How to Install Decking on Stairs
A deck enhances the value of your house by giving you a place to enjoy your backyard comfortably. Composite wood panels and tiles are low-maintenance materials that offer a stunning, long-lasting aesthetic appeal for your outdoor living area. If you have an elevated deck, you’ll need to install stairs to access it safely. Use this guide to learn how to build decking stairs.
How Much Does It Cost to Put Stairs on a Deck?
The price to install stairs depends on several factors, but your investment comes with invaluable benefits. If you attach stairs to the existing platform, you’ll make your outdoor living space much more functional. With moisture-resistant steps, you and your guests can quickly and safely access the rest of your backyard. Consider these factors to determine how much it would cost to attach stairs to your deck.
1. The Size of the Stairs
You can determine what you’ll pay based on the length and width of the materials and the height from the ground to the edge of the deck. The stairs’ width will help you determine how many stringers you need to order for your deck stairs.
After you measure the gap from the deck to the ground, you’ll know how many steps to make. Consider how wide you want your stairs to be, depending on your design and comfort level. Legal and safety regulations in your local area may require you to have a certain number of steps or make the stairs a minimum size.
2. Decking Material
The materials you choose for the stairs will also affect the cost of your project. To ensure a clean look for your overall outdoor living area, you should install the stairs with the same material that you used for the platform. Composite wood is an excellent decking material because of its:
- Eco-friendliness: Composite wood panels include recycled plastic and various species of wood. Our company also complies with safety, environmental and health guidelines, and we seek to reduce our carbon footprint during the manufacturing process.
- Durability: NewTechWood UltraShield® is an engineered wood panel that is highly resistant to weather damage, pest infestations and mold growth because of its co-extruded cap and composite core.
- Low maintenance: To clean your new composite wood deck, remove the occasional debris and sweep it regularly instead of bringing out the powerwasher and other heavy equipment.
- Long lifespan: Engineered wood doesn’t splinter, scratch, fade or crack, so it can last a long time on your property without needing a replacement.
- High value: Given all of these positive qualities, this material can increase your home’s value if you eventually want to resell it.
Since composite tiles and panels are easy enough to install, you can also save money in labor costs that you would have to pay if you hired a contractor.
Your deck steps require support from a railing to ensure the safety of people walking on it, especially if you have a high-reaching staircase. The cost to install the handrail depends on the total length and the material you choose. Measure the length of the steps, the number of posts and the balusters’ dimensions to calculate how much railing material you’ll need. Find out the legal requirements of your local community or county to determine the length of your railing.
The various materials that go into a railing include:
- Post caps
- Hand, cap or top rail
- Support or sub rail
- Bottom rail
- Spindles, pickets or balusters
- Hardware and joinery
Instead of buying all of these parts separately, you could get a composite wood deck railing set that comes with all the parts you need.
4. Labor Costs vs. DIY
If you hire a professional to install the stairs to your deck, keep in mind that the project will be more expensive. The majority of the project’s total price includes labor costs, which depends on the following factors:
- The number of materials
- The complexity of the design
- The location of your home
- The experience level of the team you hire
- The size of the deck and length of the railing
You can install the stairs to your outdoor living area yourself if you have a little experience working with composite wood and the right equipment. At NewTechWood, our deck tiles and steps are easy enough for a child to install them. However, since you would need to follow legal requirements and work with extensive materials and tools, you could hire a contractor if you feel more comfortable.
Required Tools for Building Deck Stairs
As you begin your stair installation project, get the following tools ready to know you’ll have them on hand when you need them.
- Wheelbarrow: A wheelbarrow can help you efficiently transport all the equipment and materials you’ll need for your project to the worksite.
- Measuring tape: Have a steel tape measure to find out the length and width of each engineered wood decking so that you can fit these components into your design.
- Chalk line: With this handy precision equipment, you can snap a chalk-coated string onto the composite material and leave a straight mark.
- Writing utensil: Use a pencil or a piece of chalk to mark where you’re going to cut or install a component of the stairway. When working with composite wood, it’s best to use chalk because it wipes off easily.
- Framing square: A steel square measures the rise and run of each step to create right angles and mark the part of the wood you need to cut off to make stringers.
