An important part of many deck designs, deck stairs require planning and skill to be constructed properly. The placement of the stairs, as well as the size, shape and direction will all make a difference to how much your family enjoys their outdoor living space.
Building Codes Are Top Priority
There are strict building codes that apply to the construction of deck stairs, specifying everything from the run or tread depth to the rise or height of the step, as well as the stringer size, gap in the riser and span of the stairs. These codes have been developed for the optimum levels of safety and need to be followed in order to obtain the proper building permits.
Contact your local building department to gain access to the codes that apply in your area. Codes may be similar across the country, but you need to be sure which measurements will be required in your neighborhood.
Placement and Size
Stairs are often the main director of traffic from your deck to the yard. Where you place them and the size they are will have an effect on that traffic. For instance, stairs placed out of the way may work when you want to maintain a clear view but guests will then try to use alternate paths to get into and out of the yard. Stairs that are tucked away can be decorated with lights along the treads or on the railing posts to draw the eye.
Positioning your stairs in the natural flow of traffic is the best plan, if space and design permit. This is often difficult on walkout decks (those higher than 5 feet off of the ground), where long stairs may need to be incorporated into the deck space or installed with a landing for the best traffic flow.
Deck stair width is another important factor that will change the look of your deck. Wraparound stairs are very popular and create an open feeling on your deck. They are designed to â€œwrap aroundâ€ the edges of your deck and provide a multidirectional stair. Best used on decks that are closer to the ground, this style of closed face stairs can be installed with a railing if necessary.
Stair Railing Considerations
Be sure to design your railing to meet building code, which will specify the height, picket and post spacing and general design of the railing. Packaged kits from the building materials supply store may pass code, but it always worthwhile to check before installing these kits on your deck.
Stair railings are slightly different than those installed on your deck surface, as they need to follow the angle of your stairs closely. Brackets or clips may be used and specially designed top and bottom rails can be found on aluminum, glass or component rail systems.
Designing your deck stairs takes careful consideration, including knowledge of the local building codes and an eye for the optimum placement and size. Stair railings need to be built tight to the stair angle and special parts may be needed. Properly designed and constructed stairs will create the ideal flow of traffic and help to ensure your deck is comfortable, safe and attractive.