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How To Build Steps

Tools and Materials Needed
  • Square
  • Tape Measure
Step 1
Measure the height off the ground using the stringer from the deck to the ground as shown. If the ground slopes away from the deck it may be necessary to take 2 measurements. The first will be at the step opening. Once you have this measuremnt divide your # say 37 by 7. This will give you the # of steps required to build. Use only the whole # and not the fraction. In this case it will be 5.29. That will tell you that it will take five steps to build. Because I build the first step down from the deck it will take 4. Than take the stringer [2x12] measure out 4 feet as shown to get the correct rise. Now that you have you're new # [in the case where the ground slopes]. You can figure the rise of the stairs. Take the # and divide by 5 which is the # of steps you will need to get from the ground to the deck. This may seem confusing but you must remember that you will build 4steps and the deck itself is the 5th step.
Step 2
While the are many “how-to's” on building steps that give you all kinds of complicated formulas on rise and run you just quit. Remember you are out side so it will not be necessary to calculate the run. The run on the steps will always be 10 1/4” when using 5 ½ in boards for the treads, usually the same board that you are using for the decking. So this means that the magic numbers to build this set of stairs will be 7.4” x 10.25”
Step 3
Set your square nuts on your framing square and proceed to “layout” your stairs.
Step 4
Don't forget that at the bottom step you must subtract from the rise the thickness of the deck board itself.
Most composites are 1”.
All 2 by wood material is 1 1/2” (example 2x4, 2x6, etc.)
5/4 cedar is 1”
5/4 treated wood can be 1” - 1 1/4” depending upon species of wood
Failure to do this will result in an uneven step. Reason is you are adding the decking to the framing, and it will always make the bottom step higher than the rest unless you cut it out.
Step 5
When done, your stringer should look like the pictures.
Step 6
Cut your stringers. For most composites unless you provide the building inspectors with amanufacturers specs in the form of an icc report you will need 5 stringers for a 4' wide set of stairs. Which is what is shown in the pictures. For cedar or treated wood I always use 4, it doesnt cost that much more and builds a really solid step. If you are really cheap and you want to use only 3 maybe you should wait till next year.
Step 7
The back cut for the nailer to hang the stairs is the same as the tread 10.25". Leave the outside 2 stringers at 10.25 and cut the inside 3 at 8.75. This will give a clean finish for the nailer as shown in the pictures.
Step 8
Assemble the stairs, install the risers only, this way the stairs can be hung on the deck in one piece. Do not in stall the treads as there is still the work of the 2 post holes to support the stairs at the bottom and the steps must be hung at the top. We usually use a 1x8 for all the risers including the bottom, the bottom rise may have to be ripped.