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Here using simple arithmetic we explain how to make stair design calculations: number of steps, step riser height, total stair height or rise, total stair length or run. We explain how total elevation change between two levels or floors (rise) and stair length (run) are used to calculate the right measurements when building indoor or exterior stairs to fit the building or the terrain. We describe how to translate the stair rise and run into a specific number of stair treads and risers that will be uniform and of proper (safe) dimension. What rules-of-thumb should I follow to build a comfortable walk-able low angle staircase? I've seen several rules such as the sum of one tread and one riser should always be equal or greater than 17; or two treads plus one riser should add up to around 28 or 29. The concept is that a low rise stair usually has, just as you suggest, a tread that provides a "longer" walking surface. Our exterior stair photo at left illustrates one stair builder's approach to a low slope stairway.
And of course long stair runs due to a very tall total rise (more than 12 feet) also is likely to require an intermediate stair platform as well. So I marked off the landing locations and simply walked up and down the slope while counting the number of steps I took as I did so.
In this case I took 14 steps to travel the slope which equates to 14 treads - 24a€? long. I also counted steps made on level ground over the same distance as the length of the stair and came up with 12 so I think 14 is conservative considering the slope but about right for my needs. Based on the figures you provided we describe for other readers the basics of stair design calculations that consider total rise, total run, and step riser height and step tread depth.
Of course you'll want to make the stair treads deeper front-to back to make such short rise steps safe and comfortable.
And secure hand railings on both sides of the stairs will be important for folks for whom stairs are difficult. The problem is this: you can indeed re-build a stairway to reduce the riser height but to do so the depth of each tread has to increase significantly too.
In the interior of most homes, doubling the run of a stairway between floors would be horribly expensive - if it would fit at all, or making a long stairway that winds or turns - taking more room in other dimensions. I suspect that the cost of a stair rebuild indoors would be much higher than the cost of adding a stair lift. Definition of stairway run: the run of a stairway is the total horizontal distance traveled by a walker using the stairs, from the first riser to the last riser. Definition of stairway rise: the rise of a stairway is the total vertical height of a stairway between the walking surface just before the first stairway tread or step up and the beginning of the horizontal walking surface reached at the top of the stairs.
Here is how you can measure the actual stair rise and run, followed by how to calculate the same data.
Our first illustration at left shows an example rise and run for a simple uniform-tread depth and riser height stairway. Simply extend a measuring tape down through the stairway opening in the upper floor and measure the distance between the surface of the upper floor or level and the surface of the lower floor or level. But measuring the rise and run between two elevations that are not parallel and not flat, such as for an exterior stairway built over sloping ground can be more difficult (you cannot measure the vertical distance directly as we did above).
What many stair builders do is simply lay a (hopefully straight) stair stringer between the two elevations, measure the actual rise and run distances, and lay-out the stair dimensions on the fly by measuring and marking along the side surface of the stringer.
The approach of placing a stringer along the desired stair slope, measuring and marking layout immediately on the stringer works acceptably if terrain shape permits and if you are careful with stair layout.
The direct stairway layout marking along the stair stringer is easy if we are building interior stairs between floors (sketch at left) or exterior stairs down a concave slope (sketch below left) but this approach won't handle a convex slope (below right) unless we first excavate the hillside or raise the entire stair design and assembly to span above the high point on the slope. However some terrain shapes are irregular enough or are humped so that you cannot just take off measurements directly. Certainly designing and building stairs with uniform tread depth and riser height over rough ground like that in our photo (left) can be a serious challenge.
Here we provide an alternative crude but effective approach to stair rise and run measurement using string, plumb line, and level, along with a stick or board (or two of them) of sufficient length.
Basically we project a horizontal line out from the upper elevation over the landing spot for the stairway, using that line to measure both stair run and stair rise accurately. If the horizontal run distance is small, you can get by with straight lumber tacked in place temporarily to permit measurement of horizontal run projection and vertical rise. Make certain that the horizontal boards are straight and that they are held level and that your vertical board, useful for holding up the outer end of that upper horizontal member is also vertical. For longer distances than the length of boards you have on hand, you will do fine with string to set out the horizontal distance, a vertical pole, and a plumb line and measuring tape. Below, for completeness but in small font, we include how to obtain stair rise and run lengths using sine and cosine tables - not a process we are seriously recommending. Our photo shows a stairway during construction by the author & an associate (Arthur Cady).
