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Carpentry - Housing

Stair Building

CARP18
STAIR BUILDING

Publishing details:

These notes were prepared by


Teachers of Carpentry and ESD Division
TAFE NSW

2003 Edition
 NSW TAFE Commission / DET
CONSTRUCTION & TRANSPORT DIVISION
WESTERN SYDNEY INSTITUTE OF TAFE

For Construction and Transport Division TAFE NSW

Victoria Road
Castle Hill NSW 2154
Ph. (02) 9204 4600

First Published 2000


Second Edition 2003

ISBN 0 7348 1014 8

 Construction and Transport Division TAFE NSW, 2000

Copyright of this material is reserved to Construction and Transport Division TAFE NSW. Reproduction or transmittal in whole or
part, other than for the purposes and subject to the provision of the Copyright Act, is prohibited without the written authority of
Construction and Transport Division, TAFE NSW

Published by
Construction and Transport Division

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


CARPENTRY - HOUSING

CONTENTS
Overview 1
Introduction - Stairs 2
Definitions - stair types 3
Materials used for Stairs 5
Timber Stairs 9
Parts of Timber Stairs 10
Landings 11
Proportions of Stairs 12
BCA Compliance Requirements 13
Stairs with Winders 14
Determining Step Proportions 15
Method of Measuring up for Timber Stairs 18
Setting Out the Strings 19
String Set Out Template 21
String/Newel Post Set Out 23
Handrail/Newels/Balusters 24
Open Riser Stairs 25
Constructing Open Riser Stairs 27
Calculation of String Length 28
Calculation of Stair Quantities 29
Patent-Type Stairs 35
Glossary of Terms 36
Further Reading 37

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


STAIR BUILDING

Acknowledgments:

Acknowledgment is due to the following for their permission to reproduce product materials
and copyright materials:

• BHP Steel - for use of details and graphics of patent-type modular stair brackets.

• Rob Young - For preparing and editing these notes, including all new graphics.

• Ivanka Susnjara - For desktop work and preparation for printing.

• Resource Distribution - for printing and distribution, Unit 3/61-71 Rookwood Road,
Yagoona, NSW, 2199.

• Special thanks - to Bob Bulkeley for the many years of dedication to research, develop-
ment and production of quality resources for use in the area of vocational education.

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


CARPENTRY - HOUSING

ISBN 0 7348 1014 8

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


CARPENTRY - HOUSING

STAIR
BUILDING
This text introduces subject matter related to the set out and construction of timber
stairs. It builds on knowledge and skills acquired during the first stage, which should
be revised and practiced throughout the course.
Reference may be made to “Basic Building and Construction Skills”, produced by
TAFE and Addison, Wesley, Longman Australia Pty Limited, to re-examine and
reinforce these basic skills.

The main areas covered are:

Internal and external stairs and associated balustrades.


Various stair types are outlined, including dogleg, quarter space and single flights.
Internal stairs will have closed risers, handrails and balusters, while the external stairs
will be open riser with handrails and guardrails.

BCA requirements are covered to allow for design and construction of residential
stairs, including slope relationship formula (2R + G) and maximum spaces between
treads to create safe open riser stairs.

Method of setting out, cutting and assembling internal and external stairs is covered as
well as the calculation of quantities and cost of materials for both internal and external
stairs.

Note: This text only covers stair types and stair requirements for residential
construction.

A comprehensive ‘Glossary of Terms’ is included at the end of this text, which provides
a detailed description of trade terms, technical content and some trade jargon.

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

STAIRS

A stair consists of a number of steps, made up of treads and risers, combined and supported to
provide continuous access between floors and/or landings. It may also be referred to, more
commonly, in the plural sense as a ‘Stairway’.
Note: It is preferable to use the terms Stair or Stairway as opposed to Staircase, which
originally referred to the space in which a flight was built.

Fig. 1 Stairs for residential construction

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

DEFINITIONS - Stair Types

Bracketed stair: Also referred to as ‘Cut and bracketed’, it is a stair with strings having the
shape of treads and risers cut out on the top edge and fitted with an ornamental bracket, or fret
work, underneath.

Circular stair: A stair with or without a central well having steps, which radiate from a
common centre.

Closed stair: A stair, which has side walls or partitions on both sides and is usually closed by a
door at one end. It may also be referred to as a ‘Boxed stair’, or an ‘Enclosed stair’.

Closed string stair: A stair in which the treads are not visible in a side view of the stair flight.

Dogleg stair: Also referred to as a ’Half-turn stair’, it is a stair with two flights between
storeys, which are connected by a rectangular half landing for a 180° turn. The outer strings of
each flight are housed into a common newel post, which does not allow for any stairwell.

Geometric stair: A continuous sweeping or flying stair, with no newel posts or landings,
having a continuous curved string and handrail. It may be designed to fit a semicircular or
elliptical stairwell.

