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The Home Depot

Stairway Build Guide

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Carpentry > Stairway Build Guide
Stairway Build Guide

Building stairs is a challenging task for a do-it-yourselfer. It is not a difficult task, but the process is a complicated one and involves numerous aspects. If this is the first time you are attempting to build a stairway you might want to start with something simple like straight stairs to a porch or deck. There are some guidelines that must be followed to construct steps that are safe, sturdy, and in accordance with the building codes.

  1. Once you have the necessary building code specifications in hand, you can begin planning your stairs. The layout has to be drawn up carefully and there are quite a few calculations involved in this.

    1.Following the Numbers

    Local building codes are quite strict as far as stairs are concerned and there are some specifications that are common in most areas. For instance, the headroom has to be 6’8” along the length of the stairway. Similarly, the angle of incline should be somewhere between 34 to 37 degrees. These guidelines are set to ensure safety and climbing comfort. Your building codes office will be able to provide you with all the necessary details in the matter.

  2. 2.One Step at a Time

    Once you have the necessary building code specifications in hand, you can begin planning your stairs. The layout has to be drawn up carefully and there are quite a few calculations involved in this. With some research, you will be able to work out the calculations and then be ready for the next phase which is to build the stairs that you need and want.

  3. 3.Components of Stairs

    A staircase is normally made of three basic components—stringers, treads, and risers. Stringers are the sloped boards that support other components and bear all the weight. The treads are the top surface of the step while risers are found directly under the front lip of each tread. The main purpose of the risers is to protect the stringers from early wear and tear. The riser also is an indication of the height of individual stairs while treads are the width of the stairs.


    The total rise and the total run of the stairway has to be first determined. The total rise is the vertical height from the landing to a point which is on par with the height of the upper floor. The total run is calculated as the horizontal length of the stairway and is measured from the end of the staircase on the landing to the edge of the upper floor which might be a deck or a porch. The total number of steps needed must also be calculated.

  5. 4.Putting Together the Stairs

    Once the calculations are all complete and written down, the stairs will have to be laid on the stringers. For this, the stringers have to be cut out with dimensions of 2x12. The manner in which they will be connected to the deck will also determine the cut of the stringers. A circular saw should be used to cut the stringers along the marked lines. You can cut just one stringer first and try affixing it on the stairs as a means of testing the dimensions and the fit. If the fit is right, you can proceed with cutting out the remaining stringers and attaching them to the deck. The treads and risers must be installed next. For this, the risers have to be cut to length and then fastened to the stringers with the help of decking screws. The treads are then fixed with screws and there should be a little space between two treads. The stair posts can be installed before the treads are put in.

  6. 5.Some Tips

    Always make a drawing of your staircase project before you start working on it. Just having a mental plan will not help you fine tune the details. Failure to get the details right will result in crooked or uneven stairs which can be a safety hazard and violation of building codes. When you buy the wood for stringers, make sure it is level and does not have any knots or weak spots. There are many lumber yards that supply wood solely for stairs. Be liberal in your usage of glue when building stairs and cross check your measurements before you cut the wood.


    Keeping these techniques and ideals in mind while working on your stairs is sure to enable you to achieve and grasp the desired result.

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