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5 Things To Consider Before Building a Staircase

Construction of any kind can be a big task, but it’s especially so when it comes to making a staircase. Following the huge number of strict building codes and safety regulations may feel like a headache, but remember, they are there to help make the work zone a safe environment. That said, the technical side of building a staircase isn’t too difficult. With basic carpentry skills and a bit of patience, you can build a safe and secure set of stairs that looks great! Here are five things to consider before you start.

1. Know the Components
A simple staircase really isn’t that complicated. It's basically just three main parts: the stringers, threads and risers. Stringers are sloped boards that are underneath the steps. You can think of them as the foundation of the stairs. They hold and distribute the weight of the staircase and anyone stepping on the stairs. Threads are the actual “step” that you step on. This is where your foot makes contact with the stairs, and threads can be made of many different materials, such as wood, metal, stone and more. Risers are the vertical part between each step. They determine how much elevation there is between each step and work to protect the stringers. They are also sometimes nonexistent in floating staircases.

2. Know the Measurements
We expect all stairs to be a uniform height, and even a slight change in height between steps can create a tripping hazard. Each step needs to be exactly the right height to make climbing as easy as possible. Be sure to take the necessary time and be patient when measuring and installing the steps. The dimensions of your house might make getting the exact height of each step a little tricky, but with careful measurements, you can have a staircase that looks great and won’t trip up your guests.

3. Know How the Stairs Will Attach to the Existing Structure
Before you start working on your new staircase, it's important to ask how it will be attached to the building. If the stairs will be flush with the bottom of the floor, then you can attach the stringers to the framework that already exists. If you are building stairs for a deck or floating stairs that are connected to the wall, then they may need additional support. It’s also best to check the strength of your walls and floors to ensure they can hold the weight of the stairs and pressure from people walking on them.

4. How Will the Stairs Be Used?
If you are building a staircase intended to have heavy traffic, it might be a good idea to add wider steps. If multiple people are going to be going up and down at the same time, then there might need to be handrails on either side and the extra weight should be taken into account before construction begins. If the stairs will be outside, then you also have to deal with rain, moisture and extreme temperature differences. Your stairs might need an extra coat of paint or varnish to protect them from the weather, and nonslip pads for when the steps are slick with rain. Be sure to take all of this into account when planning your new stairs.

5. Follow the Codes
Strict building codes can make stairs difficult to build. Codes may vary based on location and use, so always look into your city guidelines before you begin. Here are some common restrictions that most states follow.
•Width: The width of the staircase (or the side-to-side distance) needs to be at least 36 inches. This does not include handrails, which lower the distance. Narrow stairways are considered a hazard.
•Riser Height: The riser height (or distance you raise your foot up or lower your foot down to the next step) should be no more than 7 ¾ inches. Staircases that are too high pose a risk, while those that are too short can also be a hazard. Ideally, your stairs should all be as close to identical as possible.
•Tread: The tread (or flat top of the stair) needs to be at least 10 inches long and deep enough so your foot can easily rest on the stair.