If you have a room above the main living space of your tiny home, such as a sleeping loft or storage area, how do you get there? For those owners of tiny homes who are young and able-bodied, the simplest solution, and biggest space-saver is to use a ladder of some type (see Figures 1 and 4). However, for people who are physically impaired in one way or another by leg injuries or age, this is a poor solution. Like all stairways, vertical steps would be a serious danger for young children. The oldest among us would not be able to use them.
In general, the steps/stairways illustrated in the next four figures would be difficult or impossible to navigate for many people. This is because the steps are either too far apart vertically, the climb angle is too steep, or handholds are either absent or difficult to grab.
The use of an alternating step system, as shown in Figures 1 and 2, does not come naturally, but it certainly is attractive. However, it may not be a good idea if you climb or descend the stairs while you are sleepy. It might also be difficult to use if you cannot see the steps, such as when carrying a young child or a bulky load of clean bedding.
Now we come to a few good designs that are truly functional as stairs to a loft, and they make good use of the space taken by the stairway.
In summary, the steps in the stairways to the lofts of tiny houses should meet standard building codes if they are to be comfortable, safe, and practical to use. The space around them can be used in clever ways to hold and store belongings, and their design can enhance the general appearance of the tiny home.
Kendall W. Corbin, Ph.D.
October 8, 2017