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How to Build Stairs

The Spruce Grove stair railings team at Dave’s Railings understands one thing very well: our beautiful and durable stair railings wouldn’t mean a thing if we didn’t have some stairs to go with them. Stairs are an essential and extraordinary human invention, helping us ascend and descend through the world with ease. Basements and attics wouldn’t exist without them, and neither would that one Led Zeppelin song, eh?

In this blog, we won’t just talk about how great stairs are—we’re going to teach you how to make them. While we definitely don’t recommend that you DIY a set of stairs in your home, it’s interesting to see how such a simple part of a home can take so much work (and math) to create.

Step 1: Make Some Measurements

Whip out the tape measure and a calculator, and bring a friend—it’s time to take some measurements and do some simple calculations to get a basic idea of how your stairs will be laid out in your home. First, use your tape measure to find the “total rise” of your staircase, or the distance from the bottom of your stairs to the top of your stairs. Next, measure the lateral floor area (called the “run”) on which your stairs will be placed. Keep this number handy for later.

Step 2: Calculate Your Total Number of Stairs

Pull out your calculator (or your finely tuned mathematical mind) and divide the total rise of your stairs by the typical rise of a single step. The average step is about seven inches high, so use this as your standard.

Let’s say your total rise is 70 inches. That means 70 total inches divided by 7 inches per step would equal 10 total steps. That’s easy math, right? Don’t worry, the math gets harder from here.

Step 3: Find The Length of Your Stringers

Stringers are the sturdy pieces of wood that hold your stairs up and run diagonally beneath them. Your actual stairs will eventually be attached to this stringers. To find the length of these stringers, you’ll need to look way back to your days in middle school geometry to find the hypotenuse of a triangle. Multiply the length of the run by itself (we’ll say the run is 80 inches, so 80 x 80 = 6400), then multiply the total rise by itself (70 x 70 = 4900). Next, add these two figures together (6400 + 4900 = 11300). Finally, find the square root of this number (sqr 11300 = 106.3 inches). There you have it—the length of your stringers. If a middle schooler can do the math, so can you!

Step 4: Attach Your Stringers to Your Structure

This is where things get a little tricky for DIYers. First, figure out how many stringers you’ll need. Stringers are usually placed about two feet apart from each other, so if your stairs are going to be wide and luxurious, you’ll need to add an extra stringer or two for support.

If your stairs sit flush with the vertical wall where they will be placed, you’ll simply be able to mount the stairs to the existing framework of your home. If your stairs won’t be flush, you’ll need to purchase extenders that will bridge that gap.

That’s it for part 1 of our blog series on the stair-building process. Stay tuned for part 2, and check out our other blogs until then!