A photograph of winders. creative commons by-nc-nd 2011 bruce john stracke.

winders and stairs

Laying out the stringers is tricky and adding winders more so. Typically, the most experienced carpenter cuts the stair stringers. It’s just not a job the younger carpenters can accomplish well. Stairs have to fit horizontally and vertically. That sounds intuitive, though getting all the stair components to fit right is a bit more complicated. The International Residential Code (IRC) requires specific landing sizes: top, bottom and on long runs midway; be included in the layout. As well as prescriptions for maximum rises (step height) and runs (tread depth). Additionally, the steps and height between them needs to be consistent so as to not create a tripping hazard. The math isn’t calculus, simple addition and geometry really. Though adding up the rises, runs and landings while taking into account tread thickness, riser material and possibly different flooring thicknesses at each end make for a series of simple calculations that are critical to stairs that land, look and feel just right. Finally, stairs and winders should not squeak. With so many opportunities for something to go wrong we specify the best building materials in our stringers and sub treads. The bottom line: when looking for place to cut your budget, stairs isn’t the place.

For the treads, like our sub floors we specify Advantech, though on the stairs we use the 1-1/4″ thickness for ultra tight and stable treads. No matter the finished floor material these treads provide a great under surface for years of quiet use. Here is Huber’s Advantech Flat Out Best brochure, if you’d like to learn more.

We make our stringers from Trus Joist Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL). While LSL’s cost more than two by material, they are so much stronger and more stable we can create far better stringers and more usable space in the closets underneath. Cutting stringers out of LSL’s requires a different technique than when using two by material our lead carpenter understands and does well. For more information here is the Trus Joist LSL’s for stair stringers installation guide.

Laying out the stairs and winders may not seem like a big deal. In fact, you shouldn’t notice these things at all. When you do likely someone didn’t pay attention to the details that make for simply comfortable living-