Adding Stairs on a Deck

It Is Easy to Build Deck Stairs – Check out How We Did It!

Matt and I built the deck for the Rebel house that we have been remodeling. The next step is to build deck stairs. Since the deck was the first we’d ever built, the stairs would be a first, also, though I am no stranger to stair construction…

I used to work for a steel fabricator as a detailer. No, I did not polish the steel until it shined, which is what most people think a steel detailer does! A steel detailer, in the drafting world, takes the design drawings from the architect and “details” them so that the shop can produce that particular beam, angle, lintel, handrail, or stairs. I detailed quite a few stair plans and I was trained by two of the best. So when it came time to build stairs for the deck, I knew it would be no problem at all!

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There are a few standards when it comes to stairs. The treads should measure 11″ to 12″, 1″ of which is considered a toe-kick. In other words, the tread above will overlap by 1″. The height of the treads (also known as the rise) will be 6″ to 7-1/2″ for natural movement. Trust me, if the rise is less than 6″ or more than 7-1/2″, you will know it. It makes ascending and descending stairs more difficult because it is not a natural movement!

I started by drawing the stairs out in SketchUp so I could figure out the angles to cut the stringers, which are the sides of the stairs that the treads rest on. I measured the height of the deck from the ground up, drew it out, and this is what I came up with:

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Though I am very confident in my stair construction skills, I did not want to cut all of those angles in a 2×12 board. I kept my fingers crossed that our local home improvement store would carry 5-step stringer which is exactly what we needed. I was glad when I found that they did!

Since the span of our stairs would be so wide, we needed three stringers so the center could be supported, also. We started by marking the very center of the deck, and attached the center stringer by toenailing two 3-1/2″ screws through each side into the deck frame. The stringer will be positioned at the same height as the frame to allow for the tread.

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We then cut two pieces of 2×4 lumber to mount to the frame so we could secure the outer stringers. The 2×4 pieces were secured to the frame using lag screws on either side of the center stringer. The outer stringers were then secured to the 2x4s using lag screws.

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We used 5/4 x 6 x 8′ boards cut in half for the treads. In order to make sure the stairs would be square, we temporarily attached the bottom tread, then squared and leveled the stairs.

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Once we were satisfied with the square and level, we fully secured the first tread, then worked our way up. We used two 5/4 x6 pieces per tread with approximately 3/8″ space between them.

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Yahoo! It was so easy to build deck stairs, we were finished within an hour! Once again, we winged it and it worked out great! Next up – handrails… This project will be one where I’ll have to have a plan!