A.Bruce Abernathy, a stair builder in Niceville, Fla., responds: First, keep in mind that the stair code doesn’t apply if the attic is used only for storage. There’s nothing in the code about drop-down attic stairs, for example. But you’re wise to cover the bases now, rather than have to rebuild later. (A local builder informed the inspector that the space above a garage he was building would be used for storage. The inspector didn’t buy it: When he saw that the “storage space” had finished oak flooring and crown molding, he red-tagged the stairs.)

In my opinion, straight stairs are the most easily navigated, and the fewer winders the better. But if you don’t have the space, you don’t have the space. Your layout should meet code; I’ve included a page from the Stairway Manufacturers Association’s interpretation of the IRC, which shows a variety of winder configurations, including one...

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