A look at what is involved in updating a traditional flight to give a more modern look without replacing the flight.

Project Status: Drawings and specification.

the cut string flight.
The original cut string flight.

The remodelled flight with closed string and metal balustrade.ring
Remodelled from cut string to a closed string flight.
In the design stage.

Project overview.

An introduction to the project.

A look at the existing flights before remodelling.

Survey existing.

Survey of existing flights.

Information required for the new setting out.

The tread design.

The stringer design

The balustrade design.

Drawings and specification.

Detailed drawings including stretch out.

Full specification to detail materials, contractors and their responsibilities, schedules etc.

Onsite preparation.

Removing the existing handrail, newels spindles and nosings.

Clad and strengthen the risers.

Making good the flights.

Removing the existing handrail, newels spindles and nosings.

Clad and strengthen the riser to tread joints.

Project overview.

The staircase consists of two different styles of flight.

The ground to first floor flight is a traditional neweled flight with a cut string and 180º return, the landing being at the mezzanine floor level.

The second flight is a new straight flight leading to a loft conversion. this is a closed string flight.

The project is to bring the two flights together in design with a metal balustrade and timber handrail.

This will be done by closing in the cut string on the lower flight, removing the return nosings and creating the closed string to capture the ends of the treads.

The newel posts will be cut down as far as is safe, leaving the structural mortice and tenons in place but allowing for metal stanchions to be used as the newels.

There are a number of factors to be taken into consideration when carrying out a project like this, these will include:

Whether or not to cut the tread nosings off.

Stinger height for the new closed strings.

Stringer thickness for the new closed strings.

Riser covering.

Structural stability of the original flight.

Who does what; many times a number of different contractors are involved in a single project such as this.


The existing flights.

Ground to first floor.

This flight is a traditional neweled flight with cut string treads, risers and return nosings.

The staircase has been modified at some stage with the return nosing having been cut off, along with the tread nosing through to the tread side of the spindle.

This has then been replaced and new spindles fitted, the spindles are a traditional 1 1/2″ – 35mm turned spindle.

The newel stubs are ex 4″ finished size 3 13/16″.

Original tread thickness and projection 1 1/8″ 28mm.


Nosing repairs.
Showing signs of the nosing having been reinstated.

First to second floor.

The first to second floor flight is a new flight and has been built with closed strings.

The flight has been made with traditional style treads and nosings, set onto the first floor landing with a Bullnose tread as the first tread.

1st floor bullnose
Bullnose tread at start of top flight.

Survey existing.

Tape measure and plumb line survey.

The flights are all straight, so these are very easy to get the dimensions in the normal way.

The dimensions required for this project are much the same as for any flight of stairs that are to be clad.

  1. Rise.
  2. Going.
  3. Tread thickness and/or nosing projection.
  4. Nosing to top of stringer for closed strings.
  5. Nosing to bottom of stringer for cut strings.
  6. Horizontal distance between newel posts.
  7. Newel post width.
  8. Newel positions relative to riser positions.
  9. Stringer faces, offset from newel centre lines.
  10. Stringer/landing offsets.
Survey dims required.
Survey dims required

Information required for the new setting out.

Tread design.

The original treads are to have the traditional nosing and scotia removed.

The treads are then to have laminated flooring as per the hallways added as tread covers, these covers will have new nosings fitted to them.

The new nosings are not as big as the original nosings therefore there will be signs of the original nosing visible below the new nosing, there will also be evidence of where the riser joins into the original nosing, this is to be clad by a ply facing for painting.

Treads with covers.
cladding traditional treads.

Stringer design.

The original cut strings are to be closed in to create a closed string staircase, these strings will act as carriages for the metal balustrade that is to be installed.

To facilitate the closing in of the treads to form the closed strings the return nosings and scotia molding also the front of the nosing with its scotia molding will need to be removed.

The newel still sets the spindle positions, therefore the new stringer centre line will remain in the same place and the new stringer will have to be of a suitable width to cover the ends of the treads.

This will bring the landing side stringer face in line with the exiting stringer below.

Closed string over the cut string treads.
Stringer over treads

Balustrade design.

The balustrade is in design and will be updated once concept drawings are ready.

Drawings and specification.



  1. Check underside of staircase, ensure any glue blocks and tread wedges are secured.
  2. To remove existing handrail.
  3. To remove return nosings and scotia.
  4. To remove scotia from front of treads.
  5. To cut off nosing from front of treads.
  6. Cut down newel post to approxiamatly 75mm – 3″ above tread or landing level, confirm mortice and tenon postion before cutting.
  7. Check treads and risers are clear of pins, screws, tacks etc. ensuring surfaces are smooth for application of cladding.

Fit new closed string.

  1. Template tread ends.
  2. Laminate timber or ply to create new closed stringer, allow for correct thickness and to finish at the same height above the treads as the existing closed wall string.
  3. Scribe and fit new closed strings, external face to be flush with tread ends and existing cut string.
  4. fit cover panel to enclose tread ends and lip over existing cut string.
  5. fit stringer capping ready to accept base rail of new balustrade.

Fit new riser and tread covers.

  1. Fit new 6mm – 1/4″ ply faces to existing risers, glue and screw to tie in treads and risers where nosings have been removed.

Preparing treads for cladding.

preparing the treads for cladding by removing the spindles and nosings then adding the new closed string, tread and riser claddings.