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How Many Stairs Are in a Flight? Facts & FAQ

top view of a spiral stairs

Building codes are a mandatory guide when constructing or remodeling a house and will dictate such matters as the number of steps in a flight of stairs.

While the number of stairs in a flight can vary, you will have 12–13 steps, on average.

This doesn’t mean that your flight of stairs cannot have more. Other factors like ceiling height and the type of stairs can influence how many stairs end up on one flight. So, let’s delve into what determines the number of stairs on a flight.

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What Is a Flight of Stairs?

wooden stairs outdoor
Image By: Joshua Olsen, Unsplash

A flight of stairs is the number of steps between the floor and a landing or between landings. It represents the unbroken chain or stair rises between the floor and the last riser in a series. For a series of stairs to make a flight, the steps must be evenly spaced.

The stair rise size and your ceiling height determine the number of stairs in the flight. Since the maximum size of a stair rise according to the International Residential Code is 7.75 inches, then in a house with an 8ft high ceiling, a flight of stairs will have 14 steps. With a height of 10 feet, you will have 17 steps.

The Vertical Rise

The vertical rise of a staircase represents the vertical distance between two levels, either the floor or the landing. According to the 2021 International Residential Code (R311.7.3)¹, the vertical rise shall not exceed 12 feet 7 inches (or 151 inches).

So what does this mean for your flight of stairs?

Since the maximum size of a riser is 7.75 inches, the minimum number of stairs you can have in a flight is about 19 stairs for a vertical rise of 12 feet 7 inches. The maximum you can have for the same is about 37 stairs using the minimum riser height of 4 inches.

Fire Escapes

Fire escapes¹ are an essential safety component for any building. They are built inside or outside a building but are separated from other areas. The maximum number allowed in a flight of a fire escape is 12 steps between floors or landings.

Outdoor metal stairs to the roof of the house. Fire escape access to the tiled roof
Image By: Oxanaso, Shutterstock

Why Are There Limits to How Many Stairs a Flight of Stairs Can Have?

Maybe you are wondering why building codes regulate the number of stairs in flight. Well, safety is the first consideration.

Although staircases provide access to higher levels, they can be tiring to navigate. Having a landing after several stairs provides “rest stops” as you navigate a staircase. Too many stairs, especially when descending, can be disorienting, leading to accidents.

So, should you become disoriented, you can take a rest and resume descending. If it is too late for you and you stumble down the stairs, the landing will break your fall and prevent severe injury.

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Final Thoughts

So, if you have wondered how many stairs make a flight, then the answer is: it depends. It depends on your ceiling’s height. And it depends on the riser height of each step. But, whatever you do, the staircases you build should comply with building codes in your area.

Featured Image Credit: Dan Freeman, Unsplash


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