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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Steel Stair Framing: Is Building With Wood and Steel the Same?

The “wood versus steel” debate has been ongoing for years, especially when it comes to building critical outdoor systems like deck stairs. As the Godfather of Steel, Scott Kelly, points out to Deck Specialist, every deck builder is essentially staking their reputation and their client’s safety on their material of choice. So, we understand that making the switch from the time-honored choice of lumber to steel might cause some to think twice.

But here’s the thing: if you can frame stairs with wood, you can do it with steel. Comprehensive steel stair framing systems can also help alleviate any uncertainties around the installation process. Plus, steel brings more to the table with its proven performance and lasting durability. So, the question stands— is building deck stairs with wood and steel the same? No, not at all. Here is why we think steel stair framing is a superior choice.

Steel stands strong in places where wood stumbles

In the showdown between steel and wood, steel is significantly stronger than its traditional counterpart. For some perspective, steel has an ultimate yield strength that’s approximately 10 times greater than wood. But strength is only half the equation when it comes to choosing the best material for stair framing. After all, no one wants to invest time and effort into assembling deck stairs only to have them start to degrade after a few years. But that’s what happens to wood after long-term exposure to the elements.

Steel stair framing construction at a residential site with multiple homes in the background.Close-up of a steel stair framing with modern cable railing on a wooden deck.

Steel stands tall here. An incredibly durable material, steel is resistant to most threats that plague wood, like rot and decay from moisture absorption. Plus, steel stair components will not warp or twist as a result of exposure to extreme temperatures or rapid freeze-thaw cycles. This means that in nearly any type of climate, steel stairs will lay flat and stay flat over time. Ultimately, those who choose to build with steel can rest easy knowing that they’re assembling dependable stairs that loved ones can safely navigate. 

Ready-to-assemble steel stair framing systems leverage the proven performance of steel

Stair framing is notorious for being one of the most challenging and time-consuming parts of deck building. Complicating matters further, framing stairs with wood requires manual calculations and cutting multiple stringers by hand. This could lead to errors and long hours on the job.

Instead, deck builders and DIY homeowners alike can turn to a ready-to-assemble steel stair framing system like Evolution from Fortress Building Products, which leverages the proven performance of the durable building material. Taking this approach sidelines serious safety concerns (like poor stringer-to-deck connections and inconsistent rises and runs) while supporting a straightforward installation process. The engineered steel stair system features fixed and adjustable stair brackets that can accommodate various rise and run options. Stringer and stair trays already include blocking every 10 inches on center for railing post attachment and stair tread attachment, and self-drilling screws ensure maximum strength and security at connections. Plus, the Evolution steel stair framing system is backed by a 25-year manufacturer warranty for ultimate peace of mind.

Aerial view of a large deck featuring steel stair framing and composite floor.

Steel does what wood can’t

So, is building deck stairs with wood and steel the same? Definitely not. Steel is the forward-thinking choice for today’s deck building projects.

Those looking to put steel stair framing to the test can take advantage of Fortress Building Products’ free stair calculator. Enter just a few parameters, and this handy tool can walk you through each of the steps required to assemble a stair stringer, making the process quicker and easier. More of a visual learner? Check out Fortress Building Products’ YouTube channel for step-by-step steel deck stair framing installation videos.


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