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Calculating the Steps to the Second Floor

When calculating the number of steps needed for a staircase to reach the home’s second level, you will need to consider several dimensions. The rise is the vertical height the staircase covers. The run is the horizontal distance the staircase takes up as it covers the rise. A few measurements and some calculations determine the number of risers--vertical stair members--and treads, or steps, you will need to to reach the second level comfortably and safely.

A few calculations reveal the number of stairs needed to reach the second level.

Step 1

Check local building codes to determine maximum and minimum ranges for tread depth and riser height.  Typically, treads must be about 10 inches deep and risers no taller than 7 3/4 inches. However, those dimensions can vary across the nation, so checking beforehand will save potential rework later on. 

Step 2

Measure from the top of the finished second story flooring to the finished first story flooring.  Keep the tape measure plumb, or perfectly vertical, while taking this measurement. Record it with a pencil on a pad of paper.  For this example, assume the measurement is 108 inches. Floor to ceiling is usually about 96 inches, plus the width of second-floor framing lumber, and the thicknesses of first floor drywall and second-story flooring materials. 

Step 3

Divide the rise by the height of the risers.  Use a calculator to make the math easier. In the example, divide 108 by 7 3/4 for a quotient of 1393.  Round the quotient to the nearest whole riser; in this case, 14. It will take 14 risers to reach from the first floor to the second in this example.  Note that the 14th riser is topped by the second story flooring. In addition to 14 risers, the staircase will have 13 treads, since the final, 14th tread, is actually second story flooring. 

Step 4

Calculate the run of the staircase by multiplying the width of the treads--10 inches in this example staircase--by the number of treads in the staircase: 13.  So, the example staircase covers a run of 130 inches.

Things You Will Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil and paper
  • Calculator

About the Author

Robert Korpella has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a certified Master Naturalist, regularly monitors stream water quality and is the editor of freshare.net, a site exploring the Ozarks outdoors. Korpella's work has appeared in a variety of publications. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas.

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