Helical stair: A stair with a circular plan where all the treads are winders. This stair is also
known as a ‘Spiral stair’ or ‘Winding stair’.

Open newel stair: An open stairwell with two landings between floors, short flights between
landings, and newel posts at the corners.

Open riser stair: A stair consisting of strings and treads with no riser boards between treads,
thus leaving the risers open.

Open stair: A stair, which is not enclosed by walls or separated from the space where it is
placed.

Open string stair: A stair with a cut string to the shape of the risers and treads, on one or both
sides, facing the stairwell.

Quarter turn stair: A stair with two flights at right angles to each other with a quarter space
landing between them.

Return flight stair: A dogleg stair where the outer strings of each flight are vertically above
each other.

Spine string stair: An open riser steel stair with a single central spine (spine string) and
welded tread supports.

Winding stair: A circular or curved stair, which changes direction by means of winders, with
or without landings.

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

Common Stair types


Stairs may be designed in a variety of forms to provide practicality, function, decoration and/or
aesthetic appeal. Some of the types available are as follows:
First floor landing

Landing

Diagonal
Bracing
Housed
string

SECTION A-A Spandrell Storage


ELEVATION 1 panelling under

Second or Return Flight

First floor
Tie bolt landing

Ground Floor

First Flight Half Space Landing

Fig. 2 Straight open-riser Fig. 3 Dogleg

SECTION B-B Quarter space landing

Bull Nose step

Quarter space of winder preferably kept to bottom of flight or


otherwise avoided

Fig. 4 Quarter turn

Centre level
ELEVATION
ELEVATION

All treads are winders


in circular and spiral
stairs

Fig. 5 Geometrical circular Fig. 6 Spiral or Helical

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

MATERIALS USED FOR STAIRS

Stairs may be constructed from a wide range of materials, which include stone, brick, timber,
steel, concrete and/or combinations of these.

STONE

This was probably the first material used for purpose made stairs in the history of building.
Evidence of this can be seen in such early structures produced firstly by the Egytians in many
of their temples and sarcophagi (burial tombs), then the Greeks in structures found at the
Acropolis, followed by the Romans in structures like the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum.
Spiral stone stairs were also very popular throughout history with many being used in medieval
English castles through to more modern Spanish structures, as found in the towers of Antonio
Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Fig. 7 Detail of a typical stone spiral stair flight

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

BRICK

Small flights of solid brick stairs are used externally for access to and from low patios and
verandahs. They are usually laid on a concrete strip footing on either side to support the
enclosing wing walls and may have treads constructed of brick-on-flat, brick-on-edge or a
rendered brick finish. Dry pressed bricks are preferred for brick stairs and steps as they don’t
have holes through them, like the extruded types, and may be laid frog down to provide a neat
finish.
Brick-on-edge coping to
wing wall

Solid brick steps with brick-on-edge


treads

Fig. 8 Small solid brick flight of stairs

CONCRETE

Reinforced concrete stairs are more commonly found in commercial construction, however this
method of construction may also be used in residential buildings where the upper floor is also
concrete. The most common use of concrete stairs in residential construction, is externally from
balconies and verandahs.

Fig. 9 External reinforced concrete stairs

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

STEEL OR IRON

Steel stairs are more commonly associated with external commercial fire stairs, however they
may also be used internally.

The most common construction type


is the spiral stair, used in many
Victorian period buildings where
narrow building designs only
provided compact areas for stairs.

Spiral stairs had a revival during the


1960’s and early 70’s in many
contemporary cottages, although they
were simplified in design and detail
using a steel spine and handrail,
supporting timber treads.

Some newer versions are of all timber


construction using modular units and
spacers to construct the flight.

The tread width in the slope


relationship, i.e. the preferred going
width to step rise, is calculated at
7/10 (seven tenths) of the distance
between the outside of the centre pole
and the inside of the handrail.
This allows a person to ascend or
descend the flight safely and easily.

Fig. 10 Typical elevation and plan of an iron spiral stair

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

OTHER TYPES

Straight flight steel stairs are most MS handrail


commonly used in commercial work
as fire stairs and catwalks. They are
normally constructed of galvanised
steel with chequer-plate treads and RS channel frame to landing
landings, having open risers.

10mm MS String

RS stanchion supports
Chequer plate
treads
Section

Plan

Fig. 11 Steel external stairs

Combinations of steel and timber may be used for internal stairs or steel and precast concrete
treads for external use.
The usual method of design is to have a steel spine or carriage piece with welded angular
brackets, to support and provide fixing for the treads.
Solid or laminated timber may be used for the treads and the handrails are typically made of
fabricated steel.

