Deck steps/stringers

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Old 01-23-15, 10:42 AM
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Deck steps/stringers

I'm adding railings/steps to an existing deck. Had a question on steps/stringers.

For the main steps (36" wide - I'm using 3 of these premade pressure treated stringers as I believe there is a 14" spacing requirement):



My question is on the top step. What is normal/code? Does the top step extend out at deck level (as would be the case if I used the stringer pictured) or is the first/top step one level down (like in this pic I found online which don't appear to be 36" wide per code)

For my application I think it's easier if the top step extends out at deck level so I can easily attach to the side plate (I'm using these Simpson zmax adjustable joist hangers)

The main reason I ask the question is that I also need to add steps for the french door exit onto the deck. 13" rise, 72" wide. The wood yard doesn't sell a 2-step and said I'd have to make my own out of a 2x12 (which I bought). Before I start cutting into the 2x12 I was curious if the norm is two step, or one step? i.e does the top step extend out?

Perhaps it's just a matter of aesthetics and how much space you want to take up on the deck? If I just do one step 7" off the ground I could just support it off the deck using wooden blocking and I wouldn't need to make my own stringer or use the adjustable joist hangers (which are expensive) but I'm leaning towards having 2 steps as I think it will be easier/safer to step out onto a landing step than to step immediately down. I'm not sure if there is a code on the depth of each step to minimize amount of deck space taken up or if there is a railing requirement for a 13" rise?




Advice welcomed.
 
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Old 01-23-15, 10:51 AM
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I've stained both decks that had the top step even with the deck and ones with that were a step down. I don't think the code specifies [but I'm a painter not a carpenter] other than the minimum size of the treads, risers and that they be consistent. I'd just put in one step at the door.
 
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Old 01-23-15, 10:54 AM
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usually codes would define a maximum rise of each step and require that all steps in a particular set have equal rise within some tolerance. You'd have to check with your city/county building/permit office to see about requirements for landings. I'd guess that the placement of the first step down from the deck would be a matter of preference on your part, but there may be some requirement for the area immediately at an entry/exit door from the house.
 
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Old 01-23-15, 11:04 AM
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I'm mostly concerned about the steps down from the french door. Two steps (with a top landing step) would eat up more deck space than just a single step.

The steps down from the deck, I'm fine with a upper landing step at deck level.
 
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Old 01-23-15, 11:35 AM
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13" rise on the top one, I see only one step, and would do that with a 72" long by 6-1/2" tall by say 12" deep box. Build a square frame with however many intermediate stringers you want and put a top on it. No need to chew up any more valuable deck space than that.
 
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Old 01-23-15, 04:00 PM
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Had to run earlier. Anyway, I don't know about Oregon, but, here, Michigan, I am not aware of any circumstances under which you would need rails at either step or set of steps, based on the height and number of risers. Still not certain of which way I would go on the lower steps, but, although contrary to my general preference, would probably lean toward making the top step an extension of the deck, a) because it would probably provide more secure attachment and b) because I could then incorporate a nose on the top step, as well as the rest of them. The problem though that you have with purchased stringers is that all of your steps should have a maximum variance of 3/8" in height, so you will have to do some playing around to make that work, if you stick with those. May require some grade changes?
 
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Old 01-23-15, 08:46 PM
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Your stairs will last a lot longer if you don't rest the bottoms of the stringers in the moist Oregon dirt. Even though preservative pressure treated, they will eventually soften and rot, making replacement a problem you won't enjoy dealing with. I'd at least set them on precast concrete blocks or small slabs, set just slightly higher than adjacent dirt.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:50 AM
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Ok, I built the box step for the french doors. Some experimentation led to conclusion that 12" was too narrow, so we went for a single 15" step. Thanks for the suggestions




I need some advice on the main steps. Gap between the two 4x4 posts at the deck level is 36" which is minimum code width. I cut three stringers out of a 2x12 PT as code requires this spacing. I took the 2x10 joist hangers back as they were too big and got the ones pictured below instead.

