Adding Timber Stairs To Your Home

What You'll Need
Hardwood lumber
Wood screws
Handrails with hardware

Adding timber stairs to your home can be accomplished with a little bit of basic construction knowledge with the correct materials and tools. Follow these directions for a successful do-it-yourself project.

Timber staircases are the oldest climbing structures known to man. In fact, the first was most likely a huge log placed against a wall that had notched foot and hand holds allowing the user to either ascend or descend the outside of a structure. Opposed to ladder-like structures, timber staircases allow for a normal walking gait when ascending or descending. Many types constructed today are used outdoors. However, timber staircases can either be overlaid on concrete forms or constructed from scratch.

Step 1: Measurements

Begin by measuring the treads and risers. Treads are the surface areas that are stood upon whereas risers are the vertical pieces joining treads. There is no correct height or depth for measuring these boards other than no higher than a normal bend of the leg reaching either upward or downward when ascending or descending. Widths are typically determined by the space where the stairs are located, usually between two walls, but not necessarily. These are placed upon pre-cut and pre-assembled wood structures called stringers. Two stringers are constructed of heavy wood and placed at either side of the treads and risers. These are notched on both sides at the determined depth of the riser boards.

Step 2: Treads or Landing Boards

Using cut tread or landing boards, drill pilot holes along each side approximately 1 inch from the edge. Attach these to the notched out area of the stringers on both sides. Depending on the depth of each tread board, makes sure to secure the boards with a wood screw no further apart than two inches. Repeat this for each level.

Step 3: Riser Boards

Sometimes riser boards are not necessary if tread design calls for a box-like structure that is attached to the stringers, However, if not employing this technique, an open area is created between each tread that may need to be covered with a riser board. This board can be a simple thin plank since it is not needed as a support piece. Attach the riser to the front edge of each tread board with either nails or wood screws making sure the height fits between each level snugly.

Step 4: Handrails

Freestanding timber staircases require the installation of handrail posts on one or both sides for rail attachment. Many staircases where the spacing between steps or tread boards is less than 200 millimeters do not normally require handrails. Check with your local building codes to determine if handrails are required. Otherwise, when installed, fix the handrail to the posts with wood screws or bolts. Design and material construction can be wood or even wrought iron if desired.

Step 5: Sand and Finish

Using a power sander, smooth all wood surfaces removing any rough areas or splinters. Once the wood areas are smoothed properly, apply either paint or stain if a color is wanted. If the stairway is left to a natural look, apply a protective varnish or other sealant to complete the project.