By supporting the stringer above the hillside we bypassed the irregularities of the slope itself,but as you can see from the photo, because we had to land on a sloping surface the two stringers could not be identical, yet they had to line up properly for the treads to be level. Using the longer (downhill) stringer as the mater pattern we measured and laid out the tread positions along the stringer surface, then aligned the two stringer tops and mapped the master layout onto the inner side of the uphill, shorter stringer. Best design would have insisted on a level landing platform at the stair bottom but in the real world we can't always meet that criteria. Had we installed a level landing platform the drive would have become unusable by the client's vehicles. The geometry approach to calculating stair rise and run over rough terrain when you have only two measurements works correctly provided you know enough triangular geometry to convert between your sloped-line measurement (the hypotenuse of the triangle) and the triangle's other sides that form the rise & run dimensions. In a geometry or trigonometry text you'll see that when we refer to the angle ab we mean the angle formed at the intersection of lines a and b, or in this case the lower left angle in our sketch. Geometry teaches that if we know three pieces of data about a right triangle (one side length and two angles, or two side lengths and one angle) we can obtain all of the other data about a triangle - all of its angles, and the actual lengths of all of its sides. Our carpenter's square at left is one such tool, though there are some neat level tools that, placed on a slope, will simply give you the angle directly as a readout. If you don't think this whole sine-cosine process is absolutely horrible for field use in building a set of stairs then we're not on the same planet.
We can and often do use this basic right triangle function a2 =b2 +c2 in deck building to be sure that we are placing the deck sides at right angles to the building by using the 6-8-10 rule to make sure that a floor or deck is square or at right angles to a building wall.
Stair codes talk about slope chiefly when discussing how much out of level a stair tread may be from front to rear or from side to side to avoid a slip and fall hazard.
In our photo you can see an implementation of a stairway on a very low slope rise at the Mohammed V. Really this means we need 19 steps up or 19 risers to make up the vertical rise - the total change in grade.
Watch out: we still have to check the riser height and actual number of steps against the horizontal run space as follows. For most indoor and many outdoor steps and stairs we simply choose a standard tread width (say 11") and we allow the number of steps to determine the total horizontal run of the stair case.
But for our example low-slope outdoor stair situation, the stairs have to climb a low slope, traversing extra distance. The total rise needed for the stairs is in conflict with the total run needed for the stairs. In other words, you can't keep stair riser height within an acceptable range and traverse the horizontal run distance without deepening the stair treads. This means you're going to make your stair treads deeper, but unfortunately, keeping riser height to within acceptable bounds and making the stair run match the required length, the result may be an awkward halting-walk stairway. At left there is a trip hazard (a toe catcher) on these outdoor steps because the landscape ties extend up above the black asphalt walking surface near the end of the stair step. Question: Using pre-fab stairs - Is there an exception to the riser height variation for the very first step of the staircase? Watch out: be sure to measure the height difference (deck surface to ground surface) at a projected point along a horizontal line from the edge of the deck out to the location, in horizontal distance, of the front edge of the nose of the very first or lowest step of the stairway. If you need a greater adjustment in the stair height between the ground surface and the deck surface in order to avoid having to re-cut a whole new pair of stair stringers, sometimes that can be accommodated by changing the height of the surface of the concrete or other masonry platform that many building departments and local codes require be placed as a landing at the bottom of the stairs. What is the run length needed for a rise of 108" using an 11" tread depth and 8" step rise - A.K. It's important to get comfortable with the basic math in stair calculations, and it's not too hard. Since an 8-inch step riser height is a bit too high for safe comfortable stairway use anyway, instead of trying a still taller step to calculate the number of steps needed, I tried smaller stair rises. Now with 15 risers, if I make the individual tread depth (that's the horizontal tread run distance) 11 inches, our stairway will have a run of 15 x 11 = 165" in length.

I'd check to be sure that we had proper head clearance for the stairwell and that a run of 165" doesn't run into a horizontal distance or space problem before framing the stairs.
Question: how can I calculate stair tread rise & depth from stair slope measured in degrees? In the United States stair specifications for climbable steps are discussed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, section 4.9, Stairs, from which we excerpt below.
Continue reading at STAIR RISER SPECIFICATIONS or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.
