The Pros and Cons of Alternating Tread Stairs

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Building standard tread stairs may require a lot of space which some homes and buildings may not afford. Installing a tread staircase can be challenging, but a staircase is an essential structure if you have a multi-floor house. Luckily, there are alternatives to the standard tread staircase design that can be installed in a property.

One of the most common alternatives to the standard staircase design is the alternating tread stairs. This type of tread design has half of each tread removed. The idea is that the unused half of the staircase is removed to save on space and increase step depth. The tread alternates in that one step are wide on the right, and the other is wide on the left.

Alternating staircases need to adhere to the strict building codes to ensure the safety of the users. Most industries may prefer to use prefabricated steel stairs in their builds because they are safe and easy to design to be code compliant. Let’s discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of using alternating tread stairs.

Pros of Alternating Stairs

There are many advantages of alternating tread stairs to homes and buildings. Here are some of them:

1. Increased Safety and Comfort

Alternating tread stairs offer more comfort and safety when moving up or down the house or building. While it serves the same purpose as the traditional staircase, the removed half of every tread provides more usable step depth. As a result, users get more comfort and safety by providing more stability to the foot.

In contrast, the unused space acted in traditional staircases can be an obstacle by reducing the usable step depth. This may result in tripping accidents, which can be significantly reduced with the use of alternating stairs. Building codes also require alternating stairs to have strong rails and the rails enhance the safety of users by offering support.

2. Saves Space

In houses or establishments with limited space, installing a staircase can be challenging, yet you’ll still need to have one. You need a design that can take the least floor space while still serving the intended purpose.

The traditional staircase has an unused half on each step which uses space without adding extra functionality to the stairs. However, an alternating tread staircase can eliminate the unnecessary horizontal run by having only useful halves on the steps. As a result, there will be more floor space for other purposes.

3. They Are Cost-Effective

Alternating staircases are an excellent economical option especially for homeowners and property developers on a budget. This is because the design requires less number and volume of treads compared to the standard stairs, so the design costs less to produce and install.

You can also utilize the saved floor space for another useful purpose. For businesses, this can reduce the cost incurred if you rent some extra spaces for other activities.

4. They Suit Different Styles

Most homeowners put a lot of thought into their interior décor, and that includes their staircase design. Alternating tread staircase can complement any design you may want as it can come in a variety of materials such as wood or steel. Different design features such as painting and staining using different colors may also complement your interior décor.

The cutaway design gives your home a spruced-up look, unlike the traditional design that looks just normal.

5. Option for Different Applications

Alternating tread staircases can be designed to fit virtually any application that requires a staircase. First, the different materials used, such as steel and wood, make the stairs perfect for both industries and homes. Second, the stairs can be combined with flat platforms to move across obstacles or if the applications require taller heights.

Cons of Alternating Tread Stairs

Even with the several advantages that alternating tread stairs offer, there are still some limitations to that design, as discussed below:

1. Restricted Usage

Even with the versatility in industry usage of alternating tread stairs, its usage is somehow restricted. This staircase design can’t be used as the main staircase because it may not be stable enough. There are also building regulations that may restrict the usage of alternating stairs. These restrictions could include the following:

  • The stairs should only lead to one room, such as the attic or basement, because it’s not the main staircase.
  • The stairs must be fitted with a handrail where the drop is more than 60cm to ensure the safety of the users.
  • The alternating stairs should be straight, which may limit homeowners from exploring different staircase designs.

Such strict regulations on alternating stairs could make it difficult for homeowners and developers to use them on different projects other than what the building code allows.

2. Unsafe for Children

Children may not have the ability to alternate their feet properly and maintain stability like adults. Therefore, they’ll mostly use both sides of the steps when moving up and down the stairs. Traditional stairs offer them enough space, while alternating stairs take away the extra space and can lead to accidents.

3. Unusual Design to Adapt

The steps on an alternating design are made to suit only one foot at a time. This can be challenging to master at first, especially if different people are using the stairs. Some people prefer the left leg first, and some prefer the right leg first. The standard staircase design allows people to use the stairs starting with any foot, but the alternating stairs are limited.

However, if it’s designed to suit your individual needs, you may have no problem adapting to the arrangements of the steps.

4. Steeper Than Normal Stairs

The reduced footprint and the removed half on alternating treads make it steeper than standard stairs. It’s a little more difficult to climb the stairs and has a higher chance of miss stepping when descending. To avoid any accidents, you’ll be forced to install strong handrails to guarantee safety to users.


An alternating staircase design is an excellent alternative to other standard staircase designs, especially if you’re saving on space. The advantages such as comfort and the versatility in applications discussed in this article may help you install it. However, before installing one in your home, you should also be aware of the downsides of the design. That way, you’ll make a more informed decision.

About The Author: Justin Jersey is a journalist, stylist and blogger. He is an aesthetician by heart who often writes about Art, Fashion, decorating and DIY ideas. He loves sparking creativity and giving them ideas for their own spaces.  Follow him on Twitter or Pinterest.
Photo by Camila Ferrari on Unsplash

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