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Forum topic by DaddyT posted 01-14-2010 11:26 PM 2228 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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267 posts in 4730 days

01-14-2010 11:26 PM

Alright, Im going to throw myself on your mercy’s. I got a friend wants me to build her a deck. Thing is, Ive never built stairs before. I know how to lay them out with a carpenters square but how do you get the pitch? How do you cut them to attach to the deck( after youve cut out the stair layout?) Its probably simple but I want to make sure of what Im doing before I tackle them. Ive looked around the internet but havent really found anything that gives me what I want. If any of ya’ll can help me out, I would greatly appreciate it.

BigDaddy T.

-- Jimi _ Measure twice, cut [email protected]#%#[email protected]!!!......measure twice, cut....

16 replies so far

View Raspar's profile


246 posts in 4369 days

#1 posted 01-14-2010 11:47 PM

Remember that algebra/geometry class we said we would never use in real life. LOL oh well. The way i do it is to measure the height and distance to cover to the landing of the stairs then you divide run by the number of steps you want and so you come up with a even number. You then take that number and and divide the rise should give you the run. It needs to be a comfortable step as well or you get to start over. I am not a professional but I usually get a rise/run of 7-8 inches/ 10-11 inches. If anyone else has anything to add feel free.

-- Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.

View Dave's profile


26 posts in 4288 days

#2 posted 01-15-2010 03:21 AM

Raspar is right but if you want a smaller rise that is ok but dont make a smaller run .
I built a deck for my neighbor and i think i did a 6” rise and a 12” run.As far as hanging them screw a board on
the back and then lag that to your deck. Hope you have fun every time i build a deck i enjoy it.
( 14 decks so far )

-- Dave

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4524 days

#3 posted 01-15-2010 04:17 AM

the other post cover it pretty good..depending on how wide you make the stairs, you will either have two or maybe three treads….if two…use a board as wide as your treads and screw them to it then lag the whole thing at the top..if your steps are wide , you might want to use three tread..if so screw the boards to the inside of each tread and do the same…lag them to your deck…..use this ”:

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 5226 days

#4 posted 01-15-2010 04:22 AM

The pitch is a given. As close to 7” riser and 11” tread as you can get.

So your job is to figure out how many treads and risers will get you there on your project.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View noknot's profile


548 posts in 4662 days

#5 posted 01-15-2010 04:39 AM

d.t by pitch do you mean angle?


View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 4421 days

#6 posted 01-15-2010 04:39 AM

I’ll give you an example to give you a clearer idea of what to do. But always check local building codes.

Let’s pick a random number for the total height distance between two floors. How about 103.5 inches? How can you quickly figure out equal risers for this total rise? Simple! Since I LOVE 7.5 inch risers lets do the math. Divide 103.5 by 7.5…...Bummer, the result is 13.8. That means you would have 13 risers at 7.5 inches and the final one would only be .8 of 7.5 inches. I can tell you that this is unacceptable and someone would trip.

The calculation tells us that we NEED 14 risers since we came up with 13.8. So, let’s divide 103.5 by 14. the result is 7.3928. This means our risers need to be 7.3928 inches. Well, you won’t find that number on a framing square! So how does .3928 inches convert to a fraction on a square? Well the decimal equivalent for 1/8th inch is .125 this means that 3/8 inch is 3 times .125 or .375. So our treads are just a tad over 7 and 3/8 inches. In reality they are actually 7 and 50/128 inches. Heck don’t even try to look for 128ths on a framing square! The point is this: See how simple it was to do the math? Always shoot for 7.5 inch risers and then go whatever direction you have to go to make them work out equal keeping in mind your local code’s MAXIMUM riser height.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 4421 days

#7 posted 01-15-2010 04:49 AM

Oh, by the way, set the stringers in place against the rim joist and nail through the top brace (of the stringer) into the rim to hold it. Lag screw through the brace into the rim joists to secure them permanently, pre-drilling for each screw. This can be done from behind the rim joist, but it is not as strong and some building codes do not allow it. If you have any other questions just go here.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View thewoodmaster's profile


62 posts in 4413 days

#8 posted 01-15-2010 05:09 AM

there is a website called that has a ton of resources for deck building. it costs like $20 to be a member for a year. it has a calculator that will help you figure out the rise and run of a stringer given the height of the deck. has info on mounting stringers to the deck and pretty much anything else you need about deck construction. what else would you expect from the best deck site?!