I have a question about sealing (not surface sealing) but end sealing of stairs so that dust does not come up and stair ends of carpet. However,if there are AIR LEAKS through the stairs the dust deposited by moving air could show up as dark stains.
Is there a code for building outdoor steps made of natural material such as used granite curbing? My problem is that the stairwell will need to be very, very short as I do not have that much space for it as it will end close to a foundation wall. If you can't meet safe stair tread dimensions of rise and run with your existing design you most likely need to change the design to make a longer total stairway run and then include a turn or intermediate platform. See STAIR DIMENSIONS, WIDTH, HEIGHT to read a complete series of articles on stair dimensions.
My problem is, I do not have a lot of boards that are at least 10 inches wide and was wondering if I can splice together two smaller boards to make some of the treads, especially if I put the narrower board towards the back. I've often built-up wider boards using a biscuit joiner and Gorilla glue or other polyurethane glues.
OSHA estimates that there are 24,882 injuries and as many as 36 fatalities per year due to falls from stairways and ladders used in construction. Our recommended books about building & mechanical systems design, inspection, problem diagnosis, and repair, and about indoor environment and IAQ testing, diagnosis, and cleanup are at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. About UsThe BUILD Blog is a discussion of modern design in the Pacific NW written by BUILD LLC, an industrious architecture company based in Seattle, Washington. BUILD just finished up a residential project in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood and it includes a stair design that we think you’ll find interesting. In addition to highlighting our latest stair, we’ve got 6 bullet points for successful stair design.
I love the articulate detail and wholesome thought into what could have been a typical straight forward staircase.
In my opinion, I find stairs to be the most important part of a home but it also happens to be the most difficult to design. Stair codes are a great example of how to use code regulations and still achieve good design, given that the rules are so specifically laid out.
Wonderful integration between the cabinet and the stairs, I especially like the rods as they separate the stairs from the rest of the living space.
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After emerge at the ideas for under stair storage picturecollection slowly, hopefully you will found a little fresh reference to be applyed on your own design. Stair design basics: calculating step riser height, step tread depth, total rise, total run, intermediate platform lengths. Details of methods for accurate stairway rise & run measurement are provided for tough cases such as building a stair over steep slopes and irregular surfaces. We also describe how to design and build low-slope or low angle stairways with special consideration for tread and landing dimensions to avoid halting-walk stairs and other trip hazards. Bernie Campbalik who taught us carpentry, including stair building, used a rule of thumb that basically makes the run longer when the rise is shorter. He used a combination of asphalt and landscape ties to build these nice looking steps that incorporate several trip hazards. On these stairs the wet wooden landscape tie will be more slippery than the asphalt walking surface. While generally it's good to use a deeper stair tread (treads less than 11-inches in depth are not recommended), there may be some intermediate depths (or step run) such as around two feet that make for awkward walking and may risk stair falls. I now think any rule can at best only make general recommendations for all the low-slope possibilities. Meanwhile I'll provide my own versions, not to scale, of your stair dimension proposal and an alternative that you might want to consider and then adjust to your taste. For example if you have a total rise of five feet and you want a 3-inch step rise you'd divide (5x12=60) 60 inches by 3 inches to get 20 steps that you'd need to build to climb up five feet.
That means that the entire run (horizontal length) of the stairway will get much longer than it is now, perhaps double. It's easy to measure the horizontal run and vertical rise for a stairway built between two parallel and flat surfaces - such as inside a building between two floors. If you're not careful you will make a measurement error, leading to miscalculations among total rise, run, and step and riser dimensions.
It's better to make an accurate and direct measurement of the stairway run and rise so that your calculated tread depths and riser heights will be proper and uniform. Typically we use our stringer 2x lumber (before it has been cut to length) for this purpose since by definition the diagonal stringer will be longer than the horizontal stair run.
We faced a double difficulty of constructing a (replacement) exterior stairway over a rough hillside and stairs that had to land on a sloping surface. The treads were placed between the stringers, supported by both cleats and end-nailing through the stringers from outside.
The result is a first step with uneven riser height depending on where you enter the stairway.
Using a calculator and it's square root function, and the most basic knowledge of geometry is not enough - we also need a table of sine and cosine values, functions readily found these days online.