Single steel spine


or carriage piece

Welded angular brackets

Solid or laminated timber treads

Fig. 12 Combination stairs

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

TIMBER STAIRS

Timber stairs are probably the most common form of stair found in a residential building. They
comprise of strings, treads, risers, landings and handrails and are normally closed riser
construction, for internal use, and open riser construction for external use.
Where the treads and risers are to be covered with carpet the base material may be of structural
particleboard or MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard).
Timber stairs, which are to be stained or clear finished, are normally made from hardwood
timbers, as they provide the best resistance to wear and tear. Commonly used timbers may
include meranti, brushbox, Sydney bluegum, jarrah, grey gum, turpentine and many other
species. Naturally soft timbers, such as most of the conifers, should be avoided for traffic areas.

Fig. 13 Timber stairs for residential construction

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

PARTS OF TIMBER STAIRS


Nosing
Riser
String: There may be one or two strings to board
a flight, which are the inclined sides of the Tread
stairs designed to carry the load transferred
from the treads and risers.

Tread: This is the wide horizontal member


between strings to form the top of the step.

Riser board: This is the narrow horizontal String


member between strings to form the
vertical face of each step.

Nosing: This is the rounded front edge of


the tread, which projects past the face of the
riser board. Its purpose is to finish the tread
edge and widen the tread to prevent the
riser from being kicked or scraped.

Glue blocks: Triangular blocks of timber


fitted under the back of the tread/riser
Glue block
connection to hold the two together.

Wedge: These are tapered lengths of timber Wedges


driven into prepared tapered housings in the
string, placed behind the riser and under the
tread to ensure a tight top side gap-free fit.

Newel post: This is an upright post, to


Handrail
which the strings and handrail are attached.

Handrail: A rail fixed between newel posts


parallel to the top edge of the string, to
provide a safety rail for stair users. Balusters

Balusters: These are the small sectioned


vertical members, with a Max. 125mm Newel post
opening size placed between the handrail
and string. Brackets

Balustrade: This is the whole framing,


which comprises of a handrail, balusters, String
newel posts and string or kick plate for
landing balustrades.

Spandrel: This is the triangular shaped Spandrel


space formed between the underside of the
string and the floor.
Fig. 14 Parts of the stairs

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

LANDINGS
A flight of stairs is limited to 18 risers, before it must have a break. This break may be in the
form of another floor level or a landing. A landing may take the following forms:

Half–space landing: This is a landing formed


between flights at 180° to one another, often referred
to as a ‘Dogleg’ stair.
The length of the landing is equal to the width of the
flight and the width of the landing is equal to twice
the width of the flight, plus a stairwell if required.

Fig. 15 Half-space landing

Quarter–space landing: This is a landing formed


between flights at 90° to one another, often referred
to as a ‘Quarter-turn’ stair.
The length of the landing is equal to the width of the
flight and the width of the landing is also equal to
the width of the flight.

Fig. 16 Quarter-space landing

Intermediate landing:
This is a landing formed between flights running in
the same direction.
The length of the landing is equal to at least the
width of the flight and the width is equal to the
width of the flights.

Fig. 17 Intermediate landing

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

PROPORTIONS OF STAIRS

When measuring up for stairs, it is important to know the exact measurements of the length and
height of the flight, to allow for accurate calculation of the treads and rises. The following
proportions must be obtained:

Rise of Flight:
This is the vertical distance measured between landings or between finished floor levels.

Going of Flight:
This is the horizontal distance measured between the face of the first riser and the face of the
last riser.
Going of Flight
Rise of flight

Fig. 18 Rise and Going of a flight

Rise of Step: Going of step


This is the vertical distance measured
from the top of one tread to the top of
the next tread.

Going of Step:
This is the horizontal distance
measured between the face of one
Rise of

riser and the face of the next riser.


step

(The nosing is not included in this


measurement)

Note: The rise and going proportions


must remain the same throughout the
flight(s) of stairs.

Fig. 19 Rise and Going of a step

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

BCA COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS

Stairs for residential use must comply with the following:

Maximum Risers: The minimum number of risers required to make a flight is two (2) and the Maximum
number of risers allowed without a break/landing/floor is eighteen (18).

Risers and Goings: All risers and goings must be equal throughout the flight or connected flights.

Open Risers: Where open risers are used, the gap between the top of one tread and the bottom of the next tread
must not exceed 125mm.
Note: 125mm is the estimated minimum size of a young child’s head, which if able to pass through the gap would
allow the child’s body to follow.

Spiral Stairs: These stairs must not be wider than 1.0m and must have the allowable tread width for the stair at
seven tenths (7/10) of the flight width out from the face of the central support pole.

Flight Width: According to the BCA, there is no maximum or minimum width of a flight for residential
construction, however it is suggested that the flight be at least equal to the average width of an adult persons
shoulders, which is 600mm.

Tread Finish: Treads must have a non-slip finish or have a non-skid strip fixed close to the edge of the nosing.

Other critical dimensions are shown on the following diagram:

Ceiling line

Handrail
2030 min.

