Helical and Spiral Staircases – What’s the Difference?

At FLYGHT, we’ve been in the staircase design game for a long time – since 1972, to be exact. That means we’ve been asked everything there is to ask when it comes to stairs. But one of the things we’re asked the most is the difference between a helical and a spiral staircase.


We often find there’s a misunderstanding of what makes helical staircases (click the link to view our helical stair projects) and what makes a spiral. Given the vast majority of staircases are generally straight, many people refer to any set of stairs with a curve or winding steps as simply spiral. But while helical and spiral staircases are similar, there are some key differences to look out for when identifying which is which.

Spiral v Helical Stairs Difference

The difference between helical and spiral staircases is actually fundamental and pretty easy to spot when you know what you’re looking for. At its most basic, a spiral staircase has a centre column supporting the treads. Helical staircases, meanwhile (or curved as they are also known), are much more varied in shape and have no central column. In essence, if it has a void in the middle of the staircase, it’s helical (curved).


Why Choose a Spiral Staircase?

Though by no means exclusively, spiral stairs tend to be used when space is at premium. Thanks to their centre column, spiral staircases can be fitted into tight spaces. And while this does mean they can sometimes be very steep to climb, they’re also incredibly efficient. But while they are used for space saving, spiral stairs needn’t be just that. A well designed spiral can be striking in both classic and modern settings and add a new dimension to a variety of spaces and properties.

They are often used in commercial staircases, but through the years we’ve found with the right design they can work just as beautifully in the home, especially in an open plan environment or barn conversion. Spiral staircases also make for excellent external access, utilising outside space that may not be used as often as internally.


Some examples of FLYGHT spiral staircases;

Nando’s Harrogate
Morton House
Honda Showroom

Why Choose a Helical/Curved Staircase?

Sometimes referred to as ‘curved’, unlike spirals, helical staircases tend to need a larger floor spaces to be implemented effectively. Though this may sound like a big disadvantage, helical stairs are far easier to ascend and are usually designed to be the focal point in a room. Although helical staircases are perhaps used more for traditional designs in wood or marble, really the helical is a blank canvas and can be designed however you see fit.

Ideal for like likes of reception rooms or any space with curved character walls, one-off curved staircases can be quite spectacular when designed correctly. They’re always going to work well in traditional settings, but curved stairs can also be used to showcase some of the most wonderful one-off pieces and are often favoured for grand public areas and gallerias. We even recently designed and installed one in a castle.


Some examples of FLYGHT helical/curved staircases;

Halcyon Art Gallery

We should say at FLYGHT we’re a little more relaxed about things. If it’s the right staircase for you, we don’t mind what you call it! We often class a helical as a spiral staircase with a looser weave and with more open angles anyway. Take a look at the full range of FLYGHT staircases here.