Clear Staircases — They're a Real Glass Act

All-glass stairs, made popular by architect Peter Brohlin’s for the iconic Fifth Avenue Apple Store in New York, have started to show up in many a home. These stairways are luxury products, often running north of $100,000. However, for those who want a fresh, contemporary interior with the most recent materials, assemblies and technology, a glass stair can’t be beat.

Made of sheets of glass with an inner layer for durability and safety, not unlike car windshields, these translucent beauties can be almost all glass (treads, risers, stringers and railing) or may consist of contrasting materials — say, classic wood treads with a glass stringer and service. Along with the glass used, while largely clear and textured for the measures, can come in a variety of shades and patterns.

Elite Metalcraft Co. Ltd

An all-glass stair has treads (measures), a stringer (diagonal support) plus a railing of glass. Although this stair is actually cantilevered from a service (likely a part of steel) concealed in the walls, the stair is essentially all glass.

Because of its transparency, the stairs seems to float, blocking neither light nor see. And in many ways it becomes, with its lightness and transparency, an ethereal, modern sculpture.

Elite Metalcraft Co. Ltd

As seen from above, the stair’s transparency allows all of the design and architecture come through. Obviously, just as the stair’s transparency shows everything from above, it will, of course, show everything from under.

Note that glass treads require a surface treatment to make friction and prevent slipping. These remedies feature a kind of wearing surface that can enhance the overall look, like the 3 lines close to the nosing of each tread in this picture.

Luis Trevino Architects

With natural light available from just 2 sides, glass stairs are an ideal means to light up the interiors of older row houses in historic neighborhoods. These stairs are perfect since they will allow the most amount of natural light filter deep into the interior from a rooftop skylight.

Thomas Roszak Architecture, LLC

If space allows, a glass stair can become a stunning room-size light fixture. The stair won’t block the light from above and out, with glass walls surrounding it, transforms what might be a dark and gloomy interior.

WA Design Architects

Obviously, these stairs are also perfect when there’s an adjacent view and source of natural light. Even if the stair isn’t all glass, light streams deep into the interior. Even a steel stringer, whether bent to form a ziggurat shape similar to this one, or as a more traditional diagonal, allows for transparency and that sculptural quality these stairs are famous for.

Tate Studio Architects

The glass doesn’t need to be apparent. In fact, the treads will be treated to offer a nonslip walking surface. By manipulating the color or routine treatment, the stairs can be quite lively and fun.

AR Design Studio Ltd

Even if you’d like clear glass for your stair, then know that clear glass usually has a green shade — the result of the iron oxide from the glass. We don’t normally see this green shade, as typical sheets of glass (say( for windows) are thin. It’s just when the glass sheets get thicker, as for a stair tread, that the tint becomes obvious.

Sometimes this is desirable, like if the tint gives a cool color to a room, or …

Chris Snook

… as it complements other colours of the room.

To avoid the tint, define a low-iron glass. With reduced iron from the production process, the glass may be whiter and clearer. Just like all things atypical, low-iron glass costs more.

Faour Glass Technologies

Because of our ability to bend and form glass, the material is excellent for a spiral stair. Every element, from tread to stringer to railing, can be shaped in just the ideal form and held together with stainless steel connectors.

Faour Glass Technologies

And since glass is a remarkably strong material, it can be produced to a structural pole. Cylindrical shapes with a tight radii are shaped offsite, and the glass pole is then assembled onsite to create an elegant bit of structure.

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