How to Design Deck Stairs


Designing stairs for your outdoor deck requires planning to get the best results. The location of the stairs depends on the type of deck you have. High decks may require one or more landings, and multilevel decks look aesthetically pleasing with wide steps. Don’t forget to check with your building inspector. Your design must comply with your town's building codes.

  • Contact your building inspector to find out the building requirements you will need to follow. Building codes typically deal with the width of the stairs, the height of the risers and the stair-tread depth. In addition, all of your stair measurements must be the same so that you don't wind up with uneven steps. If you do, you will fail your final inspection. Open risers must be small enough to avoid presenting a safety hazard.

  • Plan the location of the deck stairs by using graph paper to draw the deck to scale and put the deck stairs in a suitable location. Place the stairs away from your main seating area so that people won't be walking through while you are having a conversation.

  • For a deck that is low to the ground, use only one or two steps and no railings. Low deck stairs can be wide and set at an angle for eye appeal. High decks generally require both railings and landings. Use the landing to change the direction of the stairs, or design wide stairs with multiple landings. Multilevel deck stairs can use the deck as the landing. Deck stairs can be several feet wide or just 3 or 4 feet wide.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use an open riser design for a contemporary look with strong visual impact.
  • To avoid having a long set of steps become the focal point, set the stairs at the side of the deck.

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