Designing Spaces That Reflect You
how to build box steps

How to Build Box Steps for Decks and Patios [Everything You Need to Know in 2023]

Thinking of how to build box steps? Box steps are an essential part of an outdoor space that provides easy access and safety. Other than this, they are also used to create an aesthetic appearance and complement the beauty of the space

With the right equipment, box steps can be a DIY project for a weekend or whenever you have spare time. Below, we will take you through the process of how to build box steps for patios and decks and other tips that will be essential while carrying out the whole process.

Materials needed

To execute the constriction process smoothly, you will need the following materials:

  • Composite decking material
  • Gravel or crushed stone for the base of the steps
  • Pressure-treated lumber for the stringers
  • Stainless-steel screws and nails
  • Concrete
  • Pressure-treated lumber for the posts
  • Wood adhesive


To make the work easier, you will require the following tools:

  • Miter saw or circular saw
  • Drill with drill bits and screwdriver bits
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Handsaw or jigsaw
  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter’s square

Step-by-Step Instructions

You will need to follow these instructions of how to build box steps one by one up to the last one.

1. Determine the vertical space from the ground level to the landing on the deck

how to build box steps

When building box steps accuracy and precision are the key elements that you need to prioritize in order to achieve functionality and safety. Thus, the first thing you will do is to determine the distance from the ground level to the landing on the deck. This is important in identifying the final height of the steps.

You will use a level or a tape measure to measure the total rise. After determining this height, you will then do your calculation and know the number of steps that are needed. When the distance is properly calculated, it can minimize the number of accidents that can occur in the future.

2. Find the Number of Risers

Find the Number of Risers

You will then be required to find the number of risers required to reach the landing. Risers are the vertical portions of the steps that will be stepped on. In simple terms, a riser is a surface that a person steps on at a stair.

How to Build a Simple Deck Step

To get this number, you will need to have the total vertical space from the ground and divide it by the height of one riser. In most cases, risers of about 6 to 8 inches are used, but this depends on the building codes and regulations that govern the area. 

The result of this sum will give you the number of rises needed to reach the landing point. From this, you can get the number of treads that you will need and also the exact riser height of each.

The resulting number must be a whole number and if not then it should be rounded off to the nearest number. Once you have this number you can determine the length of the material needed and the cost of the project.

3. Position the steps in a suitable and systematized manner

Position the steps in a suitable and systematized manner

The third step involves laying out the stairs using stair gauges and a carpenter’s square. You will first attach the stair gauges to the carpenter’s square and clamp using the narrow part. This positioning will give you a stair stringer calculator that will enable you to get the suitable placement of the steps.

To ensure that each step is evenly spaced and properly aligned, draw the layout of the stairs by slipping the square along to meet the last mark. Properly mark the dimensions of the bottom riser and the top tread.

A well-laid-out staircase enhances the overall look of the deck or patio, thus adding value to the property.

4. Indicate the Top and Bottom of the Stringer and Trim Excess Material

Indicate the Top and Bottom of the Stringer and Trim Excess Material

To ensure that each step is level and the whole structure is stable, it is essential to mark the top and bottom of the stringer to remove any excess material.

You will first need to put the stringer against the deck and use a marker or a pencil to mark the top and the bottom. This is a crucial step that enables correct orientation and prevents any further confusion as you build.

After this, trim the excess material from the stringer using a cutting tool such as a saw. When cutting, ensure that you are precise because minimal deviations can result in an unstable structure or uneven steps. Check again the orientation of the stringer to examine proper alignment with the deck.

5. Check the Fit of the Stringer and Cut the Notches

Check the Fit of the Stringer and Cut the Notches how to build box steps

The fifth step involves checking whether the stringer fits well with the deck and cutting the notches. Place the stringer against the deck and examine how it fits. A proper fit should provide a solid base for the steps. In case you find any variations, adjust accordingly.

 Once the fit is properly aligned, cut the notches with a saw accurately and avoid any deviations.

6. Trace the Design onto the Skirt Boards

Trace the Design onto the Skirt Boards how to build box steps

To ensure that the skirt boards are properly cut to fit the shape of the steps, you will need to trace the design onto the skirt boards. You can do this using a pencil or a marker and ensure that you are accurate enough.

Use you have traced the outline, cut along the lines using a saw. You will then double-check the fit alongside the steps to ensure an accurate alignment. You can do the necessary adjustments if there is any need.

This step is critical in enabling a fine overall appearance of the structure and an easy finishing process. 

7. Fasten the Skirt Boards to the Rim Joist

For the steps to be secure and sturdy, you have to attach the skirt boards to the rim joist. First, you can use a level to ensure that they are straight, then use drill and crews to attach them to the rim joist.