Originally I was thinking of attaching two posts (4x4) to the bottom part of the stringers next to the concrete pads, how I wasn't sure on, lag bolts? Carriage bolts would have to be mounted so the nut was out the outside, doesn't seem ideal as people could catch their leg on the protruding part but I could probably trim the bolt and counter sink the nut. Then attach a upper&lower 2x4's on each side as I did on rest of the deck and cap with a 2x6 (plus add the 2x2 ballisters).

This would mean that the 2x4s would slightly cut into the 36" width. Alternative would be to miter the 2x4's directly onto the front faces of the posts and screw threw (not sure if this makes sense). It would be sylistically a little different from rest of deck.

Another issue is that to mount the left/right stringers 36" apart I'd need to remove the upper posts so I can nail the hangers. Also probably remove some of the metal off the joist hanger so it clears the upper carriage bolt.

The other option is to mount the left/right side stringers 2" in from the upper posts so I can nail the hanger without having to remove the upper posts, the steps would then overlap the stringers at each end. Then set the lower posts into the ground with concrete. Still need to figure out best approach to attaching the 2x4's.

Suggestions welcomed.







 
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Old 01-26-15, 02:51 PM
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If you bolt the stringers to the support posts before installing the top tread on the steps, carriage bolts could be used with the nuts on the inside of the staircase.

If you're attaching the stringers to the deck with some kind of hardware similar to a joist hanger, there may not be much need for additional support at the top end, or you could put some 2x4 ledgers onto the side of the deck between the stringers and screw the upper step tread into those ledgers.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 04:51 PM
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If you bolt the stringers to the support posts before installing the top tread on the steps, carriage bolts could be used with the nuts on the inside of the staircase.
I could do this but only for the left and right stringers. And there is probably only room for one carriage bolt through the 4x4 due to the placement of the bolts securing the posts to the deck.

If you're attaching the stringers to the deck with some kind of hardware similar to a joist hanger, there may not be much need for additional support at the top end, or you could put some 2x4 ledgers onto the side of the deck between the stringers and screw the upper step tread into those ledgers.
This was the plan, to use "joist hanger". I showed them in pics in previous post. Issue is that to use them it seems I either need to either temporarily remove the posts so I can install the hangers or move the stringers inwards 2" and allow the staircase boards to overlap slightly .... which would mean I'd have to set the lower posts into concrete as I can't secure them to the stringer anymore.

As far as a ledger, would this add much support? I'm only securing the leading 1 1/2" of the top step onto the 2x4 ledger.

I guess I also need railings on the steps and "handrail ends must be returnedand terminated at rail posts" (Deck Railing Codes - Decks.com) so i guess I need two 4x4 posts at the bottom of the staircase ... still not sure best way to secure them, to stringers or into post hole and filled with concrete.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 06:08 PM
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I guess first of all, do you want rails on the steps? If not, I would check to see if they are required, because, aside from a few local jurisdictions that require them when there are more than three steps, I am pretty sure that the otherwise minimum requirement here is still when the deck is more than 30" above grade. That said, if you either want them or have to have them, I think that I would be leaning toward box steps, similar to what I suggested at the door, one on top of the other. For two steps, they would be every bit as solid as stringers, and only maybe a tad more material. This would give you a more solid base to attach the posts to, and you could widen them out at them bottom easier, maybe giving you some more options on the railing. Could even fan them out if you wanted, at least on side away from the house. Another option might be to simply widen the opening at the top. Not that simple with the rails installed, but shouldn't be that bad. The other thing that you have going, which I mentioned before, and should have made a stronger point of before you built the step at the door, is the lack of a nose where the steps come off the deck. I don't like them without a nose, which doesn't matter, but they are generally required, so don't know if that will be an issue with the inspector, or not. And for the little bit of work that it would be, I would save the pads that you have for another project, and pour a small landing. A little bit extra work now, but you'll like it better in the long run.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 06:29 PM
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Having just two posts on the outer stringers should be enough support for any load the steps to a deck would be subject to, especially if the stringers are butted against the side of the deck structure. In terms of durability, it'd be better to have the bases of the posts on concrete rather than dirt, even better would be to have post-base fittings either set into the concrete or attached with wedge anchors and anchor the posts in those fittings.

