How to Build Free Standing Wooden Steps – The Easiest Way!

You probably have seen wooden steps at the front yard of your neighborhood. Those freestanding wooden steps enhance the beauty of the place where it is placed.

The thing is, making these wooden stairs isn’t that difficult. So, if you are thinking about getting one for your house, know that you don’t need to pay a woodworker for that.

If you can do some math, prepare a plan and have a little knowledge of woodworking, or at least manage how to do basic woodworking stuff, you are good to go all by your own. 

So, let’s start putting things together.

Building Free Standing Wooden Steps

Don’t freak out if you don’t haven’t been involved in any woodworking before. Building wooden stairs isn’t rocket science. Just follow this step by step process.

Things You Need

The first thing to do is to get all the necessary tools and supplies. You will need –

  • Hammer
  • Hand saw
  • 16d nails
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Farming square

You might need the following items too –

  • Nail gun
  • Jigsaw
  • Circular saw
  • Chop saw
  • String line
  • Board bender

Oops! Did I forget to tell you about wood? How on earth are you about to build wooden steps without wood? Therefore, go and get some wood. How many pieces of wood you need will depend on the length and width of the steps you want to build.

In this guide, I would prefer to get at least six pieces of wood. Make sure the wooden pieces have no crack, and all the pieces are perfect and straight. The recommended dimensions would be 2x4x16, 2x12x16, and 4x4x16.

Let’s Do Some Calculations and Measurements

Woodworking requires calculations and measurements before cutting wooden pieces. First, you need to determine the height of the stairs, from leading part to all the way down the ground. Now find the height of each step by dividing the value of total height by 7.

For instance, if the total height is 84, then divide it by 7; you will get 12 steps. Note that I pointed out the average stairs to be 7 inches. Depending on your demand, you can increase or decrease the amount.

The regular tread depth would be 10.5 inches. If you have something different like 7¼ and 10 5/8, that is fine.

For strength, you can build stairs with three stringers. And each of the stringers needs to be made from one-piece measuring 2x12. On the other hand, the width of the outside stringers would be 36 inches. Therefore, you will need two 2x36x36 for applying as a header and footer.

The legs would require a 2x6 piece that will keep them uniform and spread out. Make the steps out of 2x12 pieces. It's important to give them space to overhand of an inch on both sides of the stringers.

For handrails, cut the 2x6 piece for baluster at around 48 inches and keep it as it is until it needs further accurate cutting.

When you are about to cut the legs, remember the Pythagorean theorem for the right height considering the length of the staircase and its diagonal height. Keep in mind, a2+b2 = c2.

Was it difficult to understand? If yes, then read this section again. When you get it, proceed to the next section. 

Setting Things Up and Layout

Calculating and measuring was the toughest part of this article. The procedures from now on will be smooth. After finishing with the measurement and stuff, it is time for you to set up the framing square.

If you can somehow manage the stair gauges, it will make things a lot easy for you. What they do is, they lock into the place and eliminate errors of the layout of the stringers.

But if you don’t have one, have someone and ask him to hold the square. It will make your marking task easy. Now let’s move on to lay out the stringers.

Place the square on seven sides at its left and 10.5 at its right side and place it on 2x12 as far to its left side as possible so that you can get it when two measurements are still on the board and marked outside of the square.

Now, proceed the mark from the 7-inch side to rest of the way, make sure the mark is straight — this top step you need to cut out later.

Now you need to take the square and line up the side with the 7 inches with the 10.5 inches mark you put previously and mark it one more time. Repeat this until you get the number of steps you want.

You can do the same with the bottom step. The only exception is to carry the tread length across instead upwards.

Now, there needs to be a 2x6 on both the top and the bottom as a header as well as a footer. Mark those line and cut them and make the level of the project at the ground.

The exact measurement for a 2x6 is 1.5x5.5. Therefore, mark that on both the top and bottom of step that runs all the way down the back of 2x6.

If you want to reduce the height out of the bottom part of the tread, it the time to do so. In that case, you will need to measure from its bottom up and then draw a line for 2x6 for cutting in.  

It’s Time for Cutting

This part of the work is pretty much self-explanatory. Avoid cutting past the line when you will cut the treads using a circular saw. You might need to return with a jigsaw or a hand saw and cut out remaining little pieces. It can be quite annoying, but it will be necessary.

That’s why I told you before not to buy wood with cracks. When you are cutting the treads along with header and footer, another person can cut the stringers at the same time. Just make sure the measurements are accurate.

When you are finished with cutting out everything on the stringers, then start cutting the let in’s on the legs. If you have no idea what let in’s are, well it just refers the cut out of 4x4 of the width into the legs. The thickness is cut down to half for allowing two boards to set firmly into each other.  

Now Put Things Together

At this stage, you need to position both the header and footer on the outside of the stringers, and then place middle stringer at the center. Be sure to put three 16d nails in each one of them. It will be easy to do with upside down. But you need to be careful about breaking any pieces.

When you have all the stringers nailed, flip the stringers over and lay out all the treads that you previously cut. Note that, there’s an inch overhang on both sides of the stringers.

Make sure the whole side is nailed with right overhang and go to the other side as close as possible.

The board bender works great at this stage, but you shouldn’t push too hard, or you will end up breaking the stringers.

When you are finished nailing the outside stringers, now the middle stringer will be a lot easy to fasten.

Again, don't forget there are three of them, and you need to use them into each stringer.

Now, it’s time to add the legs. You will need another person to hold the legs in place when you will nail them. Otherwise, you can use scrap blocks to nail them in place.

The legs will offer the free-standing wooden block with the right amount of support only if the legs are correctly attached. Place four in each the side of the leg that can touch the header and its stringer and two through the top of the tread.

When the legs are placed properly, make sure the let in’s face inside. It will enhance the beauty. Nail it in an exact way like the other legs and make sure it's flush.

Now nail one side and fasten the other side from its opposite direction. Do it with four nails and two on each side.

Finalize Your Wooden Steps

Now, make the bad boy stand up. Once you have it standing, do the cross bracing on its vertical legs at the back. It will further boost the overall strength of the staircase.

To do that, take a measuring tape and determine the length of the very wood you will need. Cut the wood down according to the value you get and nail it properly. Or, you can take a 2x4 and lay it against the points then mark and cut it accordingly.

For the handrails, you need to cut into the tread and then nail the baluster straight into the stringer.

How many balusters you need, will depend on the number of steps you made.

When you have the balusters on, then use a measuring tape to gauge and mark a proper height for the handrail. Make sure you measure the length from its top to the bottom baluster. You need to leave an additional two inches for overhang when you cut the wood out.

Then cut two 2x4 pieces to the appropriate length and nail them to one side. Make sure the nailing side is the outer side of the balusters.

And finally, there you have built your free-standing wooden steps. Now, mount it to the place you wanted.

Final Words

This woodworking will pay off every moment of your efforts when you will see it in the place you wanted. Make sure you take really good care of the stairs.

Hopefully, this guide will help you to build your standing wooden steps. If you can build the wooden steps, it will boost your confidence on further woodworking project.

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