Building Deck Stairs - Are You Up For The Challenge?


A good set of stairs is essential for accessing your deck. The amount of wood and other materials you will need depends on the height of your deck and certain preferences. No matter the height, though, you must meet the International Residential Code when building deck stairs:

  • Minimum stair width of 36 inches
  • Maximum stair rise of 7 ¾ inches
  • Minimum stair tread depth of 10 inches
These are just a few of the required specifications - contact your local building code enforcement office to get the full set of requirements. You have leeway for personal preferences specific to your deck and situation. For example, you may have a low deck and want a wide set of stairs that spans a good section of it to show off plants and decor, as opposed to a slimmer set that serves to simply get people up and down. Once you know what the requirements are and have thought about what you might like in a staircase, head to and use the website's handy stairs and steps calculator to explore your options and finalize measurements. The tool allows you to enter the total rise, step run or tread type, deck joist size and string attachment type. It will then calculate the number of rises needed and give you the total run, total rise, step run, step rise, angle, bottom rise and stringer length measurements for your project. You can take that information with you to the home improvement store or lumberyard for purchase of the wood you will need. You also will need to get 3-inch decking screws as well as the materials for a concrete landing if you plan to install one.

Tools You Will Need to Build Stairs

Deck Repair

If you don't typically work with wood, you may need to invest in more tools. All in all, you will need:

  • Tape measure
  • Four-foot level
  • Clamps
  • Circular saw
  • Corded drill
  • Framing square
  • Handsaw
  • Stair gauge
  • Safety glasses
  • Sawhorses
If you plan to install a concrete landing , you also will need:
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Plumb bob
  • Trowel

Keep the above purchases in mind if doing the math when deciding whether to DIY or hire a professional.

Skills You Will Need to Build Deck Stairs

Speaking of hiring a professional, as mentioned this task involves not only construction but also design. Inaccuracy in either area can lead to problems during the project. Measurements that are not precise can leave you without enough wood or with wood that goes to waste. Inaccuracy also can result in you not passing inspection and having to do additional work-or worse-case scenario, start from scratch.

If you are considering outsourcing this task, get an idea as to how much it will cost before ruling it out. If you are truly new to DIY projects such as this, factor in how much it will cost not only for materials but also for tools.

Other Factors to Consider

When deciding whether or not to hire a professional handyman to do the work, also factor in the cost of your time. If you have precious free time, it might make sense to enjoy it and know that the work will be done to code the first time and take fewer days than if you DIY'd it. This project can take a non-professional several weekends to complete.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.