How to Build Oak Stairs

Updated February 21, 2017

Oak is one of the most popular woods used in homes to build everything from banisters to kitchen cabinets. It can be stained, varnished or painted and look good in each case. To build stairs, though, requires learning the terms related to stair building. A riser is the space between the steps, which are called treads. A stringer is a platform to which the treads and risers are secured. Do plenty of research before beginning, especially if this is your first try.

Measure from the ground to the desired height of the oak stairs and divide the measurement by seven to let you know how many risers are needed. If the answer is a fraction, round it up to the next number. For example, 48 (height) divided by seven (riser height) equals 6.857; round this up to seven to give you the number of risers needed.

Divide the desired height (48 inches) by the number of risers needed (seven) to give you the actual height of the risers. In this case, it's 6.857142, which is closest to 6 13/16 inches. You'll need seven risers 6 13/16 inches in height.

Calculate the number of treads by deciding whether the stairs will have a top tread or the floor at the top of the stairs will be the top tread. If it is, you will need one less tread than the number of risers. With the same number of treads as risers, the stair's top tread will be level with the floor at the top of the stairs.

Roll out enough paper from the 48-inch wide paper to draw the risers and treads. Transfer the drawing to the 2-by-12-inch lumber. Cut these with the circular saw.

Cut two stringers from the 2-by-12-lumber. Cut the treads from the 1-by-6-inch oak to the needed width for the stairs, and secure with the 6d finish nails. If the width is more than 36 inches, add a third stringer, placing it in the centre between the other two.


Risers cannot exceed 7 3/4 inches. Treads should not be less than 10 inches deep. The common combination is a 7-inch riser with an 11-inch tread. The space for the risers can be left open, as in a deck, for example. For more options concerning indoor and outdoor stair building, see "Pencil and Paper Stringer Layout" in the Reference section of this article.


Do not leave power tools unattended in the presence of children. Do not stain or paint the oak stairs without proper ventilation.

Things You'll Need

  • Framing square
  • 48-inch wide roll of paper
  • 2-by-12-inch lumber
  • 1-by-6-inch oak
  • Circular saw
  • 6d finish nails
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About the Author

Michael Straessle has written professionally about the construction industry since 1988. He authored “What a Strange Little Man,” among other books, and his work has appeared in various online publications. Straessle earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in professional/technical writing.