The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) recently launched a new UK Stair Installation Guide against a background of skills shortages driving the need for further guidance from manufacturers.

The BWF Stair Scheme’s new and improved Staircase Installation Guide is designed to help fill the skills gap and focus on safe, quality installations for both domestic and general access staircases.

The federation said getting stairs right first time and avoiding costly squeaks and running the gauntlet of non-compliance was a major drain on productivity in construction markets.

Poorly fitted stairs also present safety risks – more than 800 recorded deaths are attributed to slips, trips and falls on staircases every year in the UK.

Some of the many recorded accidents will be the result of not managing risks during construction works, when a part-finished or unguarded staircase is often used for access.

“A shortage in skills on site is now a real problem in the industry,” said Kevin Underwood, BWF technical director.

“Manufacturers are no longer able to assume that the necessary fitting skills and knowledge will be available at the point of installation and so are having to take more of a role in guiding the fitting process, which is where the BWF Stair Scheme Installation Guide comes in.”

The BWF said while members of the BWF Stair Scheme produce stairs that will support the necessary loads in both the flights and the balustrades, poor installation practices can cause the stability of the stair to be reduced, potentially leading to failure of components and ultimately the collapse of the stair.

The guide is designed to bridge the gap between manufacturers and installers to ensure that industry standards are met and best practice is followed to safely install timber staircases.

“There are many elements that need to be adhered to when it comes to correctly installing timber staircases and a single mistake or missed fixing could render a stair unsafe,” added Mr Underwood.

“We continue to get reports from our members of problems within the staircase market that undermine them as suppliers.”

“By providing guidance on the intricacies of stair installation we hope to help improve the skills and knowledge of all those working within the sector and ensuring that the highest standards are met for the stair market in the UK.”

The Home Builders Federation and NHBC are both supporting the guide.

“Working more effectively with the supply chain is critical to improving productivity and quality in the home building sector and this kind of collaboration between manufacturers and our members is a great example of how this can be done effectively,” said the HBF’s John Slaughter.

“This type of targeted, practical guidance is great, not just to those already working on site, but also to keep knowledge alive and teach the next generation,” added Paul Cribbens of NHBC.

“The BWF Stair Scheme focuses on quality in manufacture and design, but they are also recognising here that installation is critical to trouble free stairs.”

Willmott Dixon said installation issues undermine quality product.

“One example is staircases; if you don’t get it right, it is not uncommon to be called back to address issues such as insecure strings, problems with winders, missing blocks, issues with balustrading, or squeaks of unknown origin,” said Jo Weston, Willmott Dixon business support director.

“This results in costly correction, wasted time and unhappy customers. In construction, we have to work these mistakes out of the process, to learn and improve.”

To download a copy of the BWF Stair Scheme Installation Guide visit