Dutch Stairs? Do not despair! | How to Deal with Dutch Stairs

Renovation Series
How to Deal with Dutch Stairs

Houses in the Netherlands and especially in Amsterdam, are built in a “tall and narrow” structure and because of this, Dutch stairs are famous for being narrow, steep and tight, an outright adventure for non-Dutch people, not used to them.

In fact, in some cases, these staircases can even be dangerous. Think of the occasional morning rush, kids or older people. Based on the many renovations we did for our clients over the years, we have collected our best tips and advice on how to deal with the special case of “Dutch Stairs”.

A Small History Lesson

Around the 17th century, the housing taxes were based on width, so in order to avoid high taxation, people used to build narrow tall houses. In addition, urban capacity was limited and at the same time a typical Amsterdam building used to host the average low class worker’s household. That is why in the suburban areas and the countryside, you may find bigger houses with more wide “lazy” stairs – which where a status sign for the elite. 

Transformation Solutions

Expanding the Stair Space

The obvious solution to Dutch stairs is to demolish the whole staircase and rebuild it from scratch, taking more space to create a less steep staircase. This is a renovation process that can be substantial yet, it safe-proofs the entire house.

If you’re wondering why a simple staircase replacement will need to to be a substantial renovation, you’re not the only one! What is good to remember is that, the staircase occupies a specific area of the house, a kind of well if you will, where the ‘hole’ in the floor is. This means that changing that hole requires demolition and reconstruction. And no touching the hole does not give you the freedom and space to change the slope of the staircase and make it longer. So if you want to reduce the slope of the staircase to make it comfortable, you also need enough extra space in plan around the new staircase. And it’s rare to have empty space lying around, in most modern houses.

In the event that you are not able to make more space and expand the staircase, the best alternative would be treating the steps themselves.

Let’s discuss 2 possible solutions.

1. Tilt the steps at a certain angle, so the angle between the step and the riser is not 90 degrees but a bit less. That way your feet will have more space to step on without changing the angle of and the entire staircase and without needing more space. A little side bonus is that your stair will have an unconventional modern shape.

2. Replace the entire staircase, within the same footprint, or well. Re-build a staircase with open steps. If you remove the riser from the steps, your feet are allowed to stick out a bit from the step itself, which will make the experience a bit more comfortable. This can also be cheaper and quite an elegant design.


Alternative considerations.

If you wish to avoid an entire construction process you can choose the path of maintenance and improvement.

1. For a wooden staircase: Αnti-slippery wood varnish

This special material is resistant to abrasion and particularly non-slip. Many of them also have preservatives that protect or even cure wooden surfaces from rot, from the growth of septic fungi, mold, wood-eating insects, etc. At the same time, the natural beauty, warmth and robustness of the wood is maintained.

2. Carpet / Runner

A carpet across the entire width or only in the center of the staircase, apart from being a non-slip solution, is also a cozy and warm interior design choice. In addition, this method significantly reduces the annoying noise of footsteps and provides warmth and insulation during winter days.

3. Robust handrails – even from both sides if possible

A practical solution that does not involve any treatment of the staircase itself is the installation of robust handrails. For kids and older people, consider even having the handrails on both sides of the staircase if possible. This way, everyday life is made easier and safer. The material of the handrails aids does not have to be the same as the material of the stairs. In fact, you can even make a design feature out of it!

Remember, safe staircases prevent unwanted accidents, ensure safety for residents and make the house suitable for children, elderly people and anyone with mobility difficulties.

So, do Dutch Stairs seem like trouble to you? Do not despair! There are always smart ways to replace, transform or even improve them, within every budget and timeline, depending on your needs and style.   

If you are considering improving or rebuilding your staircase and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.


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“We would like to express our gratitude for the time you invested in helping us get to a clear picture.  Anna and I really appreciated the call we had with you, your responsiveness, and the great empathy that you exhibited throughout – we certainly felt very “well taken care of” when engaging with you.  On the practical side, we especially appreciated that there was the option to obtain robust bottom-up cost estimates for the construction itself (not every design architect offers this).”

-Private Client of AKKA



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