Advances in Building Stairs / Staircases / Deck Stairs Provide Superior Structural Integrity and Safety.

Let’s walk through the most important issues that have ‘tainted’ the decking industry and quickly highlight the major improvements that have provided new economical and efficient solutions that have effectively addressed the ‘trouble’ spots.

With the rapid increase in new material options such as composite material there have been excellent improvements in long lasting ‘color stabilization. When many of the composite manufacture’s first came on the scene they lacked sufficient UV (Ultra Violet) stabilizers in the custom color coatings they applied. Terrific new color options became available to builders, however, significant premature ‘fading’ was seen and customer complaints were common. Now, unlike the first generation of composite, new advanced UV color coating provides long lasting color consistency. In addition to the early problems of inadequate UV stabilizers, the initial cost was hard for many installers to swallow too! Now that the market place has encouraged more competition-the price of composite has come down and has become a very affordable, long lasting option versus traditional redwood, cedar and pressure treated lumber.

The whole topic of pressure treated lumber has also been an extremely controversial issue during this last decade. When the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) banned the use of arsenic and changed the main pressure treatment to ‘copper they failed to realize the major implications that would arise. Arsenic was eliminated due to the potential harm it exposed children to on playgrounds all across the nation. The new pressure treated solution now approved by the EPA and presently being used contains a high level of copper.

This relatively new approved pressure treatment when it comes in contact with galvanized-zinc coated steel accelerates corrosion at a rapid level. This set the stage for a dramatically different safety concern – with the earlier Arsenic pressure treatment the danger was possible poisonous ‘ingestion’¬¬ – now with the new, high copper content pressure treatment, widespread deck collapses and premature corrosion are the real safety concerns. Scrambling to quickly respond to the potential safety