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Unless access is only required for maintenance purposes, the owner will need something more than a just portable ladder for safety and convenience purposes. Permanent stairs are generally a must when an access skylight will be used regularly — either for daily enjoyment or routine maintenance.But what kind of stairs do you choose? Here are some things to consider:

Stair construction

In most cases, stairs should have consistent rise and goings. Risers are also recommended, although open risers are often preferable in access skylight constructions, since they can increase the amount of natural light available. Open risers may be permitted in dwellings, but they will need to meet certain requirements to ensure safety.

For locations where space is limited, alternative staircase designs may be required, such as tapered or alternating treads, although the latter should only be considered as a ‘last resort’ and would not normally be accepted by Building Control as a suitable means of access for roof terraces.

Head heights

This is a key issue when it comes to moving between levels of a building. Building Code varies from state to state, but generally there should be a minimum headroom of 6ft (measured from the pitch line of the stairs).

One of the benefits to using one of our box skylights is that it can help you achieve the required headroom. When specifying a skylight, be sure to consider the actual thickness of the roof, as this measurement can often be thicker than expected. The frame profile of the skylight should also be accounted for.

Box skylights tend to have sliding sections of glass instead of hinged openings. These are normally controlled at a distance — via wall-mounted control unit or remote — to ensure that the skylight will be open and providing the open headspace above, by the time a user ascends to a level where the extra clearance is required.


The final step of any staircase should be considered a landing, and these will have minimum requirements depending on the situation. In dwellings, landings should have a minimum tread width of 15 inches.

Doors swinging towards a staircase should be avoided next to a landing. In dwellings, doors are permitted at the bottom of a set of stairs, but the 15 inches should be in addition to any space required for the door.

More information

To ensure your plans are appropriate, it’s recommended that you consult your local Building Control Officer for advice before commencing any work.

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