Stair options for a very small house

December 7, 2018
last modified: December 7, 2018

Hi Team,

We have had an insurance disaster (see our other post) and so now are trying to get back on track by considering a tiny house built on foundations on our block.

We are trying very hard to do this properly and are looking to create a 9m by 3.8m gable roof, two storey house with two 2.5m loft areas at each end and double height space in the middle.

The struggle we are encountering at the moment is how to create stairs to get to the loft areas.

The advice is to call the spaces "storage areas" and then put a loft ladder, but we are very keen to have this house recognised as being 3 bedroom and the lofts being officially habital spaces.

So I will attach the bottom storey floor layout and a simple sketch of the shape of the house (we are thinking of putting it on a slab not piers as pictured)

- do you guys have any ideas for how to get up to the second floor that is Australian Building Code compliant?

We are almost thinking that this idea is sunk as we cant seem to work out how to do the stairs.

p.s. Apparently all the funky stair options you see in tiny houses are not BCA compliant as they are designed as caravans and do not have to meet code.

Thanks everyone we really appreciate any advice

Have a great day

Aaron and Nancy

Comments (26)

  • oklouise

    for a tiny house having a two story void while wanting to keep habitable rooms upstairs seems a waste of space that could be better used and i don't understand how you plan to have two separate lofts with a void in the middle and only one set of would you access the other bedroom?...please explain the background to your wish for a gable roof, what is the maximum, floor area upstairs and down you're aiming for, what is the width and length of the block, where is the street frontage and direction of north and where is the other post about the fire??

  • aaron_and_nancy

    Hey oklouise

    Here is the post about our insurance (no fire)

    We were planning to try to have two library ladders (one for each loft) - but that only works for actual tiny houses on wheels because they are caravans.

    The idea was to try and build a tiny space but have the high ceiling - I know that it could be seen as a "waste of space" but my research says that if you want to live in a really tiny space the way to make it comfortable is to have volume (I know this project is bigger than ours but you get the idea)

    Our block is 810 meters sq and we are thinking of placing this house as close to the front as possible and having bifold doors on the opposite side from the kitchen, street frontage is 20 m and is facing basically West.

    We would also angle the house so that the bifold doors side is facing as close as possible to North.

    As I said in my post, all seemed like it might work but now having to provide two staircases has made it Derp.

    Our plan was to make a small house but try and have a beautiful, open and large volume space that is nice to be in.

    Thanks and have a great day

  • aaron_and_nancy

    North is up on this photo. The frontage is 20m and the length is 40m. The pink is 6m from the road where you cant build, the green is proposed new tiny house and yellow would be a later double carport- you can see where the existing house that needs to be demolished is standing. The sun beats in from the road frontage every afternoon and the current house casts a nice shadow to sit in every afternoon so we thought that siting our house at the front of the block would provide a nice area to sit in at the "back" of the house and make the most of our garden.

    Sorry if its totally dumb, did seem like an ok idea at the time

  • siriuskey

    Hi There, Could you run an open staircase on the left starting next to the storage and up above the kitchen where you could have an open gallery running between both loft rooms.

    aaron_and_nancy thanked siriuskey
  • aaron_and_nancy

    Yeh I think this is a good idea but unless I have made a mistake I think that you need 3.75 m long staircase to get 2.8 m high and also I do not think there will be the required head height on the edge of the gable - so we might need to redesign to make that work

    Thanks and have a great day

  • siriuskey

    You would need to do a dog leg staircase so that the open gallery is still above the kitchen but stepped back into the room. The storage space could be kept where it is or swapped with bedroom, either way accessing the storage from within the bedroom. I would also make access into the bathroom opposite the laundry and not via the kitchen that also gives you more wall space within the kitchen

    You could also drop the height of the stairs and gallery so that you have a step up at each end into the loft bedrooms

  • oklouise

    not totally dumb but to have legal headroom upstairs in such a narrow building would mean the top of the roof would need to be about 8 m high and despite the void the whole house would be about 80sq m of expensive custom build two storey with lots of space unusable due to the sloping roof and staircase eg a simple 3 bedroom house can have the spacious high ceilings by using raked ceiling inside without building a taller building..... with such a big block it would be more cost effective to use a house plan with standard sizes and off the shelf products and if you check out au you will discover lots of ideas for using solar passive design for a comfortable home to suit your climate and available space and check out local project home builders to get some quotes for a small house that can be sited to allow for future garages and outdoor living areas...

  • siriuskey

    I would definately reduce the 2.8 to 2.4 for the loft to start, any beds would need to have the bed head under the lower part of the ceiling, a skylight above the bed would make it feel more spacious and allow for any star gazing

  • dreamer
    In your original post you said your budget for new build was $150-200K. If this is still the same budget, I would look into small project homes, single level with 2700 high ceiling throughout. Or a skillion roof line. With orientation towards north and large windows and doors flowing to outside. With the measurements and issues you have explained, you will be spending the same amount on a very tall, officially one bedroom home. Have you considered a granny flat build, which is a small home with a different name.
  • oklouise

    excellent suggestion from dreamer and there's a good range of project home builders available in your area including knock down rebuild suggestion would be a simple single level house with raked ceilings and solar passive orientation sited to allow space for future double garage with drive through backyard access and generous alfresco ....we've found the easiest way to achieve an economical alfresco for a project in north Queensland is a gable roofed double steel carport with lattice screening over packed crushed granite ground cover and we've also had great success in NSW owner building a small house using a custom designed A1 rated steel shed with fabulous raked ceilings for less than $150,000 but make sure you include cyclone reinforcing and deep eaves and check your local Council regulation to clarify local variations

  • PRO
    Paul Di Stefano Design

    A simpler option would be two single level simple pavilions, say connected by a deck inbetween that you could potentially stage the construction. Say build one main one with a separate bedroom, possibly do the lofts and use as temporary bedroom space with ladder access (accepted they won't be technically recognised as habitable areas)...then down the track add on/expand the bedroom wing on ground level following re-value...

