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Adding a Staircase to Your Deck

Deck Staircase

Decks are often a place of relaxation. They are also often the extension of the house to the garden or backyard. Therefore, they often have to have a staircase leading to the garden below. But many homeowners are afraid of installing deck staircases because they think that it requires too much work or is very expensive.

There are ready-made staircase kits that are available in hardware stores but they can be a bit pricey. If you don’t want to spend a small fortune on staircase kits, you can order staircase parts and build the staircase yourself. The process may look intimidating at first but once you learn everything that you have to do, you will see that it is really just a simple job if you have all the stuff you need.

Installing a Deck Staircase

  • The first thing that you need to do before you start ordering materials is to measure the height of the staircase and determine the rise and run. You can do this by measuring the distance of the deck floor to the ground and divide the result by 7.5 to get the approximate number of steps.  7.5 is the ideal rise but you can go up or down slightly from here.  The maximum riser height required by most building codes is not more than 8”.   So, dividing by 7.5 gives a  good starting point.  The result will be the number of steps needed for the staircase (e.g. 92”/7.5=13 steps).
  • To determine the rise of the stairs, you then divide the height of the stairs to the number of steps that you are going to make (e.g. 92”/13steps=7.07 inches).

Solid or Veneered Stair Treads

Solid Treads and False Tread Caps

A common question our customers often ask about stair treads is whether ours are solid or veneered.  WoodStair’s treads are solid glue-laminated as opposed to engineered or what many call veneered.

Solid Stair Treads are several pieces of solid hardwood that are milled to thickness, straight lined, then glued together.  While it may be possible, depending on the species, to find boards wide enough to make the tread from a single piece, laminated treads are actually a more durable and long lasting product.  The laminating process actually helps to insure that the treads do not warp or twist.  Individual pieces of lumber are grain matched and laminated together with the grain of individual pieces opposing each other.  This helps to insure stability.  Additionally, modern adhesives result in joints that are usually stronger than the wood itself.  I mentioned that the boards of solid treads are grain matched, because they are different pieces of wood there will be some variation and additionally in today’s market many customers often request more variation and even knots in the final product.  Treads typically finish at 1” thick but ¾” thick solid treads can also be used on stairs with subtreads.

Engineered treads or veneered treads are an imported product, typically from china.  They are created as an oak “butcher block” style which is then veneered top and bottom with a 1/8” solid hardwood layer with an attached solid nose.  The many laminations involved in manufacturing this product actually increases it’s stability and engineered stair treads actually exceed all of the American Woodworking Institutes standards for glue-lamination.  The only true downsides to the product itself are the fact that it is not made in the USA and that it is not a true solid stair tread.

Happy Thanksgiving from Happy Thanksgiving would like to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season.  We are especially grateful to our many customers.  We hope that our stairs and railings have helped you to create a beautiful staircase and balustrade.  Your patronage is truly appreciated in these tough economic times.  We pride ourselves in being the leader in our industry.  We understand that there are a variety of sources from which you could have selected your components and we want you to know that you have our sincere appreciation.  All of us at are spending this holiday with our families and we are very mindful of the trust you placed in our products and services.  Whether you purchased a single baluster or an entire stair system, whe are profoundly aware that our livelihood is based on your confidence in our company, products and services.  To all of those who entrusted us with your business we thank you.

Whether you have renovated your stairs and balustrades or have recently built a new home, we hope that your new staircase adds a little warmth to your holiday season.  Please know that your business has benefited a company of good, hardworking individuals that are deeply appreciative.

In addition, on behalf of all of us at, we would like to say that we are thankful to be citizens of this extraordinary country.   We are thankful for the Constitution which guarantees our many freedoms, for our military that defends those freedoms throughout the world and we are grateful for our families, friends and loved ones.    Finally, once again, we are thankful for those of you who have entrusted us with your business.  As always, we will continue to strive to be the leaders of our industry and in so doing earn your future business and your recommendation.  Happy Holidays.

Vote Tomorrow!

When considering a topic for today’s post on stair parts, handrails, balusters, etc., I decided instead to alter from my area of expertise and discuss something that is relevant to all Americans, tomorrows’ Presidential Election.  In addition to being a Stair Specialist for, I am a proud, patriotic and grateful American.  I am far from undecided on the issues and the candidates but I do not intend to attempt to persuade anyone to join me.  Rather, instead I beseech everyone who is legally able to, to VOTE tommorrow.  More than this though, convince your family, friends and anyone else that you can, of the importance of this right and get them to Vote as well.