- Straight edge: Create and double-check lines to cut the stringers and other composite materials.
- Safety glasses: If you’re ever cutting engineered wood or other materials, protect your eyes from dust and other debris with safety goggles.
- Level: Ensure your surfaces are even with a level so that your stairs will have a steady surface. You could also use a level to check the framing, boards and completed stair assembly. For measuring angles, you should have a T-level with measurements on hand.
- Sawhorse:This tool will help you cut a piece of composite wood or pressure-treated lumber with a handsaw.
- Cordless drill: A cordless, handheld drill securely attaches all the screws that go into the posts and steps. It’s easier and more efficient than a nail gun or a screwdriver.
- Compound miter saw: Cut through composite panels and other materials at the precise angle that you need for the various components of your decking stairs.
- Hammer: A framing hammer secures joist nails and framing in places where a nail gun or cordless drill won’t fit. Due to the dense composite core in our wooden panels, it’s durable to withstand any type of hammer.
- Circular saw and blades: A circular saw can help you cut straight lines into engineered wood paneling and other parts of the deck.
- Jigsaw: Add a decorative design or accommodate the unique features of your deck stairs. This type of saw is easy to use, and it allows you to make straight or curved cuts.
- Stair gauge: A pair of stair gauges hold a piece of wood in place so that you can make repeated cuts into the stringers, steps and deck boards.
- Trowel: Smooth out surfaces, especially the concrete footing that serves as the foundation of your deck stairs.
- Shovel: Use a shovel to dig a hole in the soil and make way for the foundation or footing.
- Handsaw: A standard handsaw can help you cut wood planks into various shapes, depending on your need for framing, treads and risers.
Required Materials for Installing Decking on Stairs
Here are the components that you need to create the stairway to your composite wood deck. Make sure you order these materials before beginning your project so you know that they’ll arrive on time.
1. What Do You Use for Stringers on Deck Stairs?
Stringer boards go on either side of the stairs to make sure your steps are level and sturdy. Use these materials for building and installing the stringers:
- Composite wood stringers: For a clean look, you could install engineered wood pre-cut stringers on the outer edges of the stairs that would be visible, and use pressure-treated lumber for additional stringers.
- Pressure-treated lumber: This material is a durable framing material that you could use for the parts of your stairs that hold up the steps. If you decide to cut the stringer yourself, use a 2-by-12 plank of pressure-treated lumber. You could also use pre-cut stringers from your local hardware store to save time and energy. Get a few extra 2-by-12 planks for the skirting board, the protective outer covering of the stringers. Use 2-by-8 planks under the boards of your composite wood deck to support the stringers and steps.
- Fasteners: As you attach the stringers to the toe kicks and the foundation of the stairs, use decking screws or clips. Metal hangers allow you to connect the stringers to the wooden framing. Whether you’re working with pressure-treated lumber or engineered wood, make sure all the attachments you use, such as 10d nails and stair brackets, are compatible with the material.
2. What Do You Use for the Foundation of Deck Stairs?
Your stairway needs a sturdy concrete foundation to accommodate the force exerted on the steps. You’ll need the following materials for the footing:
- Concrete: To create the foundation where the bottom of the stringers will attach to the ground, use a fast-drying cement mix and concrete tube forms. Masonry anchors and concrete anchor bolts go on top of the footing and secure the stringers in place.
- Gravel: This material mixes with the fast-drying cement to form concrete. You could also use this material to create the landing for the footing.
- Furring strips:These pieces made from pressure-treated wood attach to the framing so that the surface of your stairs is level.
3. What Do You Use for Stair Risers on Deck?
The stair riser, or toe kick, is the vertical panel between the treads of the steps. To create these components, you’ll need:
- Composite wood panels: Two pieces of rectangular engineered wood panels can go between the footsteps and connect to the stringer, providing you with a durable, reliable staircase for your deck.
- Fasteners:Decking clips or screws allow you to attach the risers to the treads and stringers. Any carriage bolts, washers or nuts you use should have the proper rating for the material you use.
- End caps: To complete the look of your composite wood risers,you should get end caps that prevent moisture damage and enhance your stairs’ appearance.