Using the appropriate length of the screw and placing them at regular intervals will ensure that you get a secure structure of the boards. This will help in preventing the boards from shifting or becoming loose after some time. After the attachment, check if the steps are stable and make any necessary adjustments if need be.

If the stringers are not strong enough you will need to add at least two supports to make them stronger. You can position the support where you want them to be, then drill holes. Put screws to the holes and fasten them to ensure that the supports are well attached.

8. Install the Risers

Install the Risers how to build box steps

To install the risers, you will need to measure the width and the height of each stair and cut risers to size using a saw. If you want a more sturdy structure, use a construction adhesive and apply it at the back of each riser before placing it against the stair.

You will however need to secure the riser using screws and nails to ensure that it is to the level. After this, cut treads into the appropriate size using a saw and remove any roughness using sandpaper. 

You might need to apply some paint before fixing them, to give them an attractive look. After they are dry, apply the construction adhesive on top of each stair and position the treads to fit in well. Ensure that they are at level with the risers.

Using screws and nails, secure the treads firmly to give the structure a seamless finish. Once you’ve added all treads apply a coat of protective finish to seal and protect the wood. Moreover, while fixing risers and treads, ensure that each item is well secured to prevent wobbling of the stairs.

Why Build Box Steps with Stringers?

how to build box steps

Stringers are an important aspect that you need to consider when building box steps. Here are the reasons:

1. Structural support

Stringers provide additional structural support to the box steps. In the case of open riser stairs, risers are not present, thus increasing the risk of accidents. The stairs are less stable and might cause people to fall. 

Using stringers helps distribute the weight evenly and increase the stability of the box steps. In addition, stringers help in preventing the bowing off or sagging of the treads after continued use. When you have wider steps, stringers are important since they prevent sagging and make the steps more stable.

2. Customizable design

When using stringers, you have the capacity to customize the box steps to your liking. Stringers can be customized into different styles and shapes and can be made from a variety of materials.

As such, stringers will give you more flexibility in the design and allow you to personalize the look. For instance, if you want clean and straight-lined stringers, you can go for metal which will give you a modern sleek design.

Stringers can also have additional features such as handrails and lighting. These features can be put in place to promote the safety and functionality of the box steps and increase overall convenience for users.

Other Factors to Consider When Installing Box Steps

how to build box steps

Other than the aesthetic appeal, here are essential factors to consider when installing box steps.

1. Safety

The most crucial factor is the safety of the box steps since in most cases they are used in an entrance. As such, they are bound to be stepped on by many people. If you are not sure if you can comfortably do a DIY project, you might consider hiring a professional who will install the stairs well.

2. Material 

You can make box steps from a variety of materials such as wood, glass, metal, and stone. The most crucial element is to consider which one will serve your needs well. 

Choose a durable material that is slip resistant to endure regular use. For instance, if the box steps will be used by elderly people you might want to choose a slip-resistant material to lessen the risk of falls.

3. Accessibility

Individuals with mobility issues might find open risers difficult to use, thus making their navigation complicated. To enhance accessibility with your box steps, prioritize the needs of the users.

You can make it possible by constructing handrails on both sides of the box steps to offer support and increase safety. The steps should also be wide enough and comfortable to make it easier for users to climb up or down.

4. Design

When choosing the design of your box steps, consider one that complements the overall appearance and style of your apartment. You might want to put factors such as the shape of the stairs, material, and color into consideration to complement the appearance of your home.

The shape of the steps should be determined by the overall design of the room and the available space.

5. Cost

The cost of the structure will heavily be determined by the material used and the design. For instance, traditional closed-riser steps are less expensive than modern open-riser stairs because of the installation process involved and the design. Along with knowing how to build box steps, esmitate cost.

6. Maintenance

Besides knowing how to build box steps, you also need to know maintainence. The box steps will need to be maintained from time to time to look attractive. Maintenance will be determined by the materials used.

For instance, if you choose metal or glass stairs, they will need little maintenance while the wooden box stairs will need regular cleaning to prevent damage through moisture and dirt.

The location of the box steps will also influence the type of maintenance needed. If the box steps are situated in the outdoor area, they will be exposed to more dirt and will require regular cleaning.

Final Thoughts but before you go …

You can never underrate the use of box steps in decks and patios. They are essential features that provide accessibility and safety to elevated areas. When constructing box steps, it is crucial to factor in the arrangement of the steps for safety and durability purposes. 

Box steps with stringers are the best element to accomplish this since they provide additional support by distributing weight evenly. With stringers, you can also have the option of designing the box steps to your liking and adding other features that will promote more convenience. Now you know how to build box steps.


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