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Porch Stairs

Edited: I added a photo of the whole stairs, to see if it looks like it can be fixed or if you all think he needs to start over.

We are currently having our front porch steps and railing rebuilt.

The top step rests right under the porch, resulting in an awkward tiny step up or down.

We've read that there can only be a 3/8" inch difference in rise. Does this small step count as a rise?

Porch steps

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  • 7
    Don't know code, but if you find it awkward, then fix it. It looks like a good tripping hazard also going up.
    – crip659
    Oct 3 at 16:50
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    This [person] who put in this DANGEROUS setup, simply bought ready made, precut treads from some big box store didn't he/she??? In many, many instances each set of stairs need to be built according to the overall rise and run of the stairs. Also needs to be set on something at the bottom that will act as a solid base for the system to bear on, preferably sized and deep enough so the freeze/thaw cycles don't mess with it.
    – Jack
    Oct 3 at 17:28
  • temporarily lower the whole stairway so that the top stair has the correct rise ... that will move the trip hazard to the bottom of the stairway
    – jsotola
    Oct 3 at 17:51
  • @Jack, TBF, the bottom looks like it's not only sitting on the concrete sidewalk, but that 90° brackets have been attached to the concrete and the stringers. Of course, the sidewalk could be subject to frost heave... Agree 100% with the rest of the install assessment.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4 at 13:06
  • @FreeMan, Jack's comment was from before the full picture was included in the post.
    – RLH
    Oct 4 at 14:05
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That doesn’t meet code, and is flat-out dangerous.

The simplest fix is to lift the entire stringer assembly and raise the grade at the bottom. Or take it apart and do it right from the outset.

I shudder when I imagine that this is being done by a “professional”.

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    If you want to see what happens when steps are even a tiny bit out: youtube.com/watch?v=seieuz__B_g Oct 4 at 11:40
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    @user7761803 In fairness, it's much more jarring when that odd step is in the middle of the stairs, like that video. When it's at the very top or bottom, it's slightly less problematic as people are expecting something to change when they reach the end of the steps. Should still be fixed of course, but it's not quite as bad as those subway steps. Oct 4 at 13:24
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    good answer... 2 things here... 1 - the stringer dimensions don't seem right. Looks like the stairs need more height. 2 - if you are ok with slightly ghetto, you can salvage this by putting a bottom plate under stringer and raising the stairs so the top step equals the deck... Don't get the 1x handrail and other stuff... Also if you push hard to the right on the right handrail I am sure it moves a lot.
    – DMoore
    Oct 4 at 21:11
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    At no point did anyone say this was being done by a "professional" =)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Oct 5 at 11:31
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    @Joshua, you can make the step height shorter to fit in another step or taller to remove a step. There is a min and max, but the most important part is consistency.
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 5 at 18:49
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Yes, it counts as a rise.

You need to have the steps redone if you want to be code compliant.

Looks like your top step is ~3" low. You need to make new stringers with the rise being ~3/4" higher.

Or, you can make each rise shorter and have he top tread end rise-distance below the deck. That is, if the rise is 7", the top tread would be 7" below the top surface of the deck.

Can't say for sure because we don't know 1) how many treads there are and 2) what the current rise and run of the steps are.

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Don't make it harder than it is.

You need to dismantle it, but you can simply tilt the existing risers to place (the heel of) the top stair flush with the porch.

Then make sure (the heel of) each stair is evenly spaced from the concrete to the porch height.

I say "heel" because if you do this literally, each step will be on a slant. The next step is to use wedge shaped shims to bring up the toe of each step, so the steps are more or less level. But the heels won't change level.

Such wedge-shaped shims are sold at lumberyards for framing doors and the like. You can also cut your own.

Pay extra attention to the bottom step. The rise from concrete to first step needs to be within tolerance of the other steps.

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    not tilt, just a bottom plate that makes it equal... tilting would not be code.
    – DMoore
    Oct 5 at 0:15
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    @Dmoore that is why you would need the shims, to level the steps. Oct 5 at 0:48
  • This is an interesting idea, but I suspect that shimming the front will make the rise too high. (And if I did that, I couldn’t bear the shame.) Oct 5 at 19:15
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    If you tilt and shim, the bottom step will be slightly higher, just like when putting a riser under it. The latter seems easier to me, though.
    – SQB
    Oct 6 at 8:41
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    I can honestly say that well over 1000 stairs I have never seen a tread shimmed. At this point you can make it worse but I just don't see how you shim a tread. Treads come loose without a shim...
    – DMoore
    Oct 6 at 15:50
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I'll agree with the other answers that this set of stairs is NOT even close to being code compliant. My recommendation (having just done two similar steps on my own home, and researching this topic carefully), is to dismantle it and start again. Get your money back too, if possible. Okay, anyhoo, here is my actual hopeful contribution to the discussion... I found this link VERY VERY helpful:

This one has a calculator that makes the math much easier and provides a stringer-template diagram, that makes it very visual and easy to understand. I used it to create a carboard cutout, so that I could test fit the stringers before cutting any wood: https://www.blocklayer.com/stairs/stairseng.aspx

Stringer Layout ... there are many others.

Watch a bunch of YouTube until you can finally get your head around it.

One more point - I had to adjust the height of the concrete paving stone at the bottom of the stairs so that had the correct riser height as well.

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  • Welcome to Home Improvement! If you'll read through the help center, you'll see that just supplying a link with a "read this", is frowned upon. Links can die at any moment, and that leaves your answer being less than satisfactory. Please edit in some relevant quotes from each link you're recommending, just to future proof your answer.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 6 at 16:03

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