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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I hope this makes sense. I have an old deck out back and it has 'open risers'. I don't like how this looks and I've also heard it can be dangerous for small children. I've got a little one on the way so I figured since I don't like how it looks...maybe it's time to close it up?

My question is....how do I do that without rebuilding all of my stairs (forgive me if this sounds retarded).

I went online and read a little bit about building stairs and the examples I've seen have the 'stringers' cut in such a way that with the riser attached, the tread hangs over.

So, my tread is 36" wide - if I cut the riser to be 36" wide (like I think I should) when I attach it to the face (the stringer on either side) the riser sticks out more than the tread.

I hope you all can follow what I'm trying to say....

FRONT VIEW


Top Down View

So, if I cut my riser to be 33" it fits great - but I'm not sure how to safely attach it. It ends up looking like this....

FRONT VIEW


But I don't know how to get the Riser to be securely anchored in that position. I could just attach deck screws through it - but, for some reason, I feel like that's probably not the correct way?

Example: (the red lines are screws)


Is that how I should do it? From what I understand - I just want to fill in that hole, the deck doesn't depend on the riser to keep it standing - so maybe screws are fine?

I felt like that probably isn't the best way to do it - I've seen metal corner pieces used before; maybe I should use those? If so, can someone tell me which ones I should use?

Basically, any advice or wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Anything wrong with just screwing some nailer blocks on the stringers... set back the thickness of your risers?
Then attach your 33" risers to them from the face with glue and finish nails.
 

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So you want to attach the riser boards in between the stair
Basically in between the 2 stringers? You only have 2 stringers?
That 36" is a pretty big span for stairs
Or are you cutting riser bords to fit on either side of 3 stringers?

Screws would work, this is only to prevent someone from slipping thru. You could attach blocks to the stringers behind the riser boards for more support

I've used the metal brackets to hold my treads down
That way I don't have screws in the top of the stair tread


eh....I type to slow :laughing:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Anything wrong with just screwing some nailer blocks on the stringers... set back the thickness of your risers?
Then attach your 33" risers to them from the face with glue and finish nails.
That seems perfect to me. It would do what I wanted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So you want to attach the riser boards in between the stair
Basically in between the 2 stringers? You only have 2 stringers?
That 36" is a pretty big span for stairs
Or are you cutting riser bords to fit on either side of 3 stringers?

Screws would work, this is only to prevent someone from slipping thru. You could attach blocks to the stringers behind the riser boards for more support

I've used the metal brackets to hold my treads down
That way I don't have screws in the top of the stair tread


eh....I type to slow :laughing:
Actually, as I'm learning, there is a lot more to these stairs than I realized. You are right - 36" is a big span for stairs. It's in violation of my local code. When the deck was built, it was fine, but now it's not.

So, as it turns out, I might not be able to do anything to my stairs. I can't afford getting a ticket/violation and, from what I understand, anything I do to the deck would mean I need to bring the entire deck up to code (for the stairs, adding another stringer in the middle. There are also problems with the hand-rails and the spacing on the 'laticses?' if I'm using the correct word.

I made a call to the city's building department or whatever it's call and I'm waiting to hear back from them. I guess we'll see. Thanks for the posts though - I'm always amazed at how helpful people here are.
 

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The railings need to be close enough together so that a 3 1/2" sphere can't pass thru

Yeah, that's one problem with renovating something
They then want you to meet current codes
 

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Actually, as I'm learning, there is a lot more to these stairs than I realized. You are right - 36" is a big span for stairs. It's in violation of my local code. When the deck was built, it was fine, but now it's not.

So, as it turns out, I might not be able to do anything to my stairs. I can't afford getting a ticket/violation and, from what I understand, anything I do to the deck would mean I need to bring the entire deck up to code (for the stairs, adding another stringer in the middle. There are also problems with the hand-rails and the spacing on the 'laticses?' if I'm using the correct word.

I made a call to the city's building department or whatever it's call and I'm waiting to hear back from them. I guess we'll see. Thanks for the posts though - I'm always amazed at how helpful people here are.
Are you absolutely positive about that code? The reason I ask is that the IRC, that most municipalities follow, states not one word about the number of stringers required. They address loads, but that's all.

And the load on the treads is very adequately supported, in properly constructed stairs, by the risers. The risers are fastened to , and support, both the rear of the lower tread, and the front of the upper tread... and 36" of 6" 2 X material is more than enough to support the 300 pounds the IRC calls for ( I believe it is 300#, but you can check)

The stringers are also usually attached to the side walls, giving even more support.

You can see this in the drawing below.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Are you absolutely positive about that code? The reason I ask is that the IRC, that most municipalities follow, states not one word about the number of stringers required. They address loads, but that's all.

And the load on the treads is very adequately supported, in properly constructed stairs, by the risers. The risers are fastened to , and support, both the rear of the lower tread, and the front of the upper tread... and 36" of 6" 2 X material is more than enough to support the 300 pounds the IRC calls for ( I believe it is 300#, but you can check)

The stringers are also usually attached to the side walls, giving even more support.

You can see this in the drawing below.
Thanks so much for the post.

I guess it's hard for me because I'm basically relying on what other people have told me.

My city uses the '2003 International Residential Code' but I haven't been able to find the text of that. I've only been able to find places that will sell me the book.

My city also has a list of amendments - that I can see online, but I don't see anything that has anything to do with stairs (interior or exterior).

I was 'told' by someone at the home depot that they should not be more than 16" apart, and then on another forum saying that I should add another stringer.

I've also heard conflicting things about what exactly I have to bring up to code. I've heard 'everything' - so if I replace a single board on my deck, I need to bring the whole deck up to code. But, I've also heard that only the work I do needs to be up to code. I'm not sure how that works exactly.