Whether a pair of short ledgers would be sufficient probably depends on what you're using for treads. Another option, if you're handy with a jig saw would be to notch the lower edge of the tops of the stringers to set them on a single 2x4 ledger (2x3 would work as well, but it sounds like you'll have 2x4 on hand anyway) that's lagged into the edge of the deck. With a ledger under the top ends of the stringers, you'd just need some kind of angle bracket to hold the stringer ends against the edge of the deck, the ledger will carry the weight.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 06:39 PM
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Regardless of what the local AHJ may say, a good reason for installing hand railing on the proposed steps is for those times when elderly guests or relatives come for a visit. All it takes is for someone a bit unsteady on their feet, to fall and easily break bones. Especially in wet Oregon (unless you're in the high desert country), where hand rails can be effective for combatting treads slippery from rain/snow/ice/algae/moss/wet leaves, etc.
 

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Old 01-26-15, 11:08 PM
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Some detail I didn't go into. We're moving in 2 weeks and will be renting this current house, ideally by March 1st. I have a ton of stuff I still need to get done, finish electric rewiring, install picture molding, paint, install new water heater and clearly (if you've been looking at the pictures) repair the fence and install new sod ... oh yeah and move

So I'm looking for easy over aesthetics. We're not going to be living here so as long as it's safe ...... The deck is less than 30" off floor so there is no railing requirement but I chose to add one for safety. Once I do I'm bound by all of the railing codes. I'm not sure if this means I need railings on the steps but for the reasons given by someone earlier (old people) plus it being a rental, I'm going to add railings to the steps.

I cut the stringers myself out of a PT 2x12 so I think I can handle notching them using a jigsaw The red line in image below is 4" so I'm not sure how much I need to notch out. Clearly I can install a ledger at varying height on the deck wall so I have control over how much I notch on the stringer. So attach the ledger using lag bolts not screws? Should I screw vertically down through the stringer top into the ledger, or just use angle brackets to keep it in contact with the deck wall?

I like the idea of pouring a concrete landing, that was my original plan but I got the pads to make things easier/faster.

If I can install a ledger, notch the stringers (return the 3 joist hangers to the lumber yard) and bolt 4x4 posts to the bottom of the stringers (for the stair railings) I think it'll be the easiest option. I'm trying to avoid pouring concrete, either for the lower posts or for the landing.

I'm not sure what a "nose" is, overhang? I'm using 2x6's for treads on the main steps. 11" is the depth on each stringer step and the rise is 5 5/8". I'll obviously need to leave some room between the 2 2x6's for expansion so I could add an overhang. For the box step by the french door I used 2 2x6's and a 2x4 to get me 15", mostly because I was too lazy to drag out my table saw. I can certainly redo using 3 2x6's if that step needs an overhang.

 
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Old 01-27-15, 01:40 PM
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With 2x6 lumber for treads, you could probably just space the outer stringers in a few inches from the edges to allow room for the joist hangers and not worry about posts or a ledger. If your local code requires a rail for that short of a set of steps, you'd need to add a block near the bottom to attach the bottom baluster for the rail to the side of the stringer, but that's a simple cut to make. If you don't trust just the hangers, a single post bolted to the middle stringer before screwing down the upper tread in addition to three joist hangers would be more than sufficient.

Another option for the railing with treads that thick would be to mount some kind of newel post on the lowest tread (a 30" 4x4 could be lagged onto the tread from underneath with 2 or 3 4"x1/4" lag bolts, piloted in the post and counterbored slightly if needed to prevent interference with the stringer).
 
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