4. What Do You Use for the Treads on Decking Stairs?
The treads are the platforms of the steps that you’ll walk on. Here are the materials you’ll need to build the footsteps:
- Composite wood:High-quality composite decking has the durability and strength to support the exerted force required for stairs. The Cortes series features a solid deck board that’s perfect for the steps on a staircase. You could also use engineered wood deck tiles for the treads. If you decide to install a landing platform at the top of the stairs or midway through, use engineered wood tiles.
- Stair trim: If you want to use deck tiles for the treads of your staircase, you should make sure that you have the proper trim and accessories.
- Fasteners: Use the appropriate screws, clips and end caps to hold your treads in place, along with deck post bases and brackets for sturdy support.
5. What Do You Use for the Railings for Deck Stairs?
To install the railings for your deck stairs, you need the following materials:
- Composite handrail set: Our composite wood deck rails come in four colors to complement your backyard’s overall design.
- Post sleeves: These sleeves make up the outer portion of the railing posts to enhance the visual appeal of your stairs.
- Post collars or skirts: Collars attach to the top of the post, and the skirts go on the bottom. Each provides a seal for the ends of the post to prevent moisture damage and give it a finished look.
- Composite deck post caps: These caps attach to the collars and provide a finished look for the composite wood posts.
- PVC/vinyl fence cement: Use this material to attach the posts of your handrail to the footing.
- Fasteners: You need brackets and screws that are adequate for securing the railing in place.
How Do You Measure Stairs for a Deck?
Figure out the dimensions for the stairs to your composite wood deck so that you know where to put your bottom step. Here are the measurements you’ll need:
- Handrail: You need a rail if your stairway has four or more risers. The height of this protective feature should be between 34 and 38 inches, and it should continue throughout the whole stairway.
- Stairway width: The staircase should be at least 36 inches wide, from the points above the handrail height and below the required headroom height. Handrails should not project more than 4.5 inches on either side of the stairway.
- Riser height: Each riser’s height should be at least 4 inches and at most 7.75 inches.
- Depth of the tread: The tread depth should be at least 11 inches.
Here are some tips for measuring your deck’s stairs.
1. How to Measure Deck Stairs
Figure out the dimensions for your the stairs to your composite wood platform so that you know where to put your bottom step. Here are the measurements you’ll need:
- Measure the total rise: Take a tape measure and determine the height in inches from the base of your deck to where you want your stairs to end.
- Determine the number of risers: Walk on the stairs you have throughout the house to figure out a comfortable height for each step of the deck. Divide the total rise by 7 inches, which is the maximum height for each riser, and round to the nearest whole number.
- Figure out how many treads you need: Take away one from the total number of risers you calculated in the previous step. The highest tread is part of the landing or the main deck, so you’ll always need one fewer tread than risers.
- Find the total run: Multiply the number of treads by 11 inches, the required width of each tread.
- Determine the landing point: Take the product from the previous step and measure that length away from the deck. You can figure out the exact stair height and determine how long you want the stringer and skirt to be.
- Figure out the accurate riser height: Divide the definite total rise by the estimated riser count to determine the riser height. The quotient of the two numbers should be between 4 and 7 inches so that your installation can comply with regulations for each riser’s height. If it doesn’t fall within this range, take away one riser and try to divide it again. In that case, you’d need to adjust the number of treads and determine a new landing point.
2. How Many Stringers Do You Need for Deck Stairs?
Stringer boards go on the outer portion of the stairs, and they determine the rise and plane of each step. Most of the time, builders install about four stringers for 36-inch stairs, but you may have to build additional ones into the configuration if you have more extensive stairs or lower grade material. Although there are no legal requirements for how many stringers to use for deck stairs, you should find out how many you need based on these factors:
- Load requirements: People exert more force while walking on the stairs than any other part of your composite wood deck. To accommodate these load requirements, you need enough stringers so the treads can hold the weight.
- Wide staircase: A wide staircase can allow more people to use it at once and complement your design preferences. If you choose to widen your stairway, you should add more stringers to provide even support. Put a stringer in the middle of the steps to give the entire staircase an even platform.
Building the Foundation
A sturdy foundation is essential for the integrity of the stairs for your deck. Follow these steps to create the stair landing.
