How to Build Stairs

Introduction: How to Build Stairs

Stairs, staircases and steps can very in many different ways. I'm going to attempt to explain how to build a staircase with general staircase information, to make it informational to any size or shape and any "would-be" stair builder.

The most important thing to remember in staircase construction is that each step, weather you have 3 steps or 100 steps, all MUST be the same size (Rise and Run on each step must be the same). This is espescially true in USA and Canada, its against building and fire code for steps to vary in size.

I recommend that anyone building a staircase in there home contact a building inspector to inquire about current and applicable fire/building code. but the basics are (generally):

- All steps must be the same size (the rise and run must be the same on every step)
- Width of each step must be at least 2 feet 8 inches (normal household steps are generally 3 feet 6 inches)
- Maximum step riser hight of 7 3/8 inches
- Minumunm run length of 10 inches
- Steps 44 inches or more wide must have handrails on each side
- Fire code normally says; do not allow stairs to rise more than 12 feet without providing a landing. The length of the landing should be at least equal to the width of the stair tread.

Note: As far as I know "Open Risers" are against code due to safety reasons, I'm confident this is true in homes but check your local code to see... you might get away with it if its outside or in a garage or something.... but I'm not sure. There is some thought that "Nosing Projection" is or will be against code due to tripping hazzard... again check locally if you plan on building "Nosing Projections"

One Final note, I'm going to draw most steps or find relevant pictures online. I will be building Cliffside stairs this summer and will maybe add some pictures then or even a new instructable due to the periles involved in cliffside construction

Step 1: Supplies and Tools


circular and/or hand saw
hammer or drill
tape measure


wood for risers
wood for runs (steps)
wood for risers unless an open riser staircase (see building code)
Screws or Nails

Draw a plan of your steps so you know what your measurments are.

Step 2: The Risers

The most complicated part of building a staircase is making the risers. If you are building an outdoor staircase with no overhead obstructions its gonna be a lot easier, you need only decide on the angle of your stairs, measure and cut away. if you are building a staircase indoors you need to take into account the headroom.

Due to the complication in these indoor staircase calculations I'm going to refer to a free online stair calculator. as well I'll post this detailed diagram.

for uncomplicated staircases and once you have your lenghth and angle calculations this is how you measure and cut a riser.

1. take the board you are using for the riser and measure the angle to the bottom left corner and draw a line.

2. measure your rise height from the line in step 1 to the edge of the board and draw a line.

3. measure from the run length from the rise point 90 degrees and draw a line

See Diagram #2

cut out all the lines drawn and then make a duplicate, and triplicate depending on step width.

Step 3: Notch the Bottom of Riser, Attach the Risers

once you've got your risers you'll want to notch the bottom for a 2x4 if your building indoors to code. This is most easily explained by a diagram. see below.

Now you want to attach the top of the riser to the structure you want to access. place the final rise against the front surface and screw in with hangars. place the second riser the step distance apart and screw in with hangars. place any additional risers in between appropriatly.

Step 4: Make Steps!!!

now that your risers are cut and hung all you gotta do now is put in the step boards. this is nice and easy... cut to the right width, place and screw in moving up the steps to put in the next.

Done and Done

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    11 Discussions


    Question 2 months ago on Introduction

    Why do you need a nose? Seems like a trip hazard going up and reduces the run for your foot going down?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This instructable does not teach somebody how to build stairs. You are supposed to take a framing square and mark the rise and run on it and lay it on the stringers and make the marks for cutting it out. Or better yet use the inexpensive little brass stops that are designed for clamping onto the square that are made specifically for laying out stairs. You are correct in saying that the rise and run should be the same on all the stairs. The L shaped framing square will also show where the cut the top and bottom of the stringers. I'm a professional carpenter and have build many sets of stairs but I couldn't have learned to build stairs with this instructable. One thing that should be mentioned is when cutting out the notches for the treads and risers. You should finish out the cuts with a sawzall, jigsaw or even a hand saw instead of overshooting the cuts with your circular saw to finish them out, like I have seen done by so many carpenters. Many supposedly professional carpenters do this to save time and it severely weakens the stringers and it's just sloppy half arsed work


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I've gotta build some steps off the back of my deck. I'll do it "to code", but they'll never be used by humans, as our spoiled dogs won't use the ramp I set up for 'em.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for sharing, I was looking for this some time already and the website you pointed is very usefull too, Now I can put in practice some ideas and renew one staircase in an old house of my., Thanks a lot.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    What??? I can see that you have the knowledge of how stairs are built, but I can't even begin to follow your directions on laying out the stringers. And I am speaking as someone who has built a lot of stairs.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry chaoscampbell, I have to agree that this great instructable could use more detail.

    The awesome pictures & diagrams really save the day: if one were to try this project, the text is inadequate.

    Keep up the good work. P.S. I like your loft bed design.

    paul Starmer
    paul Starmer

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Hi What a fantastic how to site I found the information I needed quick and easy A++++++++++++++ Cheers


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice and detailed Instructable. The pictures are great, the details are easy to follow along, nice job, awesome Instructable. +1 rating.
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