Stair building is an art. A skilled carpenter has to know exactly how to calculate and plan for the structure to be accurate and up to code.
Many people don't realize how much intricate detail and skill it takes to build a staircase. We have some tips for you to keep in mind when calling around for a stair builder.
Let's go over some basics of what composes a stair:
Treads: the part where you step on
Stringer: the sides of the stairs attached to the treads.
Risers: the part of the stair where your toes face as you're going up.
Now that we covered the makeup of stairs, let's determine what you should be looking for when calling a stair builder:
Number one is check their references and reviews. Someone who does good quality work, and has been around for a while should have some online presence. A quick google search should bring up local stair companies. Look at their reviews and past work, or photos. The Houzz website is also a great tool that lists professionals with a full company bio, project photos, and reviews.
Some stair builders prefer word of mouth and don't do much online. Asking around for recommendations from friends and family is also a great idea.
Second, a lot of stair builders do not do the installation of the stair. I know this seems a little weird since you would think it would be part of the work. The reason being is insurance. Most stair companies fabricate the stairs, but then a contractor usually does the installation. If you do not have a contractor you are working with, make sure you ask the stair company you're calling if they do the installation.
The third tip is to get an idea of what you will need. Are you doing a new addition or renovation to your home? If so then you likely already have a contractor and architect. Architectural plans are very helpful to have in digital format. This makes it easy to email a prospective company you will be hiring.
If this isn't the case and you aren't working with a contractor, but need a stair renovation, be clear about what is structurally wrong with the stair.
Is it water damage? Are the treads creaking or split? Be as specific as possible when calling around. Some stair companies do repairs, some do not. Accurately communicating what is wrong with the stair will help qualify the right company.
The fourth factor to keep in mind is the wood specie best suited for your staircase. Do you have a certain preference or a particular floor specie you want to match?
Most staircases are built using a combination of pine and poplar wood, or red oak and poplar. For example, a basement stair or a stair that will be carpeted is usually done with pine treads, and poplar risers and stringers. Pine is a cheaper species of wood. It holds up well and is still a great option but it is not as finished looking. When staining pine, more knots are visible. If you are looking for a more rustic look then pine might be preferable for you.
Red oak and poplar is also a very popular option. Most main staircases are done with red oak treads, and poplar risers and stringers. Red oak has less visible knots. It is very versatile and can be stained to match many different looks. It is a little more expensive than pine so be aware of this.
Another popular wood specie is white oak. White oak treads are usually chosen as an upgrade. White oak has fewer grain lines and it appears straighter. The color is also a little darker with beige and brown undertones ( red oak has more pinkish undertones). This specie will be the more expensive option.
The fifth and last tip is to consider is if you are in a flood zone. If you live near the beach, a lake or your zone is prone to flooding; it is a good idea to go with eucalyptus wood. Some municipalities require homes in flood zones to use eucalyptus for their stairs. The reason being is that eucalyptus is more rot & water-resistant. This specie is very dense and repels water and moisture. Be aware that this will be more costly than standard materials like pine or red oak.
Hopefully, you've learned some new terms and feel more comfortable calling around as you get pricing for your new stairs. Also, be prepared for a stair builder to come out to your home to take measurements.
I hope these tips will help you find the best stair company for your project.
Happy staircase hunting!