Newel post
125
max
1000 min

Balusters

125
Max.
865

Fig. 20 Critical stair dimensions

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

STAIRS WITH WINDERS

An alternative to a single level landing is the use of ‘Winders’, which are normal treads with a
tapered length. They have a constant rise to match the other parallel steps and should have a
tread going to match other parallel treads, when measured at the centre of the flight width for
flights less than 1.0m wide.

Note: Flights greater than 1.0m wide should have the tread going measurement at 400mm out
from the inside handrail side.

Where winders are used instead of a landing, the tread size may be different from the parallel
treads provided all the winders are the same size and there are is a maximum of only three (3).

(Kite winder)

Winders

1.0m or less

Proportion for going measured


along this line for all treads

Equal Equal

Fig. 21 Layout for stair winders

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

DETERMINING STEP PROPORTIONS

The accepted formula, as per BCA, for calculating riser and tread dimensions for stairs, often
referred to as ‘Easy going stairs’, is twice the rise plus one going, or (2R +G). The result of
this calculation must fall between 550mm and 700mm, known as the Slope Relationship.

TABLE 1
ACCEPTABLE PROPORTIONS FOR STAIRS
RISER (R) GOING (G) SLOPE RELATIONSHIP
(mm) (mm) (2R+G) (mm)
Min. Max. Min. Max. Min. Max.
115 190 240 355 550 700

Calculating Rise and Going for a Flight

The basic information required to calculate the rise and going for any flight of stairs is:

• The rise of the flight;


• Going of flight and whether it is restricted or unrestricted; and
• Basic knowledge of BCA requirements and formula for slope relationship.

METHOD 1
The following steps outline the method adopted to calculate the rise and going for a given flight
of stairs with an ‘unrestricted’ going:
METHOD 2
STEP 1 Obtain the rise of the flight;

STEP 2 Assume a suitable rise, when the average rise is (190 + 115) ÷ 2 = 153mm ;

STEP 3 Establish the number of risers by dividing the assumed rise into the rise of the
flight;
STEP 4 Establish the length of the going by using the average slope relationship
measurement, i.e. ( 550 + 700) ÷ 2 = 625mm, substitute the average rise
measurement for ‘R’ in the formula, then transpose the formula to find ‘G’.

The following steps outline the method adopted to calculate the rise and going for a given flight
of stairs with a ‘restricted’ going:
STEP 1 Obtain the rise of the flight;

STEP 2 Assume a suitable rise, when the average rise is (190 + 115) ÷ 2 = 153mm ;

STEP 3 Establish the number of risers by dividing the assumed rise into the rise of the
flight;
STEP 4 Establish the length of the going by dividing the assumed rise into the restricted
flight going. Check to see if both the rise and going measurements comply, by
substituting them for ‘R’ and ‘G’, and apply the formula (2R + G).

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

Example 1:

Using ‘Method 1’, calculate the number and size of the rises and goings for a flight of stairs
with a rise of flight of 2.650m and an unrestricted going of flight.

STEP 1 Rise of flight = 2650mm

STEP 2 Assume a rise, say average = (190 + 115) ÷ 2 = 153mm

STEP 3 Number of risers = 2650 ÷ 153 = 17. 320 risers


There must be full equal-sized risers, therefore round off to 17 risers.

∴ The height of each riser = 2650 ÷ 17 = 155.882, say 156mm

STEP 4 The number of goings will be one (1) less than the risers, therefore 16 goings.
The size of the goings will be based on the average slope relationship measurement
= (550 + 700) ÷ 2 = 625mm.

Now substitute the known measurements for the formula symbols:

= (2R+G) = 625
= (312 + G) = 625

Now transpose the formula to find the value of ‘G’:


∴ ’G’ = 625 - 312
= 313mm

Therefore, there will be 17 risers at 156mm and 16 goings at 313mm.

Note: The total length of the flight going will be 16 x 313 = 5.008m
156

2650

313

5008

Fig. 22 Layout of stairs for an unrestricted flight

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

Example 2:

Using ‘Method 2’, calculate the number and size of the rises and goings for a flight of stairs
with a rise of flight of 1.900m and a restricted going of flight of 3.350m.

STEP 1 Rise of flight = 1900mm

STEP 2 Assume a rise, say average = (190 + 115) ÷ 2 = 153mm

STEP 3 Number of risers = 1900 ÷ 153 = 12.418 risers


There must be full equal-sized risers, therefore round off to 12 risers.

∴ The height of each riser = 1900 ÷ 12 = 158.333, say 158mm

STEP 4 The number of goings will be one (1) less than the risers, therefore 11 goings.

The size of the goings will be based on the length of the flight going divided by the
number of goings:

= 3350 ÷ 11 = 304.5, say 305mm


Therefore, there will be 12 risers at 158mm and 11 goings at 305mm.

