You Don't Botch Your Notches with Pre-Cut Stair Stringers
The 1895 farm house we owned in Illinois had porches galore: most houses don't have that many doors, let alone exterior doors. More than a century of benign (and occasionally malignant) neglect took its toll on those porches, though, just in time for yours truly to be called on to repair them. The porch we used most - the one at the kitchen door - was in such bad condition it looked like a lawsuit in waiting, so our second year in the house I tackled it head-on. It wasn't the toughest project of the summer, but it also wasn't the easiest. The ledger by which the porch attached to the house remained sound, but that was it. Everything else was toast: frame, deck, railings and stairs. And when I peeled off the old stair treads, I found those gorgeous old cedar stringers were in no condition to be re-used. Oh, dear...
DescriptionHave you ever cut stringers for a staircase? Neither have I, and I didn't need to for this project. Nope, I hit up my neighborhood Menards for a Pre-cut 3-Step Stair Stringer from UFP (Universal Forest Products). The one I used is intended for exterior use such as a deck or my porch. It's 2x12 Grade #1 SYP, treated with CCA and mold inhibitor. The steps are cut for a 6-¾" rise and 10" run; UFP sells pre-cut stringers for 3-, 4-, and 5-step rises. UFP says you can trim a pair for intermediate lengths, though you must be certain to trim them identically! They also note that you should verify local code before doing so.
UsingMany a carpenter has said that measuring and cutting stairs is a "notch and botch" effort. Experience on one of their other porches bears that out, but using a pair of pre-cut stringers could save a lot of innocent 2x12s and 2x14s!
When choosing pre-cut stringers, inspect for cracks or knots - there should be none - and look for warping, which is common with treated lumber. No doubt about it, pre-cut stringers are a cheat, and their convenience means they're more expensive than an equal length of 2x12. Learning how to measure and cut stringers, however, doesn't make much sense if you only need one set in your lifetime. Pre-cuts are worth the expense!
SummaryPLUS: accurate stringers for exterior stairs without the hassle of layout and cutting
MINUS: expensive compared to cutting your own
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: If you've never cut a set of stair stringers and don't want to learn now, a pre-cut stair stringer are just the ticket!