Building Wooden Stairs
Building wooden stairs is not as difficult as you may first believe. With some very simple wood tools and a small knowledge of maths you can easily build your own wooden staircase. Things do of course this can get a harder when you want to build stairs with several landings but the basic principle will always remain the same.
This following article on wooden stairs will take you through the steps for building a straight set of stairs. It is probably a fair bet that if you are reading this article you are still in the early stages of wooden stair building and won't be taking on a complex stair anyway.
To get you started we will assume that it is you are starting from a deck to a concrete pad. The deck will be around 48 inches" across and at eye level from the ground.
Tools you will need to build wooden stairs
You will need the following items to build a staircase
- Circular saw
- Set square
- Hack saw
- A good pencil
- Tape Measure
- 4' Spirit Level
- Tape (masking)
You will also need:
- 3 lots of 10' / 2" x 12" boards - Choose the best only, make sure they are straight with no cracks. Very Important!
- 2 lots of 8' / 2" x 4" boards
- 8 lots of 8' / 2" x 6" boards - Once again choose the good ones. These are going to be the steps so...
- 1 lots of 45" / 2" x 6" boards
- 1 sheet of ply-wood @ 1/2" / 8" x 48"
- Of course, 3-1/2" nails and deck screws or nails for the steps.
Find the overall stair rise
You will need to know precisely the vertical distance from the top of the concrete pad to the top of the deck. Take one of the 8' 2x4's and rest one end on the deck and hold the other over the pad, Place the level on the 2x4 and level the board. Then just measure from the bottom of the 2x4 to the pad. Lets say it is 64". This is the overall rise.
Now determine the overall stair run
Before we can do this we have to work out how many steps the wooden staircase will have.
Take the overall rise, 64 inches, and divide it by 7.25inches, which is the typical height of 1step. This gives 8.83, which rounds up to 9, So we will go with 9 steps.
Important Note: There is always 1 less tread then risers. Whether you go up or down the last step is onto the deck or the pad. So 1 less tread.
Now take 10.5inches, the width of a typical step, and multiply it by 8. This results in 84 inches. This is the overall 'run'.
While we are doing the math we need to figure out the exact rise of each step. We simply take the overall rise of 64" and divide it by 9 and we get 7.111" or 7-1/8", or close enough to it. So each riser will be 7-1/8".
Time for some stairs layout
First thing. Get hold of your set square. The long leg is the tread (step) leg and the short leg is the riser leg. Also, use the numbers on the outside of the square only.
Now you should take some masking tape and wrap it around the set square to establish you rise and run. Mark 10.5" on the outside of the long leg and 7-1/8" on the outside of the short leg.
Layout one of the 2x12's on your saw horses or work bench. WIth the long leg of your framing square towards the end of the board start to line up the tape marks to the edge of the board facing you. Once you have the square in position mark the outside edge of it with your pencil.
Continue to do this until you have the required number of steps, 8 in this case. This first riser is always shorter by the thickness of the steps, for us that is 1.5inches. This makes the first riser 5-5/8inches.
Cut out the stair pieces
Now use you circular saw to cut out the stringers (technical name for 2x12 with stair marks on it) , but make sure to cut on the waste side of the line. When you cut into the corner with a circular saw the blade misses some of the wood on the bottom side of the board. This is fine, simply cut up to the line and stop, then finish the cut with your hand saw.
Now use the first stringer as a template for the other two stringers. Lay the stringer onto the 2x12's and trace around it. Now saw out the other stringers the same as the first.
Reinforce the stair stringers
Align one of the 8' 2x4's along the bottom edge of the string and mark it to fit the profile of the ends of the stringers. Saw the 2x4 and secure it to the bottom edge of the stringer. Repeat this for one other stringer. These help toimprove the strength of the stringers and reduce "bouncyness" in the staircase as a whole. Use the framing nails to secure everything.
The ply-wood is used to attach the stairs to the deck. Secure the sheet of ply-wood to the top end of the stringers. The two outside stringers are nailed straight with the edge of the ply-wood while the third stringer is in middle of the sheet. Simply nail through the ply-wood into the face of the stringers using framing nails. 4 into each stringer will be enough.