Check formula for compliance with BCA

∴ (2R + G) = ( between 550 and 700mm)


= 316 + 305 = 621mm, therefore it complies.
158

1900

305

3350

Fig. 14.23 Layout of stairs for a restricted flight

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

METHOD OF MEASURING UP for TIMBER STAIRS

The accuracy of the finished product will depend on the accuracy of the initial measuring up
on-site. There are several points to consider and critical information to record, as follows:

• Measure the finished floor to finished floor height to establish the rise of the flight, or to
determine whether or not a landing will be required between flights. A more accurate
method of establishing the rise would be to mark the height onto a rod or batten;

• Check the walls for parallel, square and straight to ensure a proper fit, or to allow for
coverstrips where the strings do not fit neatly to the walls;

• Check the position of existing windows to ensure the flight(s) do not pass across an
opening;

• Check the going of the flight for restrictions, e.g. doorways, walls, available headroom,
etc. and record the going of the flight, as required;

• Note the bearing position for the top of the flight to allow for fixing and finishing of the
top riser and nosing, if required; and

• Calculate a suitable rise and going for each step, based on the slope relationship formula,
i.e. (2R + G) = 550 to 700mm.

Finished upper floor

Proposed
stair Doorway
position
rise
Measure

Measure available going

Fig. 24 Check on-site details

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

SETTING OUT THE STRINGS

Once the rise and going of each step is established, carry out the following:

STEP 1 Select string material, place


any bows up and set a
Margin line
margin line from the top
edge, for closed strings, to
ensure the nosing stays
within the width of the
string.

String

Fig. 25 Set a margin line as required

STEP 2 Set up a steel square with the calculated rise and going measurements for each step,
including the set back distance for the margin line.
Start from one end to allow for riser, newel post and point of attachment notch,
then mark out all the rise and tread positions.
Note: These set out positions represent the top of the tread and the face of the rise.

Steel square set up for step set out


Rise

Going
Margin line

String

Fig. 26 Set out the strings

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

STEP 3 Set out for the thickness of each rise and tread, including a stopped housing for the
end of the tread nosing, ready to be trenched. The strings should be set out and
trenched as a pair.

Thickness of tread marked

Thickness of riser marked

Fig. 27 Set out positions for treads and risers

STEP 4 Set out the complete string with allowances for wedges under treads and behind
risers, tenons into newel posts and reduction of string length to fit between newel
posts.

Top newel post position

End of tenon

Shoulder of tenon

Bottom newel post


position

Treads, risers
and wedge
allowance

Shoulder of tenon
End of tenon

Level cut to bottom of string

Fig. 28 Complete string set out

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

STRING SET OUT TEMPLATE

An alternative to setting out individual treads and risers is to use a template, which has the
tread, riser thickness and wedge allowance prepared ready to be traced onto the string to suit
the particular set out required.
The adjustable guides are set to suit the string width being used, which allows the template to
slide along after each set out is made. The template may be reversed to set out both left and
right strings.
The detail below provides set out details to allow for the fabrication of a standard template.
Note: A similar template may be fabricated for use with a router. The opening sizes are
increased to allow a template guide to be fitted to the base plate of the router, which runs
around the tread, riser and wedge outline within the template.
200
65 65
30

100

Wingnut Wingnut
30x18
100

30mm long
Slotted
hole

425
6mm
Plywood

Sharpened nails in pre- 60


drilled holes
100

30x18
80

Wingnut
30

275

550

380
34

60
220

DETAIL FOR TREAD and RISER

35

Fig. 29 Typical stair set out template

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

ROUTER AND TEMPLATE

The quickest way to remove the waste from string set outs and cut neatly to the outline is to use
a router fitted with a template guide.
A string template may be made by increasing the size of the string template to allow for the
thickness of the protruding router template guide. This allows the router cutter to cut neatly
along the set out lines and remove the waste at the same time.

Step template

String ‘X’ Template guide

Fig. 30 Router fitted with template guide

Outline for router template


guide Allowance for template guide
‘x’

Original step outline

Fig. 31 Step template for router guide

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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STRING / NEWEL POST SET OUT

The newel posts are positioned to allow the face of the bottom riser and the face of the top riser
to be in line with the centre of the newel post. This means that both these risers will be housed
into the newel posts, as well as a portion of each tread and nosing. The ends of the strings are
double tenoned, or have a full width tenon, and morticed into the newel posts.

Shoulder line on string material

Newell is positioned with centre line on


face of the riser board

String Newel

Housing to take
Double nosing and riser
tenon

Newel notched for


Tread landing trimmer
Newel

Housing to take
tread and riser String

Detail at top of Newel


Fig. 32 Set out and jointing of strings and newels

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

HANDRAILS/NEWELS/BALUSTERS

There are many different profiles available for handrails, newel posts and balusters. They may
be of solid timber sections or be built-up in laminations. Handrail edges are rounded to prevent
sharp edges and splintering.

