There are many different kinds of stairs and thus the stair construction tips vary depending on the material used. So, let’s look at the process of adding wood stairs.
First off, all stairs have two central components in common: the tread and the stringer. The tread is the flat part that you actually walk on, and the stringer (also known as the horse or carriage) is the vertical support that holds up the tread.
Steps in Building the Steps
The first step you need to take in constructing stairs is to calculate the unit rise and the unit run for the stairs. This is basically a definition of how much the step will go up and how wide it will be. While there is no real standard for stairs, usually the rise is about seven inches.
You’ve certainly seen (and gone up/down) stairs that had very high or very low rises so you might need to think about how comfortable these stairs were to ascend or descend.
As a little side note, Frank Lloyd Wright was famous for making odd stair designs. At the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, he made stairs with very low rises and very long runs: interesting to look at, but they give you a funny feeling when trying to walk them.
Importance of Measuring
At any rate, you will not know exactly what rise you will have for your stairs until you calculate it based on the total height of the stairs. For this, do not rely on building plans. The first of the stair construction tips is: always measure, and do it twice.
The total rise of the stairs is the vertical distance from the lower finished floor to the upper finished floor; once you have that number (in inches), you can try dividing it by seven and hope to get an even number. If not, then you will have to decide what sort of rise you can be comfortable with: six inches, seven and a half etc.
Next, you calculate the unit run. A general rule of thumb is that it and the unit rise should equal seventeen and a half inches. So, if your rise is seven and a half inches, the run is ten. Then you need to determine the total length of the stairs, and there’s one critical factor here: how will the top connect to the upper floor?
There are three options. You can have a full step, a partial step, or no step at all. If you have a full step, then the number of runs will equal the number of risers. So, the total length of the stairs will be the run length times the number.
Cutting the Stringer
When it comes to cutting the stringer, there is a very important matter to consider: the thickness of the treads! Using a framing square, set it at the bottom edge of the stringer with the unit run on the tongue and the unit rise on the body and draw lines along both sides.
Next, start at the beginning of the unit run line and draw a unit rise, but subtract the thickness of the tread. At the end of that line, strike another, perpendicular to the riser line (essentially, another run line). That is where you cut the bottom of the stringer so that the final step will align with the upper floor.
Follow these stair construction tips for each stair and you’ll be on your way to building a nice staircase.