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Stairwell vs. Stairway: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 28, 2023
A "stairwell" is the vertical space in a building enclosing a staircase, while a "stairway" refers to the actual set of steps or stairs allowing ascent and descent.
Stairwell vs. Stairway

Key Differences

A stairwell is a structural part of a building, providing the enclosed space for a stairway. The stairway itself is the functional component, consisting of the steps and railings.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023
Stairwells are designed to accommodate one or more stairways and may include landings and other features for safety. Stairways focus on the design of the steps, including their width, riser height, and tread depth.
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Stairwells often serve as important access points, especially in emergencies, and are built to meet safety regulations. Stairways are essential for connecting different levels of a building, emphasizing usability and accessibility.
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Dec 28, 2023
Stairwells can be a significant architectural feature, affecting the building's interior design. Stairways, while functional, can also be designed with aesthetic appeal in mind.
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The term "stairwell" is commonly used in architectural and building contexts. "Stairway" is more widely used in everyday language, often in a broader range of settings.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Enclosed space for staircase
Set of steps for ascent/descent
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Focus

Structural, enclosing the stairs
Functional, consists of steps and railings
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Purpose

Safety, access, often emergency exits
Connectivity between floors
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Design Elements

Accommodation of stairway, landings
Step design, width, riser height
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Context

Architectural, building-specific
Broader, everyday usage
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Stairwell and Stairway Definitions

Stairwell

Stairwells are designed to enclose and protect staircases.
They installed fire doors in the stairwell.
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Stairway

A stairway is a set of steps leading from one floor to another.
The grand stairway led to the upper levels of the house.
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Stairwell

A stairwell is the vertical space containing a staircase within a building.
The stairwell was well-lit for safety.
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Stairway

Stairways are fundamental for vertical circulation in structures.
The museum’s stairway was wide enough to accommodate large groups of visitors.
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Stairwell

Stairwells are important architectural features in building design.
The architect designed a spacious stairwell for easy evacuation.
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Stairway

Stairways include steps, handrails, and sometimes landings.
The stairway was equipped with sturdy handrails for safety.
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Stairwell

A stairwell can span multiple floors, connecting them via the staircase.
The stairwell in the apartment building goes up to the rooftop.
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Stairway

Stairways can be designed for aesthetic appeal and functionality.
The spiral stairway was a beautiful addition to the lobby.
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Stairwell

Stairwells often serve as emergency exits in buildings.
In case of fire, use the stairwell, not the elevator.
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Dec 28, 2023

Stairway

Stairways provide essential access within multi-story buildings.
The stairway connected the main floor to the basement.
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Stairwell

A vertical shaft around which a staircase has been built.
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Oct 19, 2023

Stairway

See staircase.
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Stairwell

A shaft in a multi-story building enclosing a stairway or staircase.
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Stairway

A set of steps, with or without a case, that allow one to walk up or down.
The phrase "stairway to heaven" has a variety of cultural significances.
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Stairwell

A vertical well around which there is a stairway
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Stairway

A flight of stairs or steps; a staircase.
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Stairway

A way of access consisting of a set of steps
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How is a stairway defined?

A stairway is a set of steps allowing people to go up and down between different levels of a building.
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Can stairwells be used as emergency exits?

Yes, stairwells often serve as emergency exits in buildings.
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What is a stairwell?

A stairwell is the vertical space in a building that encloses a staircase.
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Dec 28, 2023

Do stairways always have handrails?

Most stairways have handrails for safety, but some may not.
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Is ventilation important in a stairwell?

Yes, proper ventilation is important in stairwells, especially for air quality and safety.
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Is a stairwell the same as a staircase?

No, a stairwell is the enclosing space, while a staircase is the actual set of steps.
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Are stairways part of the building's architecture?

Yes, stairways are integral to a building's architecture and design.
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Do stairwells need to meet building codes?

Yes, stairwells must comply with specific building codes and safety regulations.
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How are stairwells ventilated?

Stairwells are ventilated through building ventilation systems or natural ventilation.
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What is the purpose of a stairway landing?

A stairway landing provides a resting place and breaks up long flights of stairs.
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Do stairwells have lighting?

Stairwells typically have lighting for safety and visibility.
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Can stairways be outdoor?

Yes, stairways can be both indoor and outdoor.
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What materials are used for stairways?

Stairways can be made from wood, metal, concrete, or a combination of materials.
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Is fire safety important for stairwells?

Fire safety is crucial for stairwells, especially as emergency routes.
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Can stairways have turns or curves?

Yes, stairways can be straight, have turns, or be spiral.
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Can stairwells be acoustically treated?

Yes, stairwells can have acoustic treatments to reduce noise.
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Can stairways be decorative?

Yes, stairways can be designed with decorative elements.
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How wide should a stairway be?

The width of a stairway depends on the building's design and usage requirements.
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Are all stairways inclined?

Stairways are inclined to connect different levels, but the degree of incline can vary.
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Are stairwells only in tall buildings?

Stairwells are common in multi-story buildings, regardless of height.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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