Building a staircase in your home is a big undertaking. Because of strict building codes, you have to make sure everything is perfect to avoid any kind of hazard.
However, as far as the technical details go, constructing stairs is easier than building other things in your home.
All you need are some basic carpentry skills and the patience to work through the small details.
We all expect stairs to be a uniform height, and even the smallest discrepancy between steps can create a tripping hazard.
The steps themselves need to be just the right height to make climbing as easy as possible. The layout and calculations of your home stairs can sometimes be tricky if you aren’t super careful every step of the way.
Here are the 5 most important things to know when building a staircase.
1. Know the components and measurements
Stairs are made up of three main components. These are the stringers, treads, and risers.
The stringers are the sloped boards that support everything else, including the weight of the people stepping on the stairs.
Treads are the tops of every step, and risers are installed under the lip of each tread, which protects the stringers.
Before you begin, you’ll want to really study these components and the common measurements.
They seem deceptively simple upon first glance, but they can quickly become complicated.
One powerful tool for assisting with measuring the components is PhotoModeler. This can help with more advanced projects like stair lifts or complex banister installation.
Using PhotoModeler, you take images of the existing area from all angles. These images are then downloaded into the program to create a 3D model that can be measured and tested.
You don’t want to take any guesses when it comes to your measurements.
2. How they will attach to the existing structure
An important question to ask before getting started is how you will attach the stairs to the structure below.
If they’ll be sitting flush with the structure, you can attach your stringers to the framework that already exists. However, this isn’t always the case.
For instance, if you’re building stairs for a deck with an overhang, you’ll need to create a secondary support system or adjust the tops of your stringers.
Everything needs to be secure for safety purposes.
3. Consider the elements
If you’re installing the staircase outside, you’ll have an extra matter to think about because of the natural elements. Wood doesn’t always hold up, depending on your climate.
Also, you’ll need to varnish, paint, and seal the stairs to safeguard against wear and tear.
To add another element of safety, include non-slip paint or apply non-slip pads.
4. Know the codes
One of the reasons why stairs are so complicated to build is because they have to adhere to strict building codes.
These can vary by location, but there may be some room for flexibility.
You’ll need to look into the requirements for your city before you get started, but here are the most common restrictions across the country:
•Width: The width of the staircase (or the side-to-side distance) needs to be at least 36 inches. This does not include handrails, which lower the distance. Narrow stairways are considered a hazard.
•Riser Height: The riser height (or distance you raise your foot up or down to the next step) should be no more than 7 ¾ inches. Staircases that are too high pose a risk while those too short can also be a hazard. Ideally, your stairs should all be as close to identical as possible.
•Tread: The tread (or flat top of the stair) needs to be at least 10 inches long and deep enough so your foot can easily rest on the stair.
5. Prevent squeaks with sealing
We all know the annoyance of a squeaky staircase. You can avoid this by simply sealing the underside of your stair.
This is also a great way to prevent warping over time, and it will protect the lifecycle of your stairs.
You’ll be glad you did this when you have beautiful, quiet steps that last as long as your home.
Building a staircase doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take a lot of patience.
It’s an art form that needs to be mastered with practice, so don’t be surprised if your new project takes longer than you’re used to.
As long as you keep these things in mind, you’ll craft something you can be proud of.