Fig. 33 Typical handrail profiles

Newel Posts Balusters

Fig. 34 Newel posts and balusters

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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OPEN RISER STAIRS

Open riser stairs are more typically used in external situations and are constructed of durable
hardwoods or treated pine timbers. The strings are housed to take treads and prevented from
spreading with the use of threaded booker rods.
Some suitable Class 1 durability timbers for external stair use, as per AS 1684—Part 2, which
may be fully exposed or in contact with the ground, are as follows:

• Treated radiata pine


• Coastal grey box
• Grey gum
• Forest red gum Rise of step
• Red and grey ironbark
• Messmate
Max 125mm space
• Tallowwood Booker rod
tension bolts
Rise
Note: Handrails for decks and of
external stairs are not required Ground level step
unless the top of the landing, or any
tread, is more than 1.0m above the Dowel into concrete pad
finished ground level, or paving.

Fig. 35 Section through open riser stairs

Horn for fixing

Booker rod
tension bolts
Concrete pads

Fig. 36 Isometric view of completed external stairs

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

OPEN RISER STAIRS - Alternative fixing

Traditionally, external stairs are fixed using a non-corrosive dowel into a concrete pad, at the
bottom of each string, and a timber horn at the top of each tread.
However, an alternative
method of fixing would be to
use galvanised metal fixing
plates, or shoes cast into a Fixing plate
concrete pad at the bottom of
the strings, and galvanised String
metal fixing plates bolted
between the top of the strings
and ends of floor joists.
Tread

Max. 125mm

12mm bolt through


strings (tension rods)

Fixing plate

SECTION - CLOSED STRING


OPEN RISER STAIR

ISOMETRIC VIEW

Fig. 37 Use of galvanised metal fixing plates

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

CONSTRUCTING OPEN RISER STAIRS

Open riser stairs are measured up and constructed in a similar way to closed riser stairs,
although connection between the newels and strings tends to vary. The balustrade is normally
simpler in design, consisting of a handrail, guard rail and newels.
The treads may be housed through to the string top edge or they may be housed to take the end
section of the tread only.
Handrail

Verandah balustrade
Guard rail

Verandah
Landing deck deck

Bolted
Threaded connections
Booker
rods Threaded
Galv. Post
booker
shoes
rod
G.L.
END ELEVATION ELEVATION Through housed treads

PLAN

Fig. 38 Typical open riser flight of stairs onto a verandah

125mm
Threaded max
Preferred
20mm overlap Booker rod

TREADS - Through housed TREADS - Stop housed

Fig. 39 Optional fitting of treads


©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division
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STAIR BUILDING

CALCULATION OF STRING LENGTH

Calculation of string length is similar to the calculation of a common rafter. A triangle is


formed by the rise of flight, the going of flight and the hypotenuse or string length.
An allowance of one (1) step going is added to the going of flight to allow for fitting and
finishing of the strings, where they are not mortice and tenoned into the newel posts.
Note: Where the going of flight is not restricted, calculation of a suitable step going will have
to be calculated, to suit the slope relationship formula (2R + G), then multiplied by the number
of treads to obtain the flight going.

STEP 1 Check and record measurements for the rise and going of flight.
(Calculate going of flight if required)

Landing and newel posts

Proposed
stairs

(Rise of flight)
1020

1425
(Going of flight)

Fig. 40 Obtaining rise and going of flight

• Rise of flight = 1.020m, • Going of flight = 1.425m ( Rise = 170mm, Going = 285mm)

STEP 2 Calculate the length of the string using the following formula:

Length of String = √ ( Rise of flight )² + ( Going of flight + One going of step)²


= √ 1.020² + 1.710²
= √ 1.040 + 2.924
= √ 3.964
= 1.991m
Therefore, Order 2/ 2.1

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

CALCULATION OF STAIR QUANTITIES

Example 1: SINGLE OPEN RISER FLIGHT


Calculate the quantity and cost of dressed tallowwood required to construct a single flight of
stairs with open risers, when:

Specification: Rise of flight = 1.550m;


Going of flight (restricted) = 2.800m;
Rise of step to be around 160mm;
String material o/o 250 x 50 DAR tallowwood @ $12.80/m;
Treads o/o 325 x 50 DAR tallowwood @ $16.50/m; and
Width of flight = 1500mm.