The picture you included is very helpful. It would take some 'doing' to get my risers to fit in like that, but I can why/how that would help it support more weight.

I guess, at this point, I'm just waiting on getting that phone call back and tomorrow I'll search and see if I can't find the text of the 2003 IRC online (assuming that it is publicly available).
 

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Actually, as I'm learning, there is a lot more to these stairs than I realized. You are right - 36" is a big span for stairs. It's in violation of my local code. When the deck was built, it was fine, but now it's not

Well Where I am at repairs and maintance dont force you to bring to current code. Just think about it, when we replace a roof on a 100 year old house we dont have to bring it to current code. Just a thought. Things are different in other places I know. I would get an inspectors name and ask about repair and maintance.
 

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Well I overbuild anyways
To just meet code is not good enough for me
As someone said:
Hey great you met code, you passed, you got a "D" :wink:

My stairs are 4' wide, 3 stringers, I used the 1.25" thick treads
It's supprted along one side by the garage wall
The other side has 2 posts & the cement landing
And I only have 6 steps :laughing:

I build for worse case scenario
Those 300# guys lugging a big fridge up the stairs
I've been on too many thin stairs where you can feel it "giving"
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for the replies everyone.

I heard back from someone from my City. He said if I 'change anything' that section would need to be up to code and that I would need a building permit.

But, I think that's only half the story; my city has an exception for projects under a $500 dollar 'value' (depending on the nature of the project). I'm not sure how 'value' is calculated, but my deck work is not on the list of things that are excluded.

I'm also not sure how much a permit would cost; but if I can afford it, I'm not against getting a permit.

So, I still have more research to do. Ideally, I think I'd like to add a stringer, replace all of my steps, and add risers. I'm not sure if that's in the budget...but we'll see.

I did have one last question...I'm assuming stringers need to be one continuous piece of wood? Like a 2x12x12 and then I cut notches into it? I'm guessing I could use 2x12x6 and join it with a 2x12x6 somehow? The reason I ask is I'm trying to determine if I'd need to rent a truck or not into the cost of the project :)
 

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I did have one last question...I'm assuming stringers need to be one continuous piece of wood? Like a 2x12x12 and then I cut notches into it? I'm guessing I could use 2x12x6 and join it with a 2x12x6 somehow? The reason I ask is I'm trying to determine if I'd need to rent a truck or not into the cost of the project :)
Yes, it will need to be one piece. If the existing stringers meet code, use one as a template. Also glue and screw some 2x material the length of the stringers at the notch.
 

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One word of advice in keeping with Dave's idea of not going with just minimums. Get 12 inch stringers out of your mind. Use 14" material anyway. All you need to do is look at how little wood is actually left after the stringers are cut. It ain't much, usually just at or even less than 5 1/2". Once it's cut into the shape of a stringer, you are not standing on a 2 x 12 any longer, but more like a slightly fat 2 x 4. So it never hurts to "sister" those stringers with additional 2 x 4's along side.

Still, that's no substitute for going ahead and using a 2 x 14 or larger for your stringers.

Never mind trying to make up for insufficiencies by adding more stringers. That's a band-aid approach. Use good, wide stringers, and (here's the key) use thick treads and thick risers.

Back before we began getting greedy and cheap, trying to cut back on spending coin on good lumber, millions of excellent stairways were made with only two fully adequate stringers of sufficient width..... Why? Because they used good, thick treads and risers, and that's all that was needed. How many grand old houses have you ever been in where the stairs bounced?
 

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When deciding whether or not to get the permit, keep the following things in mine. Most house insurance policies are voided if damage is caused by work that required a permit but did not have. This may not fully affect this project, but good to know for future jobs.

Additionally, if you go with your original idea of screwing a riser into the stringers to make it flush, you are not changing anything, and are doing a repair. It's like having a fan/light and the light stops working. You can replace the unit without permits, but if were to wire for a second fan/light you would need permit.

Since you have a newborn on the way, its probably best to reinforce stairs anyway. Additionally, permit will/should make sure it is done properly and will not fall down.
 

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Thanks for the replies everyone.

I heard back from someone from my City. He said if I 'change anything' that section would need to be up to code and that I would need a building permit.

But, I think that's only half the story; my city has an exception for projects under a $500 dollar 'value' (depending on the nature of the project). I'm not sure how 'value' is calculated, but my deck work is not on the list of things that are excluded.
I think this is your "out" if you just want to close in the stairs
I'd say the value is under $500
Better safe then sorry

Only other thing I can think of is PVC (?) lattice that may fit under the existing tread overhang
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Thanks again for the all advice everyone. Some really great information in this thread.

I'd always had the impression that building permits where really expensive and that building inspectors were 'the devil'. But as it turns out, they seem pretty friendly, knowledgeable and reasonable.

After talking again with the building folks, the impression I'm left with is that adding risers wouldn't require a building permit and I wouldn't need to bring the entire deck up to code. Just the risers.

The permits are also a lot cheaper than I'd expected. $25 dollars for a project valued at $500 or less (it scales up beyond that). And, even if you don't need a permit, for $25 dollars you can go through the process and you get an inspector to make sure that what you are doing (and the things around it) are safe and done correctly. It actually seems like pretty good deal.

My plan now is to add the risers (since I've already bought and hauled the lumber). But my deck is tiny (5x5 maybe - and stairs). So, what I really want to do is rip it down and build a new, bigger, nicer, up-to-code deck.

Cost is an issue - so it'll probably happen next spring; but I think it'd be a lot of fun.

EDIT: Not a very good picture - but I've added the risers. Ignore the mess, there is a lot of cleanup to be done :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Just wanted to thank everyone for the help. It took a while, but I think we're done with the deck for now.
 
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