- Lay out the stairs: Measure the length of the total run from your deck’s platform and mark the part of the platform where you plan to install the steps using a piece of chalk. Make a line where the bottom level will go so that you know where to set up the footings. Align the footers and posts with the outer marks on the landing at the end of the run’s total length. If you choose to install a concrete pad instead, it would have to go the distance from the platform to the bottom of the stairs.
- Prepare the concrete foundation: To make a concrete footing, dig a hole in the ground large enough to fit your tube forms, getting rid of all dirt and debris from the area. Level and compact the soil with a trowel and insert the concrete tube form. Mix the fast-drying cement according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the mixture begins to look like oatmeal, pour it into the hole and fill it until it’s at the same height as the ground. Smooth out the concrete mix using a level and a trowel. Depending on the weather conditions, the footing will have to cure for 24 to 48 hours.
- Mark lines for the stringers: If you’re making your stringers, put stair gauges on the framing square at the length of the run and the height of the rise of one individual step. Place the square at the corner of the pressure-treated lumber plank and mark the proper measurements. Slide the measuring tool across the panel and mark the measured rise and run for each step, until you’ve laid out all of them.
- Cut from the top and bottom level: Subtract the top toe kick’s thickness from the run, and draw a perpendicular cut line to show where the stairs will attach to the deck. You won’t need to install a toe kick at this part of the stairs. Then, at the bottom, subtract the tread’s thickness from the bottom rise and mark a perpendicular line. When you cut this line, you can shift down the whole set of stairs to give the bottom step the same dimensions as the other ones.
- Test fit the stringer: Using a circular saw, cut along the top and bottom perpendicular lines from the stringer. Before cutting or attaching the stringer, make sure it fits by placing it against the deck. Use a level to make sure the rise and run of each step are accurate.
- Cut the stringer: Cut along the lines you created on the pressure-treated lumber with a circular saw to get rid of the large pieces. Stop cutting when you get to the corner of the notch and complete the cut with a handsaw to make sure you don’t weaken the pressure-treated lumber plank. Use the first stringer you cut as a template for the rest of the stringers so you don’t have to measure each piece again.
- Create skirt boards: Take the pattern from the stringers and trace it onto the skirt boards. Draw the top and bottom lines with the framing square and gauges at the original settings. Cut the top and bottom off of the overhanging pressure-treated lumber boards so that they’re even. Attach the stringers to the skirts with deck screws, leaving even space between each screw and alternating to each side. Nail two-by-four support planks to both sides of the middle stair stringer, which you align with the bottom for additional support.
- Attach the skirt boards to joists: Using a level, outline two vertical lines, indicate where the left and right skirt boards will go and draw two horizontal lines to mark the top tread’s location. Screw the skirt boards to the rim joist with 3-inch screws.
- Attach 2-by-6 supports: Connect a 2-by-6 plank of pressure-treated lumber with the same width of the stringers behind them with two deck screws in each board. Finalize the foundation of the stairs by screwing two upright 2-by-6 planks behind the rim. Then, install a horizontal plank with four screws into the edge and four more screws behind the plank.
How to Build Stairs for a Deck
After building the foundation, the stairs include the stringers, the toe kicks and the treads. Follow this step-by-step guide for putting all these parts together to create your deck stairs.
1. Attach the Stringers and Hangers
Secure the stringers to the support with metal hangers after you’ve measured and cut the pressure-treated lumber or composite wood panels. Here’s how to attach the stringers to the foundation of the stairs:
- Place the stringers and hangers in line with the top of the 2-by-8 support beam and mark a line where the hanger lands.
- Set the stringers in place by putting the bottom ends on the concrete pad and the top end against the landing.
- Make sure the stringers are level and plumb with the proper equipment.
- Take away the stringers and use 10d nails and screws to attach the hangers to the support board.
- Drill pilot holes and secure the outer stringers and their bottom sides to the hangers with nails and screws.
2. Check the Stair’s Foundation
Double-check the square of your stringers before attaching the toe kicks and treads on top of them. Here’s how to check that your stair’s foundation is square and plumb:
- Place three 8d galvanized nails into each stringer to give you checkpoints to measure.
- Check the alignment of each stringer against the deck with a framing square and a tape measure.
- Put a level on the top of the stringer to make sure it’s even.
