I am curious what your recommendations are for building a set of garage steps in my situation. I am wanting to replace the step in my garage which is an 8" movable hollow cement block. The distance between the bottom of the door to the ground is between 17" measured to the top of the door metal weather-strip. It is between 16.5" and 16 7/8" if measured from floor to bottom of the weather-strip. I can find a lot of information on the internet about building stringers, but this height is a bit awkward. 8.25" is a bit beyond code requirements of approximately 7.75" maximum riser height. However, doing two steps would require me to have a riser height of 5 2/3" which is way below the ideal 7.5". I believe the unit run would need to be about 13" in this case as well (your thoughts), which puts me at a total run of 26", which is doable, but not optimal in my eyes.

So my question is

  1. if there are any code exceptions for a single step in a garage (live in Maryland).
  2. which do you think would be more comfortable, perhaps in spite of code requirements (single step of 8.25" or two steps of 5 2/3").
  3. Depending on whether you chose option (1) or option (2), what do you think an optimal unit run length would be?

Thanks for all of the input! Just to clarify two questions that have been asked:

  1. The stair is from a doorway in the house stepping down to concrete inside of the garage.

  2. The door cannot be lowered. Without the weather seal, the door would be level with flooring. The flooring is also of small thickness (laminate in that area), so the door is essentially level with the subfloor.

  • There's the option of using a ramp instead, if you have the room for it.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 14:27
  • For code best place is your town offices. For own home, might just use what is comfortable and safe. You are the one to use it and doubt if a block is up to code anyway.
    – crip659
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 14:42
  • Code isn't really relevant anyway as you're not trying to pass inspection and the change seems like a vast improvement. Do what makes sense in your case. It partly depends on space available. For optimal run length, look at ready-made treads and plan for a 1" nosing.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:45
  • Since code doesn't strictly apply, I'm voting to close as opinion-based. Good luck with the project, and feel free to post more questions if you have them.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:47
  • @isherwood Why doesn’t the code “strictly apply” ?
    – Lee Sam
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:29

3 Answers 3


A landing is required if the door swings outward, except for screen doors. The landing is to be the width of the door and 36” in the direction of travel. (See ICC R311.4.3.)

The maximum rise of steps is 8”. The maximum difference between risers is 3/8” from smallest to largest. (See ICC R311.5.3.1)

The minimum tread depth is 9”. The greatest difference from smallest to largest is 3/8”. (See ICC R311.5.3.2)

A handrail is required if there are 4 or more risers. The handrail is to be installed a minimum of 34” and not to exceed 38” (See ICC R311.5.6)

I wouldn’t ignore the code. That’s how people end up in court after a neighbor has an accident without insurance.

  • Ignoring code now likely means redoing it when you (or your heirs) goes to sell. Just do it right the first time.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:30
  • You quote a minimum tread depth. Is there a maximum depth? If not, a long tread with a short rise makes it almost like walking up a hill instead of up a step. It's more comfortable to take it in stride, as opposed to two short rises with a short runs which almost feels like stuttering. Of course, longer treads take up more floor space which may not be available.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:32
  • Nah. Millions of homes sell every day with outdated stairs. Unless the buyer wants to make an issue of it (rare), it won't matter.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:33
  • @FreeMan There is no “maximum” stair tread depth by code.
    – Lee Sam
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:50
  • 2
    @FreeMan Along that vein a very deep step is called a landing -- and periodically inserting one of these in a set of stairs, or building the whole thing of them, is a way to reset the riser count and avoid the requirement for a handrail. It's usually not practical inside a building but happens all the time in landscapes.
    – Greg Hill
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 20:27

You haven't mentioned what surface "ground" is, but if I were inclined to meet the 8" maximum riser height requirement, I'd find a way of raising the ground elevation one inch higher so that I can use two steps. Add some gravel, bring up the level of the soil, re-lay the paver bricks/stones, re-pour a 36" or larger square of concrete, or whatever is applicable to your existing outdoor surface.

Another possibility, if the door threshold is at least an inch higher than the interior floor, is to lower the door. Remove the door and frame, saw the wall down a little bit, re-install. Make up some kind of flashing or other arrangement to fill and cover the resulting gap above the door frame.


I would make a single step- 1 tread and 2 risers. I think it would feel strange to walk up 2 treads that have such small rise.

I figure my overall rise from floor to floor- not floor to top of threshold or bottom of door. Often you are walking over the threshold and not on it. Looked at this way, your overall rise may be shortened a bit.

Worst case is a rise of 8 1/4" or so for one step (tread) is fine. I would make the tread width (the run) anywhere from 11"-13"- less than that feels tight and more than that can be awkward- like you need to stretch your step or take two steps on it.

  • 2
    It might feel strange unless you're a senior where that high of a step is difficult. The rules exist for a reason.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:46

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