a fire and will need to be sized to accommodate the number of people who are required to make use of them.

There will be conditions under which stairs will need to be protected from the effects of fire so that they remain useable after has burned out or been put out.

In some buildings the fire services will make use of stairs to gain access to parts of the building in order to fight a fire.

Through the BWF Stair Scheme, a certification scheme for Fire Safe Stairs has been developed, more details available here:


Acoustic Performance – Sound Attenuation

Where a stair provides separation between different compartments in a building it may be required to provide a specified level of sound attenuation.

In parts of the building where reverberation of sound can be a problem such as in common stair enclosures consideration may need to be given to the application of sound deadening and sound absorbing materials.

Protection from Falling

To reduce the likelihood of users falling when using the stairs consideration will need to be given to the layout of the stair, to limitations of rise and going and to the provision of suitable safety barriers and handrails.

Provisions to enable use by all people

To allow people with varying ability to use stairs in most situations consideration will need to be given to visual and tactile markers to highlight the approach to stairs and to make edges and nosings easier to see. A reduced pitch, wider treads and the provision of handrails which are easy to grip may be required to make the stair easier to use.

Safety of glazing

There are particular requirements imposed on glass which is required to act as a safety barrier at a change of level. For example if glass is used as an infill for guarding to a stair or landing.


I wish to replace a stair as part of a refurbishment of an existing dwelling. Does the new stair need to comply with building regulations?

In England and Wales, regulation 3 of the building regulations 2000 states that an alteration to a building is considered to be building work for which the building regulations apply if the alteration affects the structure of the building (Part A), the fire protection measures and means of escape (Part B) and the access and use of a building by people with disabilities (Part M). If the original stair complied with these elements of the building regulations then the new stair should also comply.  If the original stair did not comply with these elements then the new stair should not be more unsatisfactory.  As the building regulations primarily consider aspects of health and safety for people using a building it would be good practice to apply the recommendations of the approved documents where possible.

Is CE marking required for stairs?

It is not a requirement to CE mark stairs and it is unlikely that this will become mandatory for at least five years. The standard EN 15644, which is not a harmonised standard for which CE marking can be applied, has recently been confirmed for a further five years. Stairs can, however, be CE marked if assessed under ETAG 008.

Will I need to have my stairs tested?

The performance of a stair can be determined by various means and stairs are not always required to be tested. Primarily the methods described in the Approved Document to Regulation 7, the regulation which controls materials and workmanship can be applied and these include compliance with standards,  CE marking and previous experience. The performance of stairs can also be determined by structural calculations and by following the guidance given in the BWF publication, “the next step in technical guidance for timber stairs (2006)”.

BS 585 parts 1 and 2 are described as obsolescent, what does this mean?

When a standard is described as obsolescent it is still current but will not be updated. It is likely that the standard has been superseded by a new standard but is still referenced by another document which is yet to be updated. In the case of the stair standards BS 585 parts 1 and 2 these have been superseded by BS EN 15644 but are still referred to in Approved Document K.

Why is accreditation and certification important?

Third party accreditation certification verifies a products design, performance, manufacturing process and quality assurance from manufacture. The BWF Stair Scheme is the only accreditation and certification scheme of its kind in the UK. It demonstrates that every scheme member’s stair design and manufacturing has been independently verified as complying with the relevant Building Regulations and product standards, whether by testing or through proof of experience of manufacture.

All accredited manufacturers are audited biennially via the BWF and if they are certificated manufacturers of fire protected stairs, by the Scheme’s certification partner.

The audit confirms that the company complies with the BWF Code of Conduct (covering a rigorous set of standards of workmanship, company stewardship and environmental disciplines), and that stairs continue to be manufactured according to the appropriate standards and that and appropriate factory production control system is in place.

Independent third party certification via BRE’s Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), which tests and verifies design, performance, manufacturing process and quality assurance throughout manufacture, should be the minimum requirement for every passive fire protection product.

Click on the link for further information on the BWF Stair Scheme