Garage floors are typically set roughly a few feet below the main floor of the house, and you know what that calls for, a short step of stairs usually from the mudroom or kitchen to the garage – garage steps.
For practical needs and to avoid any serious injury when stepping down from your house to the garage, you need a set of sturdy garage stairs. Adding a sturdy railing to your garage steps will also make the garage steps more secure and safe for your family and visitors in case of tight situations.
So, we’ve established that you need to build garage steps for your garage. What’s next? Do you get a contractor to do it for you, or can you build garage stairs on your own?
Well, if you’re willing to do a simple do-it-yourself project, building a set of garage steps is quite simple, and we’ve got step-by-step instructions to help you.
Building Garage Steps – What to Know
It’s essential to consider ideal stair width, depth, and riser height when building garage steps to keep them as safe to use for everyone as possible. While there’s no specific code on building garage steps for your garage, following critical measures for staircase based on the building code is your safest bet. These rules ensure that a staircase, now including your garage steps, is as safe and comfortable as possible.
How Wide Should the Garage Steps Be?
Minimum Staircase Width: 36 inches
According to the International Building Code, rules which many communities adopt, the minimum width of a staircase should be at least three feet or 36 inches. This measurement pertains to the side-by-side distance of your steps, and it doesn’t include the handrails.
As long as the minimum of three feet width is met, you can make your garage steps as wide as you want them to be.
What Is the Maximum Rise for a Garage Step?
Maximum Staircase Riser: 7 ¾ inches
Again, based on the IBC, the maximum rise of your staircase should be 7-¾ inches. The stair riser is the measurement of the back or the height of your steps, or the distance you need to move your foot either up or down one step to the next. Another consideration is that the highest riser shouldn’t be more than 3/8 inch of the smallest or lowest riser.
These maximum and minimum staircase rises measurements ensure that your steps are not too high when climbing up nor too low when walking down your garage steps. Otherwise, with a noticeable variation between risers, your garage stairs become a safety hazard.
What Is the Minimum Depth (Run) for a Garage Step?
Minimum Tread Depth: 10 inches
The tread depth of a staircase, according to IBC, should be ten inches, minimum. The tread measurement refers to the flat and horizontal surface of the steps where you walk. It’s the distance between the front edge of one step to the front edge of the adjacent or next step.
Like the staircase risers, the tread depth should be identical or as close as possible. The smallest tread depth shouldn’t be 3/8 inch lower than the greatest tread depth within your garage steps. Otherwise, your garage stairs will again be a safety hazard for everyone coming up and down the house to your garage or vice versa.
Do You Need to Add a Landing for Garage Stairs?
This is more complicated than the minimum and maximum measurements stated above. But here are some specs that can help whether or not you need to add a landing to your garage steps.
A landing is required:
- at the top and bottom for both interior and exterior stairs, including garage steps
- where a doorway opens into a stair
However, a landing between the stair and doorway is not required if:
- the door at the top of the steps swings away from the staircase
In short, unless your garage door (from the inside of the house) swings away from your garage steps, you’ll need to add a landing with required measurements of:
- minimum landing width: no less than the width of the steps
- minimum landing depth: 36 inches
How to Build Garage Steps for the Garage? Step-by-Step
What do you need?
- Boards: 2x4s, 2x10s, and 2x12s
- OSB sheets
- Nails and screws
- Tape measure, pencil, and level
- Safety equipment: gloves and safety glasses
- Sledgehammer, nail gun, jigsaw, hammer, screw gun, and masonry bit
Ready to build garage steps for your garage? Here’s how.
Step 1: Measure and Cut the Stringers
Decide how many steps you need for the garage stairs, the rise of your garage steps, as well as the tread depth, and cut the stair stringers based on these measurements. Use the 2×12 inches lumber for this, although you also have the option to use a 2×10 lumber.
Depending on the width of your garage steps, you’ll need to cut a couple of stringers to build your garage steps. The space between stringer boards should not be more than 12 inches. So, for example, if the garage stair’s width is 36 inches, you’re going to need four stair stringer boards.
Note: Use treated lumber for the stair stringers. Otherwise, the bottom that will be resting on the bare concrete will absorb moisture and eventually rot. If you’re using untreated stringer boards, at least install treated 2x4s directly under it to combat eventual rot.
Step 2: Measure and Cut the Stair Treads and Risers
Based on the minimum and maximum measurements for stair treads and risers above, cut the treads out of the 2×10 inches lumber. Then, use the OSB sheets to cut your garage step’s risers.
Step 3: Install the 2x4s
When using untreated stair stringer boards, don’t forget to include this step. Otherwise, go right into step three.
