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Can a Balcony Have Stairs?

Dating back to the ancient Greeks, balconies have been a prevalent architectural element in many parts of the world, but they weren’t originally designed to be accessible by steps.

However, in many modern homes the need to have balcony access has caused it to be outfitted with stairs.

Can a balcony have stairs? YES, absolutely!

While balconies are traditionally accessed from the inside of the building, some homeowners today have chosen to modify their second story balconies with a set of stairs for access from the outside of the property.

This article will discuss whether or not stairs can be used on a balcony and address the types of stairs that may be used as well as some potential safety issues.

Stairways are usually built into a building’s floor plan

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Building codes require balconies to be built at least two stories above ground level.

This means that most balconies are not accessible via stairs.

However, there are exceptions.

For example, some apartment buildings may have a small staircase leading to the balcony.

In this case, the building code allows for a balcony to be accessed via stairs.

When designing a home, architects usually include stairways in the building plans. Stairs are a great way to get from one level to another, but they’re not necessary.

In fact, some people prefer to live in buildings where there are no stairs at all to avoid security risks and other problems such as falls.

In general, staircases should be avoided if they take up space and add weight and cost to the balcony.

However, if you must build second story stairs, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the stairs are built into the floor plan. This means that the stairs must be included in the architectural drawings. Architects typically don’t add stairs after the project is completed.
  • Don’t forget to measure the number of stair treads. Too many steps can cause problems when walking down them.
  • Consider adding handrails to prevent falls.
  • Avoid long flights of stairs. Instead, use ramps and elevators where possible.
  • Keep the staircase short and simple. Long, winding staircases are not only expensive, but they’re also harder to maintain.
  • Designate a specific area for each level of the house. This makes it easier to clean and maintain the entire house.
  • Place bedrooms on upper levels to provide privacy.
  • Include a bathroom at every level to reduce the number of trips required by visitors.

A balcony can take many forms

From an open-air platform to a covered deck, balconies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

The type of balcony depends on several factors including the size of the balcony, how much space is available, what the climate is like, and whether or not the balcony will be used primarily for entertaining guests or simply relaxing.

DIY Blanket Ladder, No Nails
DIY Blanket Ladder, No Nails

Not every second story balcony needs stairs.

Sometimes, a balcony is just a flat surface with no steps. And sometimes, a balcony is too small to accommodate stairs.

So, if you’re wondering which balcony designs are known to have stairs in their architectural forms, here are a few examples:

Related: 8 Design Ideas For Balcony Roof Overhang

  • Stacked balcony
  • Mezzanine balcony
  • Loggia balcony

For more information, this article on floating balconies discusses each of these types of balcony in detail.

Is a second story balcony too small for stairs?

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There are several things to keep in mind when deciding whether to install stairs.

First, make sure your balcony has enough room for both the stairs and the railing. If the balcony is too narrow, then the railing won’t fit.

Related: Perfect Balcony Railing Materials: 13 Things to Consider

If you live in an apartment building, you may need to consider whether a balcony is large enough for stairs. In most cases, balconies should be at least 36 inches wide to allow for safe access to the stairs.

Also, remember that stairs are heavy and bulky. A poorly designed staircase could put stress on the balcony’s supports.

A spiral stair instead of straight stairs or a ladder might be better suited for smaller balconies to avoid overloading or overpowering the support structure with concrete weight.

Finally, consider the height of the balcony.

A balcony that is very high off the ground will make it difficult to install stairs.

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Image credit: Getty Images

How do I know whether my balcony needs stairs?

Climbing up and down the stairs is not only tiring, but it can also be dangerous if you fall or slip on the steps.

If your balcony has no railing at all, then it would be best to install one. This will prevent anyone from falling off of your balcony.

You should also consider installing a handrail for safety reasons.

To determine whether or not your balcony needs stairs, recall instances where you needed to directly get down to the ground level without going through another room.

Your balcony does need stairs if there is no other way to get downstairs.

A number of reasons exist why a balcony would benefit from stairs.

  • To provide access to the second story or ground level
  • In case of an emergency, you’ll want to be able to quickly escape from your home
  • Create privacy between living spaces
  • Allow for ease in getting furniture and other items upstairs
  • Provide additional storage space 

Balcony designs that include second story stairs

Lofts, terraces, patios, and decks are just some examples of how homeowners design their homes to maximize living space.

Balconies are often overlooked because they’re considered an extra expense. But with good planning, a balcony can be a real asset to your home.

Here are some ideas about how to make the best use of your second story balcony with staircases:

1. Create storage space

Storage space is important for keeping items organized and tidy.

You can create storage space by adding shelves, cabinets, trellis or other types of storage units.

2. Design a safety barrier

Safety barriers are necessary to prevent people from falling off balconies.

This can be done by installing railings, balustrades, plexiglass, safety nets or other types of safety devices.

3. Add lighting

Lighting helps keep your balcony safe at night.

You can add lights to illuminate pathways and stair treads leading to the balcony.

4. Consider accessibility

Accessibility is very important for making your balcony usable.

You can make your balcony accessible by adding ramps, handrails, or other types of features.

5. Make the most out of your space

If you want to maximize your balcony’s potential, consider these suggestions:

  • Furniture adds value to your property and provides additional seating areas.
  • Maximize views by using glass panels instead of opaque walls.
  • Add plants and flowers to increase the beauty of your balcony.

6. Install a barbecue grill

A barbecue grill will allow you to cook outside while enjoying the fresh air.

7. Keep your balcony well maintained

It’s easy to overlook maintenance issues, but if you neglect your balcony, it will quickly become unusable.

Maintain your balcony regularly to ensure its safety and usability.

You can do this by planning ahead and scheduling regular inspections and repairs.

Related: How Long Do Balcony Repairs Take? (+Hiring Contractor Tips)

Stairs may cause back pain if they are too steep

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Bending over to climb up and down stairs can put stress on your back.

When designing a home, consider the slope of the stairs.

Staircases should be at least 30 degrees, and ideally 45 degrees.

This angle allows people to walk comfortably and safely.

Stairs that are steeper than this may cause back problems.

Some studies show that even walking up a 15 degree slope while carrying a load can cause back pain.

If you have back pain, you may be tempted to avoid climbing stairs altogether. However, there are ways to make the stairs less painful.

Here are some tips to help you get through those stairs without hurting yourself:

  • Make sure the stairs are wide enough so you can walk comfortably.
  • Choose a staircase with a gradual slope that allows you to move more easily.
  • Use a handrail when possible. A handrail reduces the amount of pressure on your knees.
  • Walk slowly when going up and down stairs. Don’t rush; take your time.
  • Don’t carry heavy loads.
  • Avoid carrying children or pets.

Related: Can Cats Get Fleas From a Balcony? How to Keep Them Away

In summary

Yes, a balcony can have stairs.

And if you’re thinking about building a new home, you should definitely consider adding a balcony.

Not only will it add value to your property, but it also makes your home feel bigger and more luxurious.

Plus, balconies give you a view of the outdoors—which means you’ll never miss another sunset again!

By following the guidelines in this article, you can enjoy your balcony to the fullest.