Learn How to Build Stairs

Learn How to Build Stairs

Learn How to Build Stairs

In order to advance your carpentry career you should learn how to build stairs. If you can cut a roof then learning how to cut and install steps should be fairly easy. The rise and run involved with step building are similar to roof framing in many ways. Even basic straight run steps are slightly different from one framing job to the next. There are strict guidelines that must be followed in order to construct a set of steps that will be sturdy, safe to navigate, and satisfy the building inspector. The following information is the method I use for site built steps.

Local Building Codes

Long gone are the days of building steps that are too steep, shoddily constructed, and with insufficient headroom. Most local building codes are very strict and have specific guidelines for building steps. In order to know how to build them you must be familiar with these local ordinances.

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Most Common Building Codes

Headroom minimum is almost always 6′ 8″ anywhere along the length of the stairway. This height is not only so people won’t bump their heads easily but also for moving furniture . Width should not be less than 3′ above the handrail and below the minimum required headroom. Handrails height should be between 34 and 38 inches measured vertically from the treads bull nose. A handrail should be provided on one side of every set with 4 risers or more. Handrails must not protrude into stairway path more than 4 1/2″ Riser height shall not be more than 7 3/4″ and not vary more than 3/8″ from greatest to least. Be careful on this one, I’ve seen the riser height anywhere from 7 7/16″ to 8 1/8″ and not allowed to vary more than 1/8″. Tread width minimum is 10″ measured from bull nose to bull nose and should not vary more than 3/8″. Bull nose or tread depth overhang should be between 3/4″ and 1 1/4″ and not vary more than 3/8″. Angle of incline should be between 34 to 37 degrees .

Formula for Site Built Steps

It doesn’t matter what type of staircase you are building, straight, L shaped with a landing, curved, complete turn around 180 degree, or winders. You must determine the overall rise and run, then divide it into comfortable increments.

In house framing this distance is usually from the first floor to the second or from the basement floor to the first floor.

Instructions on How to Build Steps

In this stair building tutorial we will be constructing a straight set using three 2 X 12 stringers, 2 X carpeted treads, and a 2 X 4 spacer board to allow drywall and a 3/4 finish stringer board to be inserted by the finish carpenter.

The overall rise is 8′ 10 3/4″ with a overall run of 11′ 2 7/8″.

Learn How to Build Stairs

I use a Construction Master calculator to figure my roofs and steps. A regular calculator can be used, but measurements should be taken in inches rather than feet and inches. Using a regular calculator has been discussed on the carpentry math page. There is also a free 30 day trial download on the roof framing page. Pick your poison, grab your regular calculator or the free download and lets see if you can learn how to build steps.

Determine Overall Rise and Run

The overall rise and run of the steps is determined by measuring the space where the staircase is to fit. Keep in mind what type of floor covering is to be used when determining rise between floors. If ceramic tile or similar material is to be used it must be figured into the rise. Measure horizontally where the steps are to land with the understanding that you need a minimum of three feet of clear space before any obstructions to the direction of travel.

Find Run of Each Step

When building this type of stairs there is one less tread than riser because the upper floor is the final step. We need to find 13 equal increments to add up to our overall run. Using a regular calculator convert 11′ 2 7/8″ to 134.875. Divide 134.875 by 13 = 10.375 or 10 3/8″ run per stair tread. The actual run of the steps will be more due to the bottom step riser and the added bull nose of the tread. Make sure you will still have the three feet of required clear space at the bottom of the steps before laying out the stringers.

Rise and Run Using Construction Master

The use of a Construction Master calculator is much faster and accurate than a regular calculator.


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