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Stair Building 101

Building stairs can be very difficult for anyone and building safe stairs requires exact measurements. There really is no room for error, precise planning is best left to professional stair builders. Stair contractors have a good understanding of stair building; it’s often hard for a novice to tackle a remodeling project. But if you are well informed then you may actually find it easy to build a few stairs to a deck or shed.

First you have to learn the three parts that comprise the anatomy of a staircase. Strings are the sloped boards that support the weight of the staircase. They are generally made from 2x12s and are often called the underdeck. Treads are the surface of the step, they also vary in material depending on their size and look of the step. Lastly, risers are the boards that are under the treads. Risers are optional and are used to protect the stringers from weathering.

When calculating the measurements for your stairs, you will need to figure out the rise and run of the stairway. Start off by determining the height, or rise, of the stairs. Then divide the number by the desired height of each individual stair. Seven inches is a standard height for most purposes. This will give you the number of steps. You may need to round down. The height multiplied by the number of steps will give you an exact measurement of the height of each step, or the distance between notches in your stringers. The horizontal distance, or run, is determined by multiplying the number of steps by the horizontal depth of the step.

For materials, you should always use high-quality wood that is free of large knots such as cedar, redwood, or pressure-treated wood. This will be easier to work with, and the stairs will be long lasting. Bolts, decking screws, galvanized nails and hex bolts are hardware options used in building stairs. You should also assemble a toolkit to include a hammer, hand saw or jigsaw, circular saw, sawhorses, carpenter’s square with stair gauges to complete the task.

Ultimately, safety is always your priority when building stairs. The treads should be a minimum of four feet wide but wider is always better. Tall staircases should be divided into landings every eight stairs. Use a circular saw to trim away the notches on the stringers, but finish using either a jigsaw or handsaw for accurate notches. Remember to check that the notches are level and use a plane to carve away high points. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s always good to contact one of our professional stair contractors.