3. Attach the Toe Kicks
After making sure the assembly is square and accurate, you can set up the risers:
- Use a composite wood deck panel for your toe kick at the bottom of the stairs because it’s more resistant to moisture and rotting than pressure-treated lumber. Drill holes and secure the toe kick in place with screws.
- Set up the rest of the stringers and attach the posts to the bottom of them with anchors, carriage bolts and bracing.
- Use composite wood planks without grooves for the rest of the riser panels to prevent water from accumulating within the design.
- Drill holes and secure the composite board toe kicks.
- Leave a quarter-inch gap between the boards.
Depending on your preference, you could install all the risers at once, or you could alternate between setting up the risers and the treads. If you attach all the toe kicks first, you can cut all the pieces for each step at once, but if you set up the risers and the treads together, you only have to make one trip up the stairs.
4. Attach the Treads and Finish the Stairs
Make sure you cut the treads to overhang the risers by about an inch on both sides. Then, attach them to the stairs:
- Drill holes and attach the treads to the risers using a screw.
- Create a drainage gap between the boards on each step with another screw.
- Attach composite stringers over the outer wood stringers for a clean, seamless appearance.
Building the Railing
To install a railing, you should first become familiar with the legal requirements for your local area. Carefully measure out the material that you need and set up the handrail slowly so you won’t have to redo it:
- Check the position: Before installing the rail posts, figure out their location. If the top rail post is at the back of the tread, you should line up the lowermost rail post in a similar fashion. For second-story stairs, you may have stairs and landings that change direction, so you’ll have to reconfigure the poles to create a functional, aesthetically pleasing setup. Make sure that your railing is easy to grip to comply with building requirements.
- Attach lower rail post: Secure the post for your stair railing to the stair framing with two half-inch bolts. We recommend attaching it to the framing instead of the stringer because the framing offers more support. Ensure its length can accommodate the standards for your local area and leave enough room to mount the post cap.
- Install post sleeve: Put the sleeves over the posts, cutting them to the necessary lengths. Glue the collars to the posts with PVC cement, following the instructions on the package.
- Measure the rails: You should have four rails in total — a bottom and a top for each side of the stairs. Place the bottom rail against the post and center the baluster holes, marking the angles at the ends. As you figure out your measurements, make sure you have enough space for the two mounting brackets for each rail. Cut the bottom piece, and then follow these steps with the top one. Line up each hole on the bottom rail with the top. Mark the same angles from the lower rail on the top piece and cut accordingly. Do the same for the components on the other side.
- Install the rails: Put the brackets in the bottom railing piece and label the brackets’ locations on the top and bottom posts. Drill holes in the posts and secure the lower rail with screws. Repeat the process with the parts from the other side.
- Set up the balusters: Measure the correct angle of the supporting pieces using a T-level. Mark and cut the balusters according to the measurements. Set the stair baluster inserts in the holes on all four rails. Secure the balusters to the lower rails, then secure the top ones into position with screws.
- Add the finishing touches: Complete the railings by adding post caps and depositing gravel or soil around the footers to fill in the gap.
Finish Assembly of Your Deck Stairs
Once you’ve finished putting together your new deck stairs, call your local building department to conduct a final inspection. You need the proper permits for installing the staircase, or you may have to deconstruct it or pay a penalty fee. Once your construction has passed the test, you can continue adding the finishing touches:
- Use closed risers: Finish the risers with fascia panels for a seamless appearance and a safe staircase over 30 inches tall. Open risers can make the deck look cheap and undone.
- Decorate the cap rails: Using a utility knife, cut on an angle in the cap rails’ corners. You can easily change the look of your deck railings over time using a different baluster or end cap for the post.
- Add lighting: To increase the safety and aesthetic appeal of your entire composite wood platform, consider installing light fixtures on the deck stairs. Run an electric line through the railing posts or install lighted post caps on the railing. You could also set up solar lights that don’t require an electrical hookup.
Find the Right Decking Material With NewTechWood
At NewTechWood, we offer low-maintenance, eco-friendly composite wood deck panels and tiles to enhance your outdoor living space’s aesthetic. Check out the stores that sell NewTechWood products near you. For more information about our engineered wood products, contact us online or call 1-866-728-5273.
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