No. of Risers: = 1.550 = 9.688, say 10 risers


0.160

Height of Risers: = 1.550 = 155mm


10

No. of Goings: = (One less than rises), therefore 9

Length of Goings: = 2.800 = 311mm


9

Check: = (2R + G) = between 550 to 700


=
310 + 311 = 621mm OK!
Length of String: = √ ( Rise of flight )² + ( Going of flight + One going of step)²
√ (1.550)² + ( 2.800 + 0.311)²
√ 2.403 + 9.678
√ 12.081
3.476m
Order - 2/ 3.6
Timber Order: = Strings - 250 x 50 DAR Tallowwood - 2/ 3.6
Treads - 325 x 50 DAR Tallowwood - 9/ 1.5 or 3/ 4.5

Cost: = Strings - (2 x 3.6) = 7.2 x $12.80 = $92.16


Treads - (3 x 4.5) = 13.5 x $16.50 = $222.75

Total Cost: = 92.16 + 222.75


= $314.91

Note: Cost of material includes GST

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

Example 2: SINGLE OPEN RISER FLIGHT WITH BALUSTRADE


Calculate the quantity and cost of dressed tallowwood required to construct a single flight of
stairs with open risers, including newel posts, handrails and guard rails, when:

Specification: Rise of flight = 1.020m;


Going of flight (determined) = 1.425m;
Rise of step to be 170mm;
Going of step to be 285mm;
Width of flight = 1000mm.
Size of landing = 1000 x 1000mm;
String material o/o 250 x 50 DAR tallowwood @ $12.80/m;
Treads o/o 300 x 38 DAR tallowwood @ $11.60/m;
Handrail o/o 125 x 38 DAR tallowwood @ $5.30/m;
Guard rail o/o 75 x 50 DAR tallowwood @ $3.90/m; and
Newel posts o/o 100 x 100 DAR tallowwood @ $7.85/m.
(Height of handrail)
1000

(Rise of flight)
1020

1000 1425
(length and width of landing) (Going of flight)

Fig. 41 Open riser flight with balustrade

No. of Risers: = 1.020 = say 6 risers @ 170mm high


0.170

No. of Goings: = (One less than rises), therefore 5

Length of Goings: = 1.425 = 285mm


5
Check: = (2R + G) = between 550 to 700

340+ 285 = 625mm OK!


©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison
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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

Length of String: = √ ( Rise of flight )² + ( Going of flight + One going of step)²


= √ 1.020² + 1.710²
= √ 1.020² + 1.710²
= √ 3.964
= 1.991m
Order - 2/ 2.1

Treads: = Order - 5/ 1.0 or 1/ 5.1

Handrail: = Stairs - (same as string), say 1/ 2.1


Landing - 2 sides at 100mm, say 1/ 2.1
Order - 2/ 2.1

Guard rail: = (allow same as for handrails),


Order - 2/ 2.1

Newel posts: = (allow 2 for landing), 1.000 + 1.020 = 2.020, say 2/ 2.1
(allow 1 for stairs), 1.000 + (1 rise) 0.170 = 1.170, say 1/ 1.2
Order - 1/ 3.3, 1/ 2.1

Timber Order: = Strings - 250 x 50 DAR Tallowwood - 2/ 2.1


Treads - 300 x 38 DAR Tallowwood - 1/ 5.1
Handrail - 125 x 38 DAR Tallowwood - 2/ 2.1
Guard rail - 75 x 50 DAR Tallowwood - 2/ 2.1
Newel posts - 100 x 100 DAR Tallowwood - 1/ 3.3, 1/ 2.1

Cost: = Strings - (2 x 2.1) = 4.2 x $12.80 = $53.76


Treads - 5.1 x $11.60 = $59.16
Handrail - (2 x 2.1) = 4.2 x $5.30 = $22.26
Guard rail - (2 x 2.1) = 4.2 x $3.90 = $16.38
Newel posts - (3.3 + 2.1) = 5.4 x $7.85 = $42.39

Total Cost: = 53.76 + 59.16 + 22.26 + 16.38 + 42.39


= $193.95

Note: Cost of material includes GST

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

Example 3: SINGLE CLOSED RISER FLIGHT WITH BALUSTRADE


Calculate the quantity and cost of dressed Meranti required to construct a single flight of stairs
with closed risers, including newel posts, handrails and balusters, when:

Specification: Rise of flight - 2.500m


Going of flight (restricted) - 3.800m
Rise of step - around 170mm
Strings - 300 x 50 DAR Meranti @ $47.15/m
Treads - 325 x 38 DAR Meranti (joined) @ $38.00/m
Riser boards - 175 x 25 DAR Meranti @ $10.16/m
Nosing - 20mm
Width of stairs - 1.100m
Handrails - o/o 100 x 75 moulded Meranti @ $35.75/m
Newel posts - 100 x 75 DAR Meranti @ $28.28/m
Balusters - 30 x 30 DAR Meranti @ $8.04/m
Note: Balustrade required on one side only and balusters are spaced at
approx. 135mm centres to maintain the 125mm max. space between balus-
ters (BCA requirement).
40
1000
400

135
770

2500
1120

3800

Fig. 42 Detail of closed riser stairs

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

No. of Risers: = 2.500 = 14.71, say 15 risers


0.170

Height of Risers: = 2.500 = 167mm


15

No. of Goings: = (One less than rises), therefore 14

Length of Goings: = 3.800 = 271mm


14

Check: = (2R + G) = between 550 to 700

= 334 + 271 = 605mm OK!