    Don't underestimate the challenge with stairs. They should NEVER be an afterthought and as soon as you're dealing with two levels the stairs need to be sorted FIRST and work everything else back knowing how much space you'll need for them and their position/configuration......biggest DIY design rookie errors I've seen on this forum involve stairs and dealing with them too far down the line......

    As a rule of thumb, you only go up if there is a good reason to do it, either that you don't have the space or there is a view that warrants it. Going up will always cost you more if you want to do it compliantly.

    Best of luck

    Cheers PD

  • siriuskey

    Great idea for two Pavilions Paul, not unlike the second photo I posted which suggests that, Keep it simple and affordable

  • spmm
    Have you looked at buying and moving a house to your site? There seem to be several firms that do that in QLD. —-

    — Random choice from DuckDuckGo search. - you would have to do your due diligence of course but some of these look great. — Also kit homes are another more affordable option. —
    All the best, knocking down the old one seems eminently sensible.
  • aaron_and_nancy

    Hey guys thanks for all of your great advice.

    We are still in the planning stage so havent make any firm choices yet but we are leaning toward some (probably not overly savvy) decisions.

    We ...

    - do not want to live in a cheap kit home or liveable shed - we are seeking to create something that is really nice and that we will be happy with long term.

    - have decided that we would like to change our lifestyle and move to a tiny house type living.

    - think that Bundaberg has some of the best weather in the world so we are hoping to capitalise on our garden and our block.

    - really want to try to create some space that has double height to increase the volume and make our small space nice to live in long term.

    - have had a lot of experience of renovating and dealing with older buildings including our current lemon (lead paint, rotten timber, cracking cement, asbestos, not built to current code) so are looking forward to a modern, safe and sustainable building.

    Our payout from the insurance is $90 000 but we have to put 30G into our house loan to get permission to demolish and then it is a further 34G for the demolition- so we wont have a lot of money.

    The good news is we both have good full time jobs and are making good incomes- so we can wait and save or borrow with personal loans (the bank will not lend for demolish and rebuild because of our equity issues due to our house being written off.)

    Currently our house is not insured and has had a temporary storm repair done so maybe we will be forced to camp out here for another year or two and save our money?

    Still interested in all of the ideas and design options everyone is floating so thanks for taking the time.

    Have a great day all!

  • JE C
    Hi, I remember there was a Houzz article a while back that featured a very small multilevel home in Japan that had some smart solutions, maybe worth searching it up to read.
  • oklouise

    have to say that there's nothing nice about having to squeeze around the small rroms and there could be much better ways to use the space... adding some furniture shows the limited space available and the bathroom shouldn't open directly into the kitchen but there's no reason why you couldn't have extra high ceilings but there's not enough width for useable upstairs bedrooms or a proper staircase...

    the suggestions about liveable sheds is to offer ideas about economical buildings..the niceness is added with good design and finishes including generous outdoor living areas to suit your climate.... our A1 class steel building has all the features of a traditional home that can be erected by an owner builder and then have internal and external wall cladding added to suit...a building cannot be approved as a dwelling unless it meets all the criteria for any other house the only difference is the choice to reduce labour costs and speed of erection to lock up stage and internal fitout can be added as funds allow (although there's usually a deadline to complete construction within about two years of Council approval of your DA)

  • siriuskey

    Livable sheds don't have to be and aren't boring it's what you do with it. the following is a link to a QLD company. I believe that the only load bearing walls are exterior so changing spaces is easy, This is a very affordable way to get a lovely home., and single level homes suit all ages.

  • aaron_and_nancy thanked siriuskey
  • aaron_and_nancy

    Yes we really like this last photo posted, but when looking for a liveable shed that is going to be like this it seems like it is still going to be mad expensive! We will keep thinking about it


  • oklouise

    having already successfully used steel shed structures several times you may be interested in our latest project, based on a custom designed steel shed but built to residential home standards meeting all BCA, Basix and local council requirements with proper kitchen, bathroom and laundry...this shed is 10.5m x 7m with a steep asymmetrical roof and inside raked ceilings rising to over 3m ... the internal walls are not load bearing so size of rooms can be adjusted to suit but the building has been designed for three bedrooms (although we plan to use the space of two bedroomsas an alfresco area with opening walls) and bath, laundry living and kitchen ..our building is intended as a holiday house in an isolated area and costs include expenses that aren't needed in the suburbs and you should be able to build a similar sized structure as an owner builder for much less than we're spending because there's no power, water or sewerage on our steep site in a bushfire zone so the quote in my last post could be reduced to much less than $100,000 as i realised that you won't have our extra expenses... final costs would depend on your choice of finishes and how much of the work you can do yourself but price for our steel frame was only $17,000 plus $5000 labour to erect... we've chosen steel cladding for the outside because we prefer the look but there's no reason why you couldn't have something else and this photo shows progress to date pending internal walls and plasterboard lining etc

  • siriuskey

    That's looking good Oklouise and will look amazing when completed, such a great way to build without costing and arm and a leg. love it.

  • siriuskey

    Finally I have searched everywhere to find this story again, it is a beautiful example of what a SHED can become

  • JE C
    Hello, there is a current article on real at the moment that is relevant to your dilemma about a tiny house with an upper level.
  • ddarroch
    If you do go the two storey tiny house route I'd recommend looking into dormer windows for the lofts. This will give them a lot more space, & more comfortable ceiling heights. The gable roof would not have to be quite so steep. You could keep this gable above the high ceiling living areas.