This election is widely regarded as one of the most significant in recent memory.  Tomorrow, when voters go to the polls, they will be casting their ballots for elected officials who will be involved in deciding what is done about major issues facing the country.  These issues include: the Economy and National Debt, Taxes, Health Care, Social Security, Immigration Reform, Energy Policy, Terrorism and much more.  Our two party system has produced two candidates with very different views on how to address these issues.  This election is perhaps more significant than some previous because of this stark contrast.  In addition, this election is extremely close, a virtual dead heat, so tomorrow more than ever, every vote will count.

Black Walnut Stair Parts

Black Walnut is one of the most sought after domestic hardwoods in the United States.  It is highly prized for the deep rich brown color variations of its heartwood and the wealth of figures, from butts and burls to fiddleback, crotch, leaf, stripe, curly and more.  It has long been considered a premier domestic hardwood for cabinets, gunstocks stair parts and more.

Lumber manufacturers have enjoyed a significant increase in Walnut in their businesses over the past couple of years.  While Walnut is higher priced that some other species, typically slightly more than American Cherry, this does not seem to be a large deterrent.  Basically it seems that for those who want a more unique look with one of the most beautiful available hardwoods they are willing to pay a little extra.

This is definitely the case in Walnut stair parts. offers stair parts and railing components in all available hardwood species and wrought iron.  Over the last few years we have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for Black Walnut stair parts, which previously we had not stocked as standard.  We are in the process of changing this policy because of this trend and although Walnut stair parts have always been available to our customers, within a month they will be a standard component on our site, easily selected from our dropdown menus.

The largest factor in the price of Black Walnut is the limited availability of the wood and the fact that it is prone to knots therefore clearer boards are hard to come by.  Still, the price is usually not cost prohibitive for those discriminating customers who want the rich luxurious colors and grains available in this exquisite wood species.

Cheap Stair Parts

What exactly are cheap stair parts? This is not as straightforward a question as it seems. Cheap can mean either the best value for identical products or an inexpensive alternative. This is a subtle distinction that can make all of the difference. So, let’s analyze these two virtually opposite ideas that are so often confused in this and many industries.

Comparing two identical handrails, the lower priced of the two may be called “cheaper”. If they are both made from the same species and grade of wood and are manufactured to the same standards then the cheap version may be a good choice. The price difference here may be due to a better or more streamlined system, lower overhead, overstock, volume manufacturing and so on. Whatever the reason, cheaper in this case is better. Of course there are always other considerations like time frame, service, guarantee, etc. But based on price alone the lower price is the best value.

Wrought Iron Stair Railings

When you are trying to decide which type of railing you should secure your stairway with there are many different factors you should consider.  The first and most important factor is safety.  Stairs are used to get from one level of a building to the next level.  So there is always a potential for a fall.  So you want to make sure that you have a set of stairs that will be safe for all that us them to get from one floor to the next.

One of the most important safety factors is the type of balusters used.  The balusters are the horizontal bars on a stairway.  These are also called spindles as well.  A baluster and a spindle is the same exact thing.  Another popular term for some of these are wrought iron railings.  These are obviously made of wrought iron.  A lot of times these are very popular on outside railings.  They hold up much better to the elements than balusters made of wood or other types of metal.

Wrought iron railings have become popular with indoor staircases as well.  They can add a rustic look to your home.  If you already have the look you will be glad you choose to go with metal railings.  So when it comes to picking the right type of handrail to your home you can go online and see some examples of what it will look like in your home.

Quality Stair Parts

Many people wonder if you can actually buy quality stair parts at a big box store. If you are only given the option of a yes or no answer the answer is no. The problem with big box stores is that they order a lot of their products in bulk from countries such as China.  The problem with this is that the quality control leaves much to be desired and you are getting products that have been shipped half way across the world.  You can imagine the problem of shipping wood for weeks across the sea.  The greatest issue with this is the change in humidity which causes wood components to expand and contract causing cracking and warping.  In addition wrought iron stair parts often begin to form microscopic areas of rust which can lead to problems later on.

The greatest issue with box store stair parts however, is not the quality but the selection.  Visit the stair parts isle in any of your local home improvement stores and you will see one or two handrail profiles, a very limited selection of balusters and posts and typically in one or two wood species.  So going this route virtually guarantees a cheap railing system that will very closely resemble everyone else’s balustrade who buys from these locations.  A professional installer, designer or homebuilder can very easily identify a “store bought” system both by the quality and the design.