How to Make Step Risers

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Building your own steps, or adding to an existing set of steps, is a relatively simple process, especially if you're used to working with wood and power tools. A very important part of a staircase's anatomy is the presence of "risers"--the vertical elements, or backs of stairs. These are the parts you kick if you step too far into the stair. Sometimes the riser is left open. If you're building step risers to close off this space, you can do so in a few easy steps.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 1/2-inch-long trim-head decking screws
  • Staircase stock lumber (measurements to your steps)
  • Drill
  • Circular saw
  • If your steps are already built, a lot of the work, such as the measurements, is already done. Measure the riser areas--the spaces that have been left empty behind each step. This space, and the number of risers you're installing, will dictate how much lumber you need. Most building codes require that risers be between 5 inches and 7.5 inches in height, so expect a measurement in that range. Lumber yards generally carry specific lumber stock to be used in steps and staircases.

  • Risers are installed directly under the lip of the stair above. They should be as long and as high as the space allows, plus some--they should overlap and reinforce the stringers (framework) of the staircase, but should not reach beyond them. Cut your lumber to the length and height you need. You can also cut the risers a little long and trim the excess from the side of the staircase after you've installed the riser.

  • After cutting the risers, slide them into place in the staircase. Secure them using trim-head decking screws, with several screws installed from the front of the riser and from the side (if the side is accessible). Also place screws from the top, drilled through the stair above the riser. Paint or stain your risers as desired.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check with local organizations about riser requirements to ensure that your staircase meets all the guidelines. Risers protect the interior parts of your steps. Without risers, water may get inside the staircase and cause rot or damage.
  • Building risers requires precise measurements. Incorrect measurements may result in uneven risers, or gaps in the riser coverage.

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