Durable Deck Stairs
Ipé decking covers beefed-up stringers and a newel-post assembly that won’t rack.
Synopsis: Scott Grice, a builder in Portland, Ore., knows about what makes good deck stairs, and he shares that know-how in this article. Grice builds durable deck stairs by focusing on basics: strong attachments to both deck and foundation; beefed-up stringers; and newel-post assemblies that resist racking. He also enhances stairs’ durability in the details he uses, such as screwing treads from underneath and by hiding the framing. Grice also keeps in mind the importance of water drainage. This article includes a sidebar on supporting stairs without a slab.
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Deck stairs for a small yard had better be beautiful to look at because there’s no way to hide them. Although this might sound like a risky situation, it is also an opportunity. Deck stairs done well can add a sense of balance and unity to a small yard and can become a feature to be celebrated rather than a utilitarian eyesore.
I recently took on a job where I had just such an opportunity. The homeowner’s backyard was small, and the landscaping had been mostly destroyed during a remodeling project that was nearing completion. The homeowner had a fresh slate for landscaping, and the deck stairs that I built would be the first feature there. I knew that in the future, the stairs would be a prominent part of a fastidiously landscaped backyard haven.
For both durability and aesthetics, Ipé was the decking choice. Ipé is highly resistant to rot, it is incredibly dense, and when sealed with tung oil, it develops a dark-brown patina over time. Also, Ipé is heavy and hard to cut, and it has been known to pull itself loose from framing because of the…