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Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association History


The Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association, our new name, more accurately reflects who we are.  More than 70% of our members build stairs in highly specialized small to medium size businesses with dedicated professionals who understand and execute safe, beautiful stairway projects across North America. Other members install, distribute and manufacture stair parts, specialty equipment and materials or provide ancillary products and services supporting our niche industry.




The SMA was formed in 1988 as the Stairway Manufacturers’ Association to insure the growth and prosperity of our industry and craft. The issues central to the charter members focused upon defending arbitrary changes in the building codes and providing essential funding for scientific research and testing in stairway safety. SMA research is used to fairly establish empirical changes in stair, handrail, and guard codes, setting an example for valid code reform.


Leading proactive code reform and standard development, the SMA makes stairways safer while preserving the aesthetics of the staircase as an architectural element.  The association has become a responsible member and respected participant in the development process of the International Code Council. In 2002 the SMA was accepted as a member of the American National Standards Institute’s A117 accredited standard committee on Accessibility. In 2009 the SMA funded the first research and testing of handrail shapes as they are used by persons with disabilities on stairs and ramps and presented the pilot study to the Committee.  This study has provided essential insight for the code and standard community.

SMA Visual Interpretations of the Stair Building Codes have been published since 2001 as a tool for building officials, design professionals, contractors, and others in the industry. These graphic interpretations bring clarity to the written code and provide a well accepted, consistent understanding.


Education and Certification: In 2003 the first annual SMA code forum was held inviting code officials, builders, architects, and stairbuilders to discuss regulatory issues and foster a better understanding across the industry. This program has been extended across the nation and now includes accredited code interpretation seminars available for associations of building officials, builders, and design professionals. A new focus on education was established in 2007 that has largely affected the direction of our organization and our members.  In 2008 the SMA began work on a Stairway Safety Program curriculum for use in Elementary Education. In 2009, at the first Fall Education Conference, the first SMA certification program was offered. Certification is raising public awareness of our professional status and encourages the continued growth of skilled, professional stairbuilders and companies in a culture that supports our members and the industry.


Rasing the Bar: Encouraging improvement and innovation, in 2009 the SMA presented the first StairCraft Awards to those companies with projects deemed to be the best of the best as judged by their peers.  The contest in 2017 will be our ninth.


Entering the next decade brought strategic planning and a resolution to change our mission to reflect our emphasis on education and the need to build the resources essential to provide for our members' success and that of our industry.  In 2014 the name of the association was changed to the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association to more clearly reflect our constituency of more than 70% professional Stairbuilding companies from the smallest one-man shops to those among the largest in the industry.


The Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association


saved the stairway aesthetic and the stairbuilder's craft from fateful demise. It has become an organization with a credible voice encouraging consistent interpretation and enforcement of the code. It continues to  proactively contribute and leverage the aggregate expertise of its members and now forges ahead with a renewed commitment to our members’ success, the stair industry and the public we actively serve through education, quality standard development, and certification.
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