If you are thinking of building a stair way for your outdoor deck, you will need to consider stair risers and treads and how they will be laid out and installed. You will also need to determine which type of risers and treads you will use for your new outdoor stairwell.With that in mind, this article will try to provide you with information on the various types of risers and treads you might want to consider for your deck stairs and any installation issues that may connected with them.
Pressure Treated Lumber as Riser and Tread Material
Most homeowners choose to use pressure treated lumber for all the wood components of their deck stairs, and this usually also includes the risers and treads. Pressure treated lumber is the most common choice for deck stair risers and treads because it is easy to work with and can be treated to resist water and rot damage. Pressure treated lumber can also be stained or painted. However, there are some disadvantages to this type of lumber for risers and treads.
Pressure treated lumber is often treated with heavy metals such as copper or tin during the treatment process. Although the metal used in the treatment chemical formula is effective in protecting the wood from diseases and water damage, the treatment process presents it own set of problems. For instance, pressure treated lumber is often considered not to be environmentally friendly and is often accused as being a source of contamination for well and ground water.
Rain water that falls onto pressure treated lumber ultimately winds up back in the ground and often carries along with it the metal particles and other chemicals used in the treatment process. In addition to the water contamination and pollution caused be pressure treated lumber at the installation site (the home owner's deck), the chemicals used in the process frequently destroy Eco-systems in the area where the wood is manufactured. When you pair this with the fact that trees used to produce pressure treated lumber can not be replaced for 20, 30 or even 40 years, you can see why so many people are concerned about the continued use of this type of lumber product in outdoor decks and stairs.
Other Riser and Tread Material Alternatives
If you want to try other materials for constructing your risers and treads, you may want to consider plastic-wood substrates or renewable wood product options. Plastic-wood materials are only slightly more expensive than pressure treated lumber; last much longer; and most are now bio-degradable. Plastic-wood stair risers and treads will resist rot and water damage and will require much less maintenance. You can find plastic-wood deck and stair material at most major home improvement centers. The only real down side to plastic-wood materials is that they can be hard on saw blades when cutting the risers and treads. Using this type of material will mean frequent blade changes.
If you are intent on using natural wood, you might want to consider one of the hardwood substitutes that is now being produced from Bamboo. Bamboo is a tree that can be quickly grown, which makes the natural resource much more renewable and responsible as a wood material. Bamboo hardwood risers and treads are attractive, durable and easy to saw and work with. On the downside, Bamboo is usually better suited for use with indoor stairs, so a good polyurethane will be needed to protect it from the elements.