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Are open tread staircases safe for CHILDREN.


All staircases have to be safe, especially when you have young children toddling around at home. UK building regulations have a series of requirements that EVERY staircase MUST meet. Therefore, on this basis are open tread staircases suitable in the home for small children? Ultimately, the answer is yes, so long as the staircase installation is designed and built to meet the UK building regulations.


This is why we highly recommend skilled trades people, such as A & T Carpentry, when your are considering such major structural changes to your staircase. 

What makes staircases dangerous for children?

There are three things to consider when installing an open tread staircase; child’s weight, concerns about falling through , and slipping.  You must be mindful of these factors as they are critical for open-riser staircase safety.

The UK building regulations state that no part of a staircase or balustrade can have gaps of more than 100 mm. This is due to what is known as the “babies head rule”.  It tells us that a sphere of 100 mm diameter should not go through any gap for safety reasons. This includes the spacing of the balustrade uprights as well as the gaps between treads.

The building regulations also state that treads must have an overhang of no less than 16 mm making it more difficult for any object to pass through the space.  This is why it is essential that you use a qualified staircase installation specialist, such as A & T Carpentry to build your dream staircase.  This will ensure a safe, secure and aesthetically stunning result.

1.   How much weight can an open staircase withstand?

 It’s perhaps an obvious point to make but you want to make sure that your new staircase installation is going to be able to support the weight of several people for decades to come.  

Regulations state that a stair tread must support a concentrated load of 200 lbs/per square foot with no deflection.  UK staircases are tested beyond this to hold in excess of 1000lbs!

2.   Will my child fall through an open tread staircase?

A traditional staircase has a riser which is the vertical piece that connects two treads (the horizontal pieces that you step on).  Open stairs, with their contemporary minimalist style remove the risers, leaving open gaps.

An open riser must not be able to fit a 100mm sphere. These regulations  were designed with small children in mind and ensures that any child large enough to be climbing steps won’t be able to fall through the open risers.

As already stated, the tread overhang on staircases has to be a minimum of 16 mm. However, A&T Carpentry advises increasing its size slightly when designing an open staircase for your home where there are young children. This requires a slight overlapping between steps for even greater safety.  There is no danger of little ones having a serious accident as a result of slipping on the stairs anymore than a traditional closed tread.

Open Stair tread overhang regulations

3. Will the stairs be slippery?

Their are no regulations or specific requirements for the slipperiness on treads but it is something that should be considered where young children or the infirm are using them.

Make sure that there is a solid, graspable handrail to support you as you go up and down the stairs. Big handrails can be hard to hold onto for small hands and conversely too small a handrail doesn’t give enough contact to grasp firmly.  For most homes, a handrail is more than enough of a helping hand to get up and down a flight of open tread stairs.  You could also consider installing a metal insert into the front of the tread. The metal creates more friction than a natural or polished wood giving a better foothold.   You could put a friction tape on the front of your tread. This will create a high-friction surface but will undoubtedly detract from the natural beauty of the wood.  Grip tapes are common in commercial stair applications but can be used in homes too.

4.   Install a baby gate or pet gate

A locking gate at the top and bottom of the staircase can prevent a baby or pet getting onto the staircase.  A & T Carpentry can install  removable gate as part of the staircase design, incorporating it in such a way that it remains elegant, stylish and in keeping with your home decor that ensures removal without damage when it is no longer needed.

Contemporary glass baby gate


All staircases are potentially dangerous for children.

Moving up or down from one floor to another always poses a risk of falling so always be mindful when children are playing near staircases.  It really doesn’t matter whether the staircase is open tread or a traditional closed tread. The risks of falling are the same.

If you are planning a new staircase installation for your home then be mindful of the building regulation.  Some builders or contractors may think these regulations are a nuisance but they are there to protect you and your family from serious injury.  As long as you new build follows these stipulations, open tread stairs present no more of a risk to children than traditional staircases.

As always, A & T Carpentry will be happy to offer you free friendly advice on the safest solution for your home and family.



A & T Carpentry would love to hear about your project.  Why not tell them about your new staircase installation or renovation plans.  They are always on hand to offer free friendly advice and a competitive quotation.