14 Interior & Exterior Stairs


This list of selections serves as a supplement to the Construction Documents (CD’s). Some of the selections below may be difficult to find or omitted on the CD’s. Check the CD’s for consistency with this list. Clarify with your contractor which document takes precedence for any inconsistencies.

Interior stairs are typically built off-site by a company that specializes in building interior stairs. The stairs may be delivered to the job site by this company. The installation of the prefabricated stair may be performed by the rough carpenter or finish carpenter, depending on the skill level required.

Interior Stair Risers and Treads

There are many important selections you need to make before ordering the fabrication of your stairs. The height of each riser and the depth of each tread (the horizontal surface your foot actually steps on), along with materials, should be reviewed with your Architect prior to completion of your CD’s.

Select Interior Stair Riser Height:_____

Select Interior Stair Tread Depth: ____

Select Interior Stair Riser Material:

__ carpeted __ wood stained

__ wood with clear polyurethane __ painted

Select Interior Stair Tread Material

__ carpeted __ wood stained

__ wood with clear polyurethane __ painted

Select Wood species for interior stairs: ______________________________________

Stringer Condition

The stair stringer is the sloped part of the stair that the risers and treads are connected to. If you want a guard rail on one or both sides of a stair, the side of the stringer is exposed and you need to decide if you want an “open” or “closed” stringer. When stairs have solid walls on both sides, an open riser is not an option.

Select type of stringer at portion of stair with guard rail:

__ Open stringer __ Closed Stringer

Determine finish of visible open or closed stringer:

__ painted __ wood stained

__ wood with clear polyurethane

Select species of wood at visible stringer: ___________________________

Guard Railings

A stair or balcony guard rail adds aesthetic value and allows for ease of visual and verbal communication. Stair guard rails typically feature vertical ballusters spaced close together, with newel posts spaced further apart, and at least a top railing. Alternatives to ballusters include solid glass and horizontal cables.

Select from two different ways to terminate the balusters (spindles) at the bottom:

__ (1) balusters terminate at horizontal stair treads

__ (2) balusters terminate at a sloped bottom railing or low capped wall.

Balusters and Newel Posts come in many profiles, and you can view many options online.

Select Stair Baluster & Newel Post Profile: _______________________________

Select Stair Baluster / guardrail finish:

__ none (walls both sides) __ Painted wood

__ wood, stained __ wood with clear polyurethane

__ vinyl __ composite

__ metal __ horizontal cable

__ glass

Select railing material:

__ wood, stained __ wood with clear polyurethane

__ Metail __ other: __________________

Exterior Stairs

Exterior Stairs may be built on site due to the unknown elevation of the final grade. Your concrete contractor may build the steps if you want a concrete stair. Your mason may build the steps if you want a brick or stone stair. Other contractors, such as finish or rough carpenters, may be best suited to build exterior wood stairs or hand/guard railings. It is common to use deeper treads at exterior stairs than at interior stairs. Review the size of your stair treads and risers with your Architect before finalizing your construction drawings.

Select Exterior Stair Riser Material

__ concrete __ brick __ stone

__ composite __ wood stained __ wood w/ polyurethane

__ P.T. wood __ metal __ vinyl over substrate

Select Exterior Stair Tread Material

__ concrete __ brick __ stone

__ composite __ wood stained __ wood w/ polyurethane

__ P.T. wood __ metal __ vinyl over substrate

Select wood species for Exterior Stairs: _________________________________________


Interior stairs are commonly fabricated “off-site,” whereas exterior stairs are more often built on site. If the exterior stairs are concrete, the concrete flatwork contractor would likely install the stairs. If the exterior stairs are pressure treated wood, for instance, at a deck, a finish carpenter or rough carpenter may install the stairs.


Review Scope Of Work

  1. Determine who will fabricate interior and exterior stairs.
  2. Schedule stair fabricator to measure site conditions once the rough framing is complete. Make sure all your selections are completed including railing features.
  3. Schedule installation of interior stair. It is common for the rough carpenter to install a temporary stair until the final stair is ready to install.


Organization of Materials & Delivery Dates

  1. Interior stairs are typically installed before the finished flooring.
  2. Determine thickness of finished flooring prior to ordering stair. The top nosing of the stair needs to precisely match the top of the finished flooring.


Inspect Completed Work

  1. Make sure stair risers do not exceed code.
  2. Make sure stair treads meet minimum depth required by code.
  3. Check that the handrail is continuous for the entire length of the stairway. Continuity can be interrupted by a newel post at a turn.
  4. Check for a minimum head height of 6’-8” above all portions of all stairs. This 6’-8” minimum head height is required by the building code. It is surprising how often this minimum head clearance is not achieved in new construction. It is often the result of a design error or changes to the design during the construction phase.
  5. Verify that guard railings do not allow passage of a 4” diameter sphere.
  6. Measure the width of the stair to ensure it meets the building code. In most cases, the stair should be at least 36” wide at all points above the permitted handrail height.
  7. Apply enough force to railings and railing posts to make sure they are not unstable or wobbly.