How to Build Porch Steps

Two Methods:The BasicsBuilding the Porch Steps

Once carpenters were judged by how skilled they were by the projects they had worked on, the tools in their tool boxes and by their ability to build steps. Despite the skill level, building porch steps is still within the capabilities of the average do-it-yourselfer.

Method 1
The Basics

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    Familiarize yourself with the components of a set of steps.
    • The rise is the height of porch, or the steps, that you will need.
    • A run is the total length of the steps from the edge of the porch to where the steps end.
    • Stringers are usually 2 x 12-inch (5.1 x 30.5 cm) treated wood boards to which the tread and riser are attached.
    • The treads are 2 x 6-inch (5.1 x 15.2 cm) treated or composite wood boards that lay parallel to each other to form a single step that is approximately 10.5 inches (26.7 cm) wide.
    • You will attach a riser, a 1 x 8-inch (2.5 X 20.3 cm) board, resembling a toe board, to the back or upright section of the step. Most steps are 6 to 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 cm) in height.

Method 2
Building the Porch Steps

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    Calculate the run of the steps (how long they will be).
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    Measure from the bottom of the level to the ground using a 4-foot (1.2 m) level set on the top of the porch.
    • Take the total height and divide it by the height of the riser. This tells you the number of steps you will need.
    • Remember that the riser height averages between 6 and 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 cm) high. As an example, a height of 35 inches (88.9 cm) divided by a 7-inch (17.8 cm) riser will result in 5 equal steps.
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    Multiply 5 steps by 10.5 inches (26.7 cm). That will give you the run (or length) of steps from the face of the porch to the end of the steps. In this case, the run is 52.5 inches (1.33 m).
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    Lay out the steps to be cut from the stringer using a carpenter's square.
    • Have the square set up by clamping a straight edge at the 7-inch (17.8 cm) mark on the short outside section of the square.
    • The long outside section of the square, at that point, will be at the 10.5-inch (26.7 cm) mark.
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    Place the square along the edge of the stringer and mark out the 5 steps beginning at the end.
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    Use a circular saw to cut out the steps and square up the ends of the stringer to the steps. Note that you will not cut all the way through with the circular saw. Finish the cut with a hand saw or jigsaw.
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    Take the first stringer you cut out and use it as a pattern. Now, mark out the other stringers you need. The spacing of the stringers should not be more than 16-inches (40.6 cm) apart for strength. You would need 4 stringers on a 4-foot-wide (1.2 m) stair.
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    Attach the stringers to the porch using metal stringer hangers and 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) deck screws.
    • Check to make sure that they are plumb and level to each other as you go.
    • The bottoms of the stringers need to be sitting on a concrete pad or brick base and not on bare ground.
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    Connect the riser board (cut to the length and width needed) using 2.5-inch (6.4 cm) deck screws.
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    Install the 2 x 6-inch (5.1 X 15.2 cm) treads (again cut to length) parallel to each other with 1/8 inch (3 mm) spacing between the boards.
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    Attach the treads to the stringers using 2.5-inch (6.4 cm) deck screws.
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    Finish it with waterproof deck stain or exterior porch paint.


  • Always use treated lumber for your stringers and treads and cedar for the riser.
  • You may need to add extra height to each riser if the ground around the porch slopes away. To get the amount you need, use a level and a long straight edge. Place one end on the porch floor and measure out from the edge to the end of the run. Now, measure down to the ground. Divide this number by the number of steps. Use that number for the height of the riser.
  • You may find it necessary to drill pilot holes to keep from spitting the wood when screwing them down.
  • You need to predrill pilot holes when attaching metal stringer hangers to a concrete wall on a porch. Use a masonry, or concrete, drill bit. Drive 2-inch (5.2 cm) concrete nails into the wall to attach the metal hangers.


  • Always use a dust mask and safety glasses when cutting treated wood or composite wood.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 foot (1.2 m) level
  • Tape measure
  • Electric or battery operated drill
  • 1/8 inch (3 mm) drill bit for pilot holes
  • Hammer
  • Circular saw
  • Hand saw or jigsaw
  • Carpenter's square
  • �C" clamps or spring clamps
  • Metal or wooden yardstick for a straight edge
  • 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) deck screws
  • 2.5 inch (6.4 cm) deck screws
  • Concrete drill bit
  • 2 inch (5.2 cm) Concrete nails
  • 2 x 12 inch (5.1 x 30.5 cm) treated lumber for stringers
  • 2 x 6 inch (5.2 x 15.3 cm) treated lumber for treads
  • 1 x 6 or 1 x 8 inch (2.5 x 15.2 or 2.5 x 20.32 cm) cedar boards for risers and/or toe boards
  • Waterproof deck stain or porch enamel

Article Info

Categories: Landscaping and Outdoor Building