Simplifying Stair Rise And
When I first started my career in carpentry,
building a set of stairs seemed like a
complicated and daunting task. We're not
talking finished oak, curved or spiral
staircases. I'm talking about your normal
carpet covered straight run staircases or porch
and deck staircases.
My first stair building experience sort of
took the mystery out of it all. I didn't have
to do much figuring because it was a deck
replacement job. All I did was save the old
stringers from the demo of the old deck. In
doing so it all started to make sense to me.
How the stairs were attached, the width of the
treads, and how high each step was became less
of a secret to me.
Anyone with the courage to take on this job
needs only patience, basic math, a framing
square and the ability to stand back and look
at the big picture.
The first thing I look at is how high it is
to the top of the landing or deck the stairs
will be rising to. A comfortable step is in the
7 to 8 inch range. With this in mind I divide
the height to the landing by seven. If the
height to the landing is 70" then it will take
10 rises to get to the top of the landing. I
used 70" to simplify this example. Ninety-nine
times out of a hundred it will be 7" and some
odd fraction. For instance if the height was 73
1/2", the rise would be 7 1/2".
When building stairs there is always one
less tread than there is risers. In this case
with 10 risers, that means there are 9
treads. When cutting my stringers, I like
to make the cuts for my treads 10" long. At
this dimension I can use a 2x12 for treads
without ripping them to a narrower width.
This gives me a nosing or overhang of 1 1/4".
It also makes it easier to figure out how much
room the stairs will require. In this case 9
treads X 10" = 90". The total run of the stairs
An example of how easy this works are stairs
that go from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor of
a house with an eight foot ceiling. This takes
14 risers at 7 and 5/8 inches (I've cut so many
of these it is forever imbedded in my mind).
This means there are 13 treads. Thirteen times
ten is 130". I always made my stairwell opening
120". This lets 10" of the stringer (a full
tread) sit on the deck or concrete floor. It
also leaves plenty of headroom for the stairs
below if there is a basement. The same well
opening above (120") also gives you
This can seem like an overwhelming project.
Like any other project, if you take the time
and patience and a little thought you can
acquire the ability.
(c) 2005 Mike
About the Author: Mike Merisko has been a
carpenter for 26 years. Most of those years
were spent in the homebuilding and remodeling
industries. He was also in business as a
carpentry and general contractor. While that is
his forte, he also has experience in bridge
building, commercial construction, and exhibit
building which is how he earns his living these
days. You can browse through articles by him
and othersat his web site.