Length of String: = √ ( Rise of flight )² + ( Going of flight + One going of step)²
√ (2.500)² + ( 3.800 + 0.271)²
√ 6.250 + 16.573
√ 22.823
4.777m
Order - 2/ 4.8

Treads: = 14/ 1.100


Order - 4/ 3.3, 1/ 2.4

Risers: = 15/ 1.100


Order - 5/ 3.3

Newel posts: = 1.440 + 1.120 = 2.560


Order - 1/ 2.7

Handrail: = (allow same length as string)


Order - 1/ 4.8

Balusters: = (3.800 - 2)
0.135
= 28.148 - 2
= 29 - 2
= 27 (@ 0.770 long)
Order - 3/ 5.4, 1/ 4.8

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

Timber Order: = Strings - 300 x 50 DAR Meranti - 2/ 4.8


Treads - 325 x 38 DAR Meranti (joined) - 4/ 3.3, 1/ 2.4
Riser boards - 175 x 25 DAR Meranti - 5/ 3.3
Newel posts - 100 x 75 DAR Meranti - 1/ 2.7
Handrail - o/o 100 x 75 moulded Meranti - 1/ 4.8
Balusters - 30 x 30 DAR Meranti - 3/ 5.4, 1/ 4.8

Cost: = Strings - (2 x 4.8) = 9.6 x $47.15 = $452.64


Treads - ( 4 x 3.3) + 2.4 = 15.6 x $38.00 = $592.80
Riser boards - (5 x 3.3) = 16.5 x $10.16 = $167.64
Newel posts - 2.7 x $28.28 = $76.36
Handrail - 4.8 x $35.75 = $171.60
Balusters - (3 x 5.4) + 4.8 = 21.0 x $8.04 = $168.84

Total Cost: = 452.64 + 592.80 + 167.64 + 76.36 + 171.60 + 168.84


= $1629.88

Note: Cost of material includes GST

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

PATENT-TYPE STAIRS

There are patent-types of stairs available, which are pre-fabricated or modular in design. Attic
ladders are available, which fold up flush with the ceiling and are easily pulled down when
required.
Other types include metal modular brackets, which are simply attached to timber strings,
similar to those produced by BHP and known as “Kwik-step”.
These brackets are nail-fixed on the inside of the string with galvanised roofing nails. The angle
is the same for all stairs and the rise may be adjusted to suit by sliding the brackets down the
string. Timber treads are bolted through the brackets on the underside. The brackets should be
painted for protection from the weather, when the stairs are fully exposed.

Fixing
Bracket.

Newel post
bracket.

Bottom step podium

Fig. 43 Patent-type modular steps

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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STAIR BUILDING

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Aesthetic: This refers to the appearance of an object or its finish.

Attic: This is an accessible area inside a roof space used for storage.
Access is normally provided via a fold down Attic ladder.

Booker rod: This is a mild steel or brass rod, which has been threaded for its full
length to allow fixing nuts to be placed at any position. These rods
are commonly used as tensioning rods to hold open-riser stair
strings tightly together and prevent spreading.
Catwalk: Also known as a Crawlboard, it is a narrow, elevated walkway
within or above a building or structure, used mainly for
maintenance access to plant and equipment.
Chequer(ed): This refers to the non-slip pattern formed on steel or cast-iron plate.
It is mainly used on external stair treads and landings.

GST: This stands for Goods and Services Tax, which is a new
government tax added to the value of goods, i.e. timber, which was
introduced in July 2000.
Spiral: This is a geometric shape made up of a continuous curved line
formed by wrapping around a solid or imaginary cylinder.

Winders: These are tapered or triangular-shaped treads formed where the


stairs are continuous around a corner to negate the requirement of a
landing. The middle winder is commonly referred to as a “Kite-
winder”.

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Divison


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CARPENTRY - HOUSING

FURTHER READING

Australian Building Codes Board, 1999, BCA (Building Code of Australia), GPO Box 9839
Canberra, ACT.

Staines, Allan, Fifth Edition, 1986, The Australian Owner Builders Manual, Pinedale press,
Caloundra, QLD.

Bloomfield, F. C. and E. Peterson, Revised by B.S. Brown and H. A. Slatyer, First Edition
1958, Fifth edition 1985, The Australian Carpenter and Joiner – Volume 1, Standard Publish-
ing Co. Pty Ltd., Naremburn, NSW.

Manufacturer’s or suppliers brochures for patent-type stairs.

VIDEOS
Construction and Transport Division, Staircases—measuring up (CTV23) available from Re-
source Distribution, Yagoona.

©TAFE NSW Construction and Transport Division


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