This is from our discussion on building escape stairs. |

Building stairs for the stage is just like building them for a house.

Some basic terms you need to know.

- Tread. That's the step itself. I remember tread by looking at the bottom of my shoe. The treads of my shoes land on the treads of the steps.
- Rise. This is the height of each step. Or, how much you rise each time you take a step.
- Stringers. These are the boards that hold up all the steps on either side. They string all the steps together.
- Railing. Need I say more?
- Spindles. These are the vertical poles under the railings that keep you from falling through.
- Newel Posts. The vertical posts at either end of the railings.
- Landing. You usually have two landings. One at the top and one at the bottom of the stairs. You land on these when you're done walking up or down the steps.

When building stairs, you need
to figure out what angle the stringers are going to be. What is the
angle you need to walk up or down. If it's too steep, you might have to
go down backwards. Just like a ladder. Look at the escape stair above;
these are really ladders with big treads.

If the angle is too
shallow, you could have two problems. One, the treads would have to be
very deep or you would have to have a lot of them. The rise would be
very small. An example of steps with very shallow rises; steps that
require you to take two steps per tread.

45 degrees is about as
steep as you would wish to go. 30 degrees is about as shallow. A good
way to determine which is most comfortable is to go to a stairway. Walk
up and down. Find other staircases and try them. If all the staircases
are the same in your building, you may have to go elsewhere to really
give it a try.

Why all the fuss about proper tread heights and
depths? Think about the actors that have to walk up and down while
being blinded by stage lights.

Measurement terms. The depth of
the tread is called the RUN. You already know what the Rise is. Yup,
the measurement term for the Rise is RISE. The terms put together is
the Rise over Run. How high by how long. If you add together all the
rises together, you'll have the hight of the staircase. Add all the
Runs together and you have the horizontal distance from the bottom step
to the top. (Going up!)

So, let's say the staircase is to take
you to a platform that is six feet high and the bottom step is six feet
away from the platform. Well, then you rise is six feet total and your
run is also six feet total. Now, how many steps do you have? Let's say
five. The platform is the landing and not a step. The floor is also a
landing. So, you have five steps. How many spaces do you have between
landings? Six. So you have six rises. Six feet divided by six rises;
each rise is one foot. This same method applies to the run. Six feet,
five treads. Each tread's run is one foot.

Have you ever tried
to step up a full foot? It's a big step. Too big for most. I think
you'll need more treads. With more treads, you would have more
individual rises, each being smaller. Let's say twelve treads.
(including the floor.) Well that gives us 6" rises. Too small.

Standard rise is between 7" and 9". The most popular tread run is around 11 1/2". Can you say 2x12?