Tips on How to Build Stairs in New House Framing

Stair building methods have not changed much over the years, but with the advent of stricter local building codes in recent years it has become more of an exacting science. Many localities have enacted ordinances that must be adhered to in order to pass the house framing inspection. The days of building steps that are not safe to navigate, lack proper headroom, built shoddily, or too steep have long since passed by.

If you are a general or house framing contractor, you must be familiar with these local codes in order to be successful. In the area where I live they can vary greatly from one jurisdiction to the next, sometimes from one side of the street to the other due to urban sprawl.

Stair Building Guidelines

These are the most common codes in my area for single family dwellings and will probably differ slightly in yours, always check with your local building department.

 

  • The minimum required headroom is 6' 8".
  • Stair tread depth is between 10" and 11 1/4".
  • Riser height is 7 3/8" - 8 1/8".
  • Angle of incline 34 - 40 degrees.
  • Bull nose (stair tread overhang) 3/4" -1 1/4".
  • Minimum finished stairway width of three feet.
  • Minimum clear space at the bottom and top of staircase in direction of travel is three feet, this is needed for moving furniture as well as people.
  • Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of steps with four or more risers, located 34" - 38" above the treads bull nose.
Failure to follow local guidelines will probably result in the staircase failing inspection and costing time as well as money.

 

Tips

  1. The process for building stairs always begins with finding the rise and run and dividing them into even comfortable increments. No matter what type (straight, 90 degree L - shaped, winders, 180 degree U - shaped, or curved) the process always begins this way.
  2. The last thing you need is a squeaky set of steps, use a liberal amount of glue, anytime wood contacts wood.
  3. Measure three - four times and cut only once.
  4. If you plan to carpet the stairs a little money can be saved by using 3/4" scraps left over from the sub floor as risers.

 

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