You can do this using a transit, a protractor or other angle measuring tool either by placing your angular measuring tool on the sloped surface of the stringer side a, or by actually measuring the angle formed between side a and a horizontal or level surface. Actually I don't like an 11-inch deep tread with such a short rise but it's code compliant.
But there is a second trip hazard: the total step depth from nose to riser may be too short for comfortable walking. That will avoid any error in calculating total stairway height due to any slope in the actual ground surface.
Stair tread ends, typically oak, do not emit dust particles againt which sealing would be needed.
IN that case the air leaks might be at any of the four sides of a stair tread and would probably vary from one step to another. Building codes typically are performance-based in thinking and do not usually address specific materials. I am building a new staircase to my basement via a big utility closet which I do not use (36x36).
When I've tested the joints by trying to split such a board the split breaks elsewhere in the wood, not at the joint. Nearly half of these injuries are serious enough to require time off the job--11,570 lost workday injuries and 13,312 non-lost workday injuries occur annually due to falls from stairways and ladders used in construction.
The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. In our book, stair design is one of the most challenging aspects of architecture because of the bandwidth it requires.
These are some behind the scene tips that we’ve gathered over many years of designing, building, and pulling our hair out over stair design. The stair needs to be designed, constructed and paid for no matter what – so it might as well become a significant feature to the home. The building code has stringent parameters around stair design –right down to the very dimensions. When architecture is designed and constructed intelligently, it can perform a variety of functions at the same time. Most stairs sit adjacent to other important functions; dovetailing those functions together is a great way to develop the craftsmanship and make everything count. Construction is messy, there are a lot of moving parts, and the variables are in constant flux.
Along with the changing variables, it seems that the 8×8 steel angle shown in your detail became a continuous plate beneath the treads with whatever wall anchoring concealed behind the finish. Also, extremely good points for making the vertical transition element a major focal point. We realized that the treads would be more laterally stiff if the steel extended out all the way.

Pretty creative and seamless transition of vertical rods into the bookcase at bottom of the stairs. It looks cantilevered, so are there steel plates under each tread which are bolted to structure within the wall? As we know that the stair is one of the main parts of our home and is noticed by everyone, that’s why it must be designed well. But if you don't like, we have black and white under stair storage or wooden stair steps interior design ideas which supply unexpected atmosphere to environment bordering and created with advanced design.
Finally, we also explain how to adjust factory-built or pre-fab stairs to the exact stair rise dimension in your installation.
If we make the rise too short (under 4 inches of rise) it's not a step at all, it's a trip hazard. Walkers will naturally tend to step on the wooden surface because it forms the leading edge of each step. A better stair design may involve increasing the rise and lengthening one or more steps into a platform of 36" or more of horizontal walking surface. I figured that if I could determine the optimum number of steps to comfortably traverse the distance of the slope of my proposed staircase I would then know the correct number of treads.
The builders made each step a long walking surface, more than 36-inches in this case, and they also provided a visual cue of the location of each step by using a light colored stone riser.
You can use granite curbing or any other material for steps provided the steps are properly constructed. 6 ft of open space after opening up and extending the closet flooring space for some length of the run. I am now looking to turn them into my new stairs, as mine were made with 2x10s before I bought the house, not exactly attractive.
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The building code regulates strict provisions over stair design, stairs are typically located where several materials integrate together, stairs can be geometrically complex, and stairs are often the architectural highlight of a project.
In this particular residence, the stair is located in the center of the house and can be seen from just about everywhere inside (and outside for that matter). While the governing codes could be viewed as limiting, they also offer design opportunities through their translation.
As the design of this stair developed it become clear that a bank of living room cabinets would provide practical storage and could also serve as a guardrail for the stair down to the basement. Even the 4” diameter steel post at the bottom of the stairs (required to hold up the 2nd floor) is integrated into the composition here.  The end of the kitchen counter aligns with the stair and the living room cabinets.
Elements meet where they do for specific reasons; material choices are made based on rationale. When the site conditions change, exercise the flexibility to change with them -or dance with them, as we like to say.
In case you missed it, we recently poked some fun at stairs that don’t meet the building code, check it out here. And Ralph, I will respectfully disagree with your POV regarding the handrail being relocated from the GWB wall to the vertical rods.
