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Off-Form Concrete Stairs: A Practical Guide to Design and Construction

Off-form concrete stairs are becoming an increasingly popular choice in modern architecture for their clean, industrial, aesthetic and long-term durability. These are manufactured by pouring concrete into a prefabricated structure called formwork. That structure is then taken off the hardened concrete, leaving the stairs in the shape intended.

Off-form concrete stairs

Design Considerations

When designing off-form concrete stairs, several factors need to be taken into account:

  • Aesthetics - This is showtime; these stairs are designed to be visible so this plays a major role.  

  • Function - The stairs had to be functional, fit the space, and allow safe and comfortable access.

  • Compliance - Adherence to local, state or nationwide building codes and regulations is essential for safety and legality.

Let's delve into the details of aesthetics, functionality, and compliance for off-form concrete stairs:

Concrete steps


The beauty of off-form concrete stairs is one of the main benefits.

  • Surface Texture and Colour - The inherently rough shell of concrete may be transformed with polished, textured or coloured treatments to complement the building’s design.

  • Form and Shape - As a malleable material, concrete lends itself to a variety of shapes, from straight runs to spiral staircases. The form should complement the style of the building's architecture.

  • Lighting - Subtle and selective lighting can draw out the textures and the form of the stairs and add to the ambience of the space.


Functionality is crucial in ensuring that the stairs serve their purpose effectively:

  • Ergonomics - Each tread should span from the middle of one riser to the middle of the next one (so it’s not too short and not too long); the typical dimensions are seven inches for the rise and 11 for the run.

  • Safety - Ensuring the flooring is non-slip, rails are well located, and there are sufficient visual contrasts at the edge of each step supports user safety. 

  • Durability - Concrete stairs are very durable; however, their strength and durability depend on the engineering design for the anticipated use and the environmental conditions.

Concrete staircase


Compliance with building codes and standards is mandatory - An overall view:

  • Code - This is dependent on location, but likely to enforce minimum permissible width on each tread, maximum permissible rise and run, and potentially some form of stair-rail.

  • Accessibility Standards - Legislation and similar regulations elsewhere stipulate guidelines for facilitating access to stairs for people who have disabilities. Another sign that stairs will never completely disappear is that they continually evolve and become more innovative.

  • Guidelines for Fire and Safety Regulations - In the event of a fire, stairs should facilitate a safe and timely emergency evacuation. 

If all these three elements are considered, off-form concrete stairs perform a triple role as they become an essential part of a building, responding not only to safety and technical requirements but also to the architectural qualities of the space.

Australian Legislation

Companies in Australia that are building off-form concrete stairs are obliged to comply with the National Construction Code (NCC). The NCC contains the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and a plethora of legislative documents, which all work in conjunction to provide the necessary requirements for building and construction. Here are the main legislative areas: 

  • Stairway Construction - The NCC sets out the requirements for design and construction of stairways, including dimensions for risers and goings, load-bearing capacities, and materials.

  • Safety Standards - The most basic requirements to prevent flooring hazards are described, such as a non-slip surface must be provided, handrail and balustrade must be provided to resist falling, and Keep clear to avoid falling clothes.

  • Accessibility - They would be in compliance with statutory standards for accessibility and usability by people with disabilities, such as the dimensions of a staircase (e.g., the tread and riser depths), type of handrails, spacing and shape of each stair, minimum width, gripping surface, illumination, and tactile indicators at the base or edges of landings.

  • Australian Standards - The standards include details on the quality of the materials used, how they’re made, and the safety features entailed.

  • Work Health and Safety (WHS) - Company/contractors should have proper work Health and Safety regulations to follow to make sure there are no accidents at the construction site while workers are on site.

For instance, if you are planning to construct off-form concrete stairs, the professionals refer to the current revision of the NCC as well as any applicable Australian standards and specific local state or territory legislation to ensure compliance.

Construction Process

The construction of off-form concrete stairs involves several critical steps:

  1. Planning and Design - This is the stage that involves deciding how big the stairs are going to be, what style and what position. It is important to work out the rise and run of each step, the width of the staircase and how the staircase will fit into the building.

  1. Fashioning the Formwork - Formwork is the temporary casing that confines the poured concrete. Typically, this is made from timber or steel and needs to be designed to take the pressure off the concrete and not warp it.

  1. Reinforcement - Before pouring the concrete into this formwork of the stairs, steel reinforcement bars are placed into it. This increased tensile and flexural strength of concrete makes it more durable. 

  1. Striking Off - The concrete mix gets poured into the formwork, then levelled and trowelled to bring the surface even and smooth.

  1. Curing - You’ll need to allow the concrete to harden and reach some strength, which is called curing and will take a few days to happen, depending on the climate and mix of concrete.

  1. Release from Formwork - These off-form concrete stairs were created after the formwork had been released from the concrete.

  1. Final Touches - Any final touches administered, whether in terms of sandblasting or sealing, in order to otherwise beautify and/or strengthen the treads.


Precast off-form concrete stairs are a low-maintenance feature that should be cleaned periodically without anyone standing on the steps. They should also be visually checked for cracking and damaged treads to ensure long-term durability and safety.



Elegance combined with massive weight makes off-form concrete stairs really attractive for contemporary buildings. Proper geometry of forms and a combination of concrete and colours allow design construction to flourish under the best manufacturers. LF Construction Services have installed the formwork for countless off-form concrete stair projects so if you want experienced professionals, you won’t be disappointed in our team!


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