Now take the 45inche 2x6 and nail it in between the bottom of the outside stringers. The 2x6 will fit into the notch cut into the center stringer. This provides the right spacing for the bottom of the stairs and secures them to the pad.
Attaching the stairs to the deck
Move the stairs into their final position. make sure they are level across the stringers and that the risers are plumb. When the stairs are positioned correctly nail through the ply-wood into the side of the deck. Use some 3" concrete nails to secure the 2x6 spacer to the concrete pad.
Install the stair treads
Cut the 8 - 8' 2x6's in half, be sure to cut them square. Starting at the bottom of the stairs, start placing the 2x6 stair treads. Simply center them on the stringers and use some 3"deck nails to attach them. You can also use an exterior adhesive to assure that they don't move.
Continue to work your way up the stairs until you finally reach the next floor.
You are completely done... well, nearly...
You really ought to install a railing to keep people from falling off.
by: Dave Markel
About The Author
Dave Markel is the author of "The All Wood Working Journal". He has helped hundreds of individuals improve their wood working skills. Visit his site at http://all-wood-working-plans.com.
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"Dave, Thanks for this info. I think it would be helpful if there were drawings or pictures of what you describe. If you made the stair that you are telling us how to make, you could take pictures of each of the steps that you describe, adding useful visual information. firstname.lastname@example.org"
"What a great help it would be if you had a few illustrations."
"Your article does not say anything on how to layout the skirt board or mop board."
"if you had diagrams to go with would be even better but great job anyhow.thanks"
"Great descriptions, but without pictures they are meaningless. Also what for example are stringers, risers and treads ? "
"If you include some pictures of some of the completed stages it would certainly help the reader understand some of the steps. A picture is worth a thousand words."
"I think the example is a good one but it got me a little confusing when measuring the risers on the 2"x 12". If the first riser is 5-5/8 because of the step, then all the Risers will be 5-5/8."
"haha im an aprentise in a joinary shop straight flight staircases are quite easy but wen u go into winders and double winders tht the hard stuff if i was an average diyer i wouldnt even consider it dont waste your money get a pro to do it!"
"this article is priceless... thanks"
stair builder extrodonaire
"Building stairs is not as easy as you make it sound. If your your measurements are not accurate and you have a hard time cutting a straight line you could end up wasting lots of lumber. Without pictures to guide you through the process the average DIY will end up doing just that. I suggest the DIY'er go to a website with a free stair calculator with pictures. And if you can't cut straight or measure accurately, then don't bother."
"Brilliant article. Best laugh I've had in a long time...."
"Do you usually cut wood with a hacksaw!?!? Haha, thanks for the "expert advice". "
"Do you start at the top or bottom of the stringer"
"Nice that someone takes the time to pass on knowledge, however.... As a non builder, pictures are worth a thousand words! Especially when all the words are new to me!!!!!! "
"Good article but since you are UK based you should really use metric and not imperial. "
"Very good and correct, very useful"
"plain & simple, anymore info would confuse most beginners, if you can't figure out simple stairs after this lesson, don't bother trying, you'll never get it!!!"
"stairs look great. The stringers took a few minutes for me to see it but when i did they went right together. thanks Elmira NY USA"
"in response to the builder who dissed the advice, if you know so much then why are you reading this?? Carpenter/builders you are all over rated!! We built our own extension for a 10th of the price you people quoted and probably alot quicker and less messier. Thankyou to the author who tries to help the keen DIYer out, i will follow your instructions and get back on how useful i found you."
lil bunny boiler who hates builders!!!
"Far too confusing! Numbered drawings are a must with appropraite reference to them for each stage. 9/10 for effort but 3/10 for usefulness, sorry."
"Some drawings would of been usefull"
"if only things were this easy i'm a builder and found that just a sharp pencil and masking tape with a few other bits was pretty laughable and only hope no carpenter or joiners see this and feel pretty insulted i'd like to see the results of a DIY staircase"
"very, very good.it is very, very clear and the use of grade school langage is an added bonus. thanks for your help."