There are so many things to consider before we do the building of the stair and one of them is measuring stair rail height. Existing stairway will be demo'ed and floored over for larger dining room (pre 1950 house). Town code needs one means of egress which is already present via the walkout basement doors. I clamp both edge to edge and I use additional lumber and clamps to hold the boards dead flat against cupping during drying of the glue.
Better would have been an original calculation of the total number of steps and risers for the whole stair run, making all steps identical in rise and run. More importantly, they show that compliance with OSHA's requirements for the safe use of ladders and stairways could have prevented many of these injuries. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. An innovative stair design requires an architect to put their structural engineer cap on to some degree and, during construction, a modern stair requires several trades (framers, finish carpenters, steel workers, cabinet makers, etc) to coordinate and communicate successfully together.
In addition to this stair being perfectly functional, we designated it as a visual sculptural piece within the home. We like to design with an “everything it needs to be and nothing more” attitude and the building code gives us a backbone to this philosophy.
In order for a composition like this (with steel, finish carpentry and cabinets) to come together nicely, everyone needs to be in synch. On this particular stair we were originally planning to align the 5th tread from the bottom with the top of the book cabinet and kitchen cabinet.
Steel handrail should have been incorporated into vertical rods with short horizontal rods attached to rail, instead on on GWB wall. Stair rail is known as one important part of the stair since it protects people from falling and slipping while they are climbing up and down through the stair.
When the glue has dried I remove the clamps and sand the extruded extra glue off leaving a nice surface. Galow specializes in residential construction including both new homes and repairs, renovations, and additions.
Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. So basically, stairs are unusually complicated for their relative amount of square footage. We decided to integrate the stair with the adjacent cabinets for a deliberate sense of harmony in the living spaces; the delicate vertical steel guardrails become a pleasing backdrop to the living room. Every piece of steel, every dimension and every guard in this stair design is there for a reason; there’s nothing superfluous. The cabinet maker has to ask the right questions of the steel worker and vice versa; the architect and builder have to be engaged in the conversation with their sleeves rolled up ready to problem solve. The top of the book cabinet would have transitioned into one of the treads which would have been inset in the kitchen countertop as a cutting board. Long steel plate under wood stairs should have been sandwiched between 2 wood planks, invisible to eye. Stair rail is a standard issue of safety feature people should pay serious attention at, including the way you calculate stair rail height.Having a professional contractor to help you with that kind of thing might be a good idea, but when you do not have an enough amount of money, you should consider about doing it by yourself.
Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. The heavy walnut is used at the lower cabinets and the closed stair treads under 36” creating a dark band of wood at the base. But the variables changed; we ended up raising the level of the main floor ceiling which, subsequently, changed the geometry of the stair. Okay, the very first thing you need to obtain here is the measurement tape as the right tool to help calculate the height of hand rail. Read more Leveling The Subfloor In The Bathroom How To Refinish Ugly Stairs Got A Bad Batch Of Behr Paint Prepping The Kitchen For Paint How To Install Baseboards With Rosettes Install A Small Ceramic Tile Floor Working With Different Grades Of Plywood Planning Your Patio How To Shovel Snow Kitchens Bathrooms Heating & Cooling Doors & Windows Roofing Outdoors Painting Flooring Plumbing Electrical Walls & Framing DIY Projects Interior Spaces All Articles Roofing Videos Kitchen & Bathroom Videos Flooring Videos Door & Window Videos Wall & Framing Videos Painting Videos Fence & Deck Videos Heating & Cooling Videos Outdoor Videos Plumbing Videos Electrical Videos Other Project Videos All Videos Home · Terms Of Use · Privacy Policy · About · Sitemap · BlogCopyright © 2016 DIY in a hour.
It’s a nice attenuated look; it’s also a diagram of the building code if you’ve got your x-ray vision on. The lighter maple hardwood treads are used above the level of the countertops to differentiate the break from closed risers and open risers; the maple also relates with the flooring at the level above. So we re-jiggered the design for the 5th tread to become a solid maple open tread that floats over the top of the adjacent cabinets.
The horizontal steel guards between open risers (required by the building code) are extensions of the vertical steel guardrails.
You could it with the pencil; make sure you choose the top of any existing railing lines up with the wall. With the help of a level, you will be able to reach top of the railing where you can place the mark on the wall.Then, you should also measure the same spot on the stair by using the pencil and place it on the wall.

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