Stairs Construction – How To Build
Written by Todd Fratzel.
Staircase Design / Drawing
We built our new garage with attic trusses so I could have a space for a workshop. In order to get to that space I need to build a staircase. As you can see from the sketch my plan is to build a staircase that has a short run to a landing followed by a 90 degree turn up the remaining distance. Before you start building a staircase it’s important to gather some information. You’ll need the following:
- Overall height from the finished floor to the finished floor above.
- Overall horizontal distance you have available to “run” out the stairs.
- Minimum rise and run per local and state building codes.
Cutting Stair Stringers
Building a set of stairs looks much harder than it actually is. I’d recommend this Basic Stairbuilding Book if you’re interested in learning more about building staircases. The most important tool you’ll need for this is a framing square.
To make things easier I suggest buying a pair of brass stair gauge clamps. The gauges clamp onto the framing square so you can repeatedly mark out the same rise and run for the stairs. Each building code has different requirements on the maximum rise and run that a stair can have.
For my staircase I’m trying to have a maximum rise between 7.5 and 7.75 inches and a run of 10 inches. I measured the distance from the concrete floor up to the finished floor of my workshop to get the total rise required. In my case the total height was 129.625 inches. Therefore I end up with 17 risers at 7.625 inches. In the photo above I set the run to 10 inches and the rise to 7.625 inches in order to mark out the stringers.
If you’d like a free stair calculator to easily calculate the rise and run for any staircase then sign up for my feed down below. Once you sign up there is a link at the bottom of each feed you receive with the free excel spreadsheet for calculating stair stringers. You can read more about that stair calculator .
I used 1 1/4″ x 11 7/8″ TimberStrand LSL (Laminated Strand Lumber) for the stringers. The LSL’s are great for stair stringers because the strands actually help prevent cracking at the intersecting cuts at the corner of the riser and tread. Use a circular saw to cut along the lines making sure not to cut past the intersection. Then you can use a hand saw to finish the cut.
After you cut out one stringer you can use it to trace the remaining stringers. For my staircase I had to create two different sets of stringers. One for the first run from the floor to the landing and a second set from the landing to the workshop.
The next step is to cut risers and treads. I used 1/2″ MDO plywood for the risers and 5/4 southern yellow pine treads that already had a bull nose milled on them. I install the risers first, nailing them with finish nails to the stringers, then I screw the treads to the stringers.
I also like to put a screw in the back of the riser into the tread. This process creates a strong staircase and it’s really not that hard to do once you get the hang of it.
Finished Staircase Framing
As you can see from the photos building a staircase isn’t really that hard. You just need to take your time, plan it out and do some research on local codes. Once I get the walls framed and finish this project I’ll post more photos and information.
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