What's the best way to make stair treads?


williaty
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I'm working on renovating my newly-bought house. We're switching all of it from carpet to hardwood. The stairs are an open-riser design and were constructed as simply a 36" wide 2x10 ( back when they were slightly bigger, I guess) supported on each edge by angle iron screwed into the side of the stringers. I'd like to make solid maple treads to match the maple hardwood floors going in. My initial thought was simply to take 8/4 maple, round over the edges slightly, cut it to length, and screw it in place. However, I'm having trouble finding 8/4 maple wide enough to make the treads. The existing treads are 38x239mm (1.5x9.4"). I'm not able to find 8/4 maple wider than about 150mm (6") in sufficient quantity locally. That leaves me in a bit of a bind and I can think of only two options.

1) Get some of the narrower 8/4 boards, edge joint them, glue them together to form a wider plank, then cut to finished length and width

2) Get a bunch of 4/4 boards and make a "laminated" plank where there's 2 layers of boards on top of each other, each layer consisting of two boards edge jointed together, with the seam between the boards in each layer staggered so there's no vertically lined-up edge joints. Then cut to final size.

3) Anything else you guys might recommend?

So, #1 is the least work but highest cost. Is there any downside to doing it this way? Having a seam all the way through the tread worries me a bit, but it'll be a long grain to long grain glue up, so it ought to be very strong. I just get a wiggins about the glue line failing and plunging through the stairs one day. #2 just seems like an awful lot of time, which is something I don't have much of right now. In theory, I can see it being stronger since there's no seam running through the full thickness of the tread. Does this also make it less likely to warp over time than a solid 8/4 tread?

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Proper long grain glue joints should be stronger than the wood itself. And as long as all the boards span the full width of the space between stringers, the tread won't collapse, even if a glue joint did fail. Personally, I would try to compromise between cost and the lamination arrangement that is most pleasing to your eyes.

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The tread is supported on each end, so there isn't much bending force from front to back.  Since your glue joint goes from end to end, and long grain glue joints are very strong, I wouldn't worry.

 

Rather than trying to minimize the glue joint, consider celebrating it by using a strip of contrasting wood. 

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I remember when I did the steps from my back patio to the ground, I read a lot of recommendations to use doubled 2x6s for the treads. There were a lot of comments about "dimensional stability", but also "it's a lot easy to find a almost-dead-flat 2x6 than an almost-dead-flat 2x12. I've had no problems.

 

I'm concerned about your stair width though. 36" isn't particularly wide, but as Boatworks said, you'll need either a middle stringer or some sort of cross-brace, regardless of board thickness.

 

If you've got that, I DEFINITELY wouldn't worry about doing a long-grain joint between the 2x6s.

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As best I can find, current code is 16" on center, or less if specified by manufacturer. I assume that means composites like Trex or thinner materials need tighter spacing. Considering maple is stronger than pine, you are probably fine at 16", but I'm not a code expert. Considering you've got a 36" span supported by angle iron on each end... it might be luck and light usage keeping those stairs together.

 

Also... consider calling your local building inspectors. Mine, while slow to respond, were able to provide basic guidance on simple questions over the phone.

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Structural risers with proper anchoring will take your span measurement on the other axis shrinking your max span on the tread to around 12". Your riser must be rated to span 36" but then your tread is received into a dado and anchored through. Just a different thought as a redesign seems called for. Many industrial themed styles use old steel girders as riser material and span wide widths.

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Williaty,

 

    Where do you live? Have you checked with the building department with what code is currently? I ask this because your home owners insurance can deny any claim that derives from the stairs if altered and not up to current code. I would check with the building department and see what the current code requires. Usually the IBC 2009 - 2011 code will be more then plenty for any city but it's always best to ask to see what they might have amended to the code.

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Before taking any advice from me, and echoing others make sure your not in violation of any building code regs in your area and your insurers are in the loop.

 

We make quite a few custom stairs. All the examples shown rely on long grain glue joints and they work just fine (on the jobs shown). It's up to you how many staves/boards you want. Tread carefully! I'll get my coat.......................

 

bespoke_hardwood_stairs_devon_joinery.jp

 

bespoke_oak_stairs_devon_joinery.jpg

 

bespoke_oak_staircase_joinery_devon.jpg

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No worries about a 3' tread out of 2x material, as long as there are no large knots.  I have some "temporary" stairs in my house with such treads that have been there since 1980, and I've seen a lot more than those.   I glanced through Architectural Graphic Standards, but didn't see the right chart.  There probably is one in there.

 

At 9.4" run, what is the rise?

 

Graham,   Are those housed stringers in the second picture? 

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bespoke_hardwood_stairs_devon_joinery.jp

 

All of your stairs are beautiful, but I absolutely LOVE this set!

 

 

At 9.4" run, what is the rise?

You know, I actually haven't measured and I'm not there right now. However, one of the things I love about this house is that the stairs are much shallower than normal, making it MUCH easier to get up/down them with the chronic injuries I have.

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No worries about a 3' tread out of 2x material, as long as there are no large knots.  I have some "temporary" stairs in my house with such treads that have been there since 1980, and I've seen a lot more than those.   I glanced through Architectural Graphic Standards, but didn't see the right chart.  There probably is one in there.

 

At 9.4" run, what is the rise?

 

Graham,   Are those housed stringers in the second picture? 

 

Hi Tom, yes housed. The most common way to make stairs this side of the pond. I have a copy of "Building Stairs" from Taunton showing your side of the pond. I was surprised just how different the approaches were.

 

Thanks Williaty, like many images of "my" work I am only part of the picture. I personally did not make these but my firm G S Haydon & Son did.

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I'm with those who particularly like the first (curved) set of stairs.  I think those would look especially cool with a single laminated riser in the center with the treads looking balanced to either side.  All three are really nice but there's something about a curve ...

 

I've only ever built a few sets of stairs.  One was a set of basement steps that I rebuilt.  The originals were too wide with only risers on either edge.  All the treads were split from being stressed and I fixed by adding a new center riser and new treads.  The other couple sets of steps I did were both poured concrete garden steps.

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