Position the stair stringers where they should be. You might need to get a helper to hold the stringer in place as you place the treated 2×4 inches lumber, cut according to the width of your garage steps, under the stringer.
Use the masonry drill bill to drill through the 2×4 lumber going into the concrete floor. After that, use concrete nails to attach the lumber to the floor.
Step 4: Attach the Stringers
Attach the first stair stringer you already put in the position to the 2×4 lumber using a toenail, then use metal brackets to attach it to the top stair support.
Follow similar steps to attach the second stringer board at the other end of your 2×4 lumber. Attach the other stair stringer boards between the first and second stringers, or 12-inches from existing stringers.
Step 5: Install the Stairs
Nail down the 2×10 treads into the stair stringers. Attach the OSB risers to the stringers the same way but be mindful of what goes where in the stringer.
Now, your garage steps are ready for finishing as you prefer. Start by sanding down the boards and once the surface is smooth enough, apply the finish of your choice. You can either stain the treads or paint them, whichever you prefer.
Tip: Apply an anti-slip floor finish to the treads for extra safety or put some anti-slip adhesives to prevent any slipping accidents, especially when the steps get wet.
Do You Need to Install Handrail in Garage Stairs?
Handrails aren’t always necessary for short steps leading up into the house, like your garage steps. Typically, you only need to install railings, based on most local building codes, if the steps are two risers or 30 inches up, whichever comes first.
But code requirements aside, adding handrails to your garage steps is often helpful and safer for the family or your visitors. It especially makes going up and down the stairs safer and more secure if you’re lugging bulky and heavy packages and groceries. It’s also an advantage to have if there are older members of the family going up and down the house.
What Is the Best Handrail Material for Garage Steps?
You can install handrails to your garage steps using the same materials used for railings in decks and porches. In fact, you can have more options for these indoor rails since you won’t have to worry about weathering due to the harsh outdoor environment.
Some material options for your handrail include:
Wooden handrails are the simplest and cheapest option, making it a go-to for most railings in indoor stairs like garage steps. 2×4 inches lumber is often adequate for installing railings, and you can build it out of redwood or cedar.
The downside is that they take more steps to install, plus often need sanding and paint to make them look presentable. Another drawback is when using 2×4 lumber for handrails, they can be a bit too wide and less ideal for an easy handhold, especially for elderlies.
Steel handrails often seem a little overboard if you only need to install railings for a short flight of stairs. But steel is an incredibly sturdy material, so you can choose a smaller steel railing and still have it stronger than a wood handrail. Since you can pick a smaller steel handrail, it’s also easier to grip for those with smaller hands. Not to mention, they look classy and cool depending on the color and finish.
The downside is you’ll have to shed a little more money compared to using wood for your handrails.
- Wood & Steel Combination
Another option is to combine wood and steel – steel balusters and wooden handrails. Now, this arrangement gives your garage steps an industrial and earthy aesthetics in one. If you want an extra flair even in just a short flight of stairs, wood and steel railing is a fantastic option.
How to Add Handrail on Garage Steps?
Whether you have two steps or more for your garage stairs, you can add a handrail if you want. It’s all possible even with limited woodworking skills too. Here’s a step-by-step guide for you.
Step 1: Take the Measurements and Make the Cuts
Measure the length of your garage steps – from the front of the bottom stair to the back of the top stair. Add the length of your landing, from front to back, if you have one.
Then, cut a piece of the handrail from your choice of material using the measurement you got. Miter the handrail based on the angle of the pitch of your garage steps if you wish to join the ends.
Step 2: Measure and Cut the Posts
Cut the posts for each side of your railing. Keep in mind how many posts you’re going to need. As a general rule, you can add one post for every three to 4-foot section of the handrail. But if your garage stair is less than 3-feet long, you’ll only need to cut two posts for every handrail.
Cut each post so that the bottom of the handrail is at least 34 inches from the surface of the stairs where you’re going to install it.
Then, miter the top edge of the posts using the angle of the pitch of your garage steps.
Step 3: Install the Posts
Use two lag bolts to attach the posts to the side of the garage steps. Finish installing all posts using the same manner.
Step 4: Attach the Handrails and Finish as Needed
Assemble your handrail on top of your posts and secure it as needed. You can use dowels and glue to achieve cleaner and more finished joints.
Now, you have a finished wooden handrail for your garage steps. It’s time to sand the wood as necessary and apply your choice of finish to make your new handrail presentable.
It would be worth it to install garage steps, whether to follow your local building codes or ensure the safety of your family members and visitors going up and down the house to the garage.
Adding handrails to your garage steps will make it even safer and more secure to use. Thankfully, with the steps above, you can install garage steps for your garage plus railings this weekend!