-- dan "insert pithy woodworking coment here"

View Tony_S's profile


1538 posts in 4303 days

#9 posted 01-15-2010 05:32 AM

UnionLabel gave a great description of working out the unit rise (Ive been building stairs for the better part of 20 years and I couldn’t have described it better) As for working out the unit run, you’ll have code restrictions on that as well, but somewhere between 10 and 11 inches would be pretty comfortable.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 5106 days

#10 posted 01-15-2010 05:53 AM

Learned some things here THANKS. I try to use 11” tread and 8” rise.
When it doubt check you local building codes.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View GFYS's profile


711 posts in 4691 days

#11 posted 01-15-2010 06:28 AM

current IRC residential stair code is max 7 1/2 rise to min 10 1/2 run, rises must not vary more than 3/8” Your runs may be longer, your rises may be shorter… that determines your angle

an 8 foot deck is 96” divided by 7 1/2” = 12.8 risers. Since we dont want one riser .8×7.5 we instead divide the 96” by an additional rise or 13. 96” divided by 13 is 7.3846 or…7 3/8” Lay out one stringer and cut it accurately then use it as a pattern for the other two. I usually make my rim the first riser and use a dropped header which means I have one less riser to actually make and my bottom riser will be 1 1/2” less than the rest if you are using framing lumber. Your tread run is 10 1/2” and the tread will be made with 2-2×6 or a 2×12 on 3 stringers and 3’+ wide. A closed riser will be formed with a 2×6 beneath the tread nose.

It would help if you draw this stringer profile with the pertinent dimensions before you purchase and start cutting.

good luck

View WoodshopJoe's profile


99 posts in 4480 days

#12 posted 01-15-2010 08:12 AM

Don’t forget that on the bottom step you need to account for the thickness for the tread in order to lower the entire stringer. So if you are using a 1.5” thick tread and your risers are 7.5” you need to cut the first riser at 6” tall. It’s really a pain to have the system installed and then realize that you forgot this and your first step is 1.5” taller than the rest. Of course I would never do this.

-- Joe Truehart - The Craftsmans Woodshop

View studie's profile


618 posts in 4367 days

#13 posted 01-15-2010 08:28 AM

All the posts above are great. When I make stair carriages, stringers, horses or whatever you call them I use 2×12s. Always cut to the point & then hand cut the rest out. I see some over cut the line & weaken the stringer. I like to add a 2×4 to each outside stringer on the inside of the assembly for strength. A 2×4 at the base of the stringers laid flat on the landing is called a thrust plate. It’s let in to the front of the stringers to create a notch for the stringers to “thrust against” so the assembly wont slide down. The thrust plate is bolted to the landing & makes everything rock solid. Always locate the final point of the landing as the total rise of the stairs as it may add or subtract the total hight. That is where the stairs rest on the ground ( which should be a concrete pad or slab larger than the footprint of the stringers & sometimes making for a ground level tread) may be sloping up or down so the final landing is where you make the total hight calculation from. Remember to use end cut solution on any cuts & most importantly the foot of the stringer where it will set on the concrete. The top connection of stringers is very important too. As mentioned above a 2×12 is good to land the top of the stringers against & big screws from the back into the stringer works good. You can also cut a groove to let in a framing clip at the point of contact (where the bottom of the stringer touches the 2×12) but that is not as clean a look as back screwing. Remember the thrust plate at the bottom landing keeps the entire assembly from sliding down & is very important, also reduces the top connection requirements. The most common error is to forget to reduce the first riser cut (at the bottom of the stringers) by the thickness of the stair tread. Good luck & remember, stairs are like art to a carpenter & safety is in the quality of the build. Sorry for the long post but I just love to build stairs & am told the Japanese consider them as an art form too. Oh & if you have the room most people like a 6” riser as it’s easy to climb. As Mics points out remember to let the stair tread protrude the riser face by 3/4, called a nosing

-- $tudie

View yarydoc's profile


417 posts in 4365 days

#14 posted 01-15-2010 08:51 AM

The simplest way is when your buying the lumber for the deck go buy the stair risers that are already cut and trace a pattern on your wood. If your getting the wood for your deck from them I doubt they will complain. When we were building ours I put 3 ½ in steps on them to help the wife get up. I laid them out on cardboard until it was like I wanted then traced it out.

-- Ray , Florence Alabama

View DaddyT's profile


267 posts in 4730 days

#15 posted 01-26-2010 05:20 PM

Thanks for all the help guys. I think I got it now. Much appreciated.

-- Jimi _ Measure twice, cut [email protected]#%#[email protected]!!!......measure twice, cut....

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