Stairways - led by experts


Richard Kowalski – Technical Manager (Doors)

‘Wood has been my life.

What Richard doesn’t know about fire door safety isn’t worth knowing. He breathes, eats and sleeps doors (“Yes, I do wake up in the night sometimes with ideas!”).

Richard, aged 42, has been married for 10 years (but together with his wife for 22) and has two children, aged 10 and four. He is a Fire Door Alliance committee member and a registered member of the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers

A native of the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire borders, he still lives close to where he grew up. From an early age, he knew he enjoyed the more practical pursuits and, initially, sought a career as a bricklayer – but fate intervened. As there were no bricklayer apprenticeships at the time, he took one as a carpenter and joiner, and has never looked back.

Richard secured an NVQ in carpentry and joinery and, during his apprenticeship, spent a year fitting kitchens, then a year repairing caravans!

After joining a leading fire door company, he held various positions, including bench joiner for six years, then in the technical department for four years and went on to work on such prestigious projects as Manchester Hospital, Hope Hospital and BBC’s Media City, in Salford.

After moving to another company, again specialising in fire doors but, this time, metal ones, Richard worked on the Tottenham Court Road Tube Station refit, then moved to a similar firm when the recession hit. After two years there, he was sitting at Edinburgh Airport after completing a CPD course when he got a call enquiring whether he would be interested in joining Stairways Midlands.

Richard remembers: “When I joined Stairways in 2018, I set about putting in place robust processes to support the good work they were doing on door sets and fire door safety. I love creating rules and drawings and processes, so it suited me perfectly.

“Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of the role is explaining fire door certification terminology to customers. Often it is apparent they are not clear what they are asking for. However, my approach is always to try and teach our customers about certification when assisting in answering their questions.

“The biggest thing, I think, that could help the sector is builders switching completely to door sets rather than using traditionally hung doors. It helps fitting, it helps integrity and it helps fire safety.

“Also, what we could really do with is an accredited fire door fitter scheme, like the Gas Safe (formerly CORGI) scheme for gas fitters. It can seem a bit like the Wild West out there sometimes for door sets and fire door fitters. There are many different accreditation schemes and many different skill levels among fitters. Having just one universal scheme would help drive the industry forward.”

Outside of work, Richard still likes to keep his core skills honed. With a shed full of woodworking tools, he makes sure he keeps on top of the DIY jobs at home.

Spending time with his family is the top priority though and, particularly, taking walks with his wife and children is a welcome break from the day job.

Not a massive follower of sports, where he does compete is on the computer. He is an avid fan of PC gaming, with an impressive set-up at home, spending a lot of time online in virtual worlds and is part of a clan in World of Warships.

So now you know!

You can contact Richard on 01926 818 770 or

Andy Clarke – Quality and Continuous Improvement Manager

“I’m a bit like Stairways’ own A-Team – if you have a problem and if no one else can help…”

If you have met Andy, you are unlikely to forget him. Based at our Walsall site, he has been with Stairways Midlands since he was 16. There is little he doesn’t know about the business – and little he can’t help with.

Aged 42, he is a native of the Cannock area, where he still lives with his wife and two children, aged 12 and 16. He joined as an apprentice, something he remains grateful for as it set the foundation for his future career, and completed his NVQ level 3 qualification in carpentry and joinery at Stafford College.

Two years into his time with the company, he worked on the order to supply and fit high-end staircases for Westbury Homes. This developed into working on similar accounts across the country for other developers, fitting stairs across different sites.

He began to spend more time in the factory after more than 10 years of site fitting, covering technical drawing and quotes, among other things, quickly gaining a reputation as a man who could turn his hand to anything with staircases to help the business.

Then, in 2016, he took on his current full-time role in the factory with a remit that can see him focusing on quality and performance one minute, through to maintaining robust processes and making sure health and safety assessments are complete the next, while troubleshooting for customers throughout.

Andy said: “Basically, I do whatever I need to do to help the company out. A lot of the time, that is troubleshooting. If people have a problem and they are not sure where to turn, they come to me.

“Just looking through my email inbox from yesterday, I moved through improvement boards, engaging with the staff, activity risk assessments and sorting customers’ needs, then onto ensuring factory protection from forklifts getting damaged.

“I love the fact that I am in a job where I can make a difference and am on the go, sorting stuff out, whether that is being on the shop floor or out on site, meeting customers.

“If there is one thing that would help the sector, as far as I am concerned, it would be around helping carpenters on site. If carpenters are happy, it helps us – and I have been there on site, so I know how important it is.

“Stairways is all about looking at fitability with our products, like EZE-WAYS and Railsafe, to help the carpenters fit in the best possible way. Site managers just want to see the work done. It is the carpenters who do that and anything we can do to help them and keep them happy is a good thing.”

Andy has recently retired from coaching a local junior football team, but still supports local sport and follows football – though will only divulge that he supports “local teams”!

Aside from spending time with his family outside of work, Andy’s other love is his Suzuki GSXR1000 bike, which he enjoys getting out on when the weather allows.

You can get hold of Andy on 01922 728 600 or via


Author: Stairways

Stairways, founded in 1989, has grown to become one of the UK’s largest manufacturers of carpentry and joinery products. Stairways now boast three state-of-art facilities that offer over 85,000 sq ft production capacity. Stairways goal is to raise their profile and brand awareness to become known throughout the industry as the UK’s leading staircase and door solution provider.

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As a highly reputable firm within the industry, Stairways are dedicated to meeting their client’s product and application requirements. All materials used are manufactured to the highest quality and meet the relevant standards achieving ISO9001, FSC®, and various product certifications, whilst their staircases and door solutions are manufactured with compliance to UK building regulations & legislative standards in mind. Using the knowledge, passion, and experience acquired across all team members over the past thirty years, Stairways aim to continue to be the best in what they do.


Stairways are continuously looking for opportunities to improve and expand their service offering; this includes the investment in new machinery to further enhance and innovate the manufacturing process, with the aim to shorten lead times and increase overall in-house capacity. The changes Stairways employ are always focused upon improving the customer experience, to ensure their process remains as efficient as possible from start to finish.


Privately owned and managed since it was founded in 1989, Stairways has grown to become one of the UK’s largest manufacturers of carpentry and joinery products. Starting as a small staircase manufacturer, Stairways now boast three state-of-art facilities that offer over 85,000 sq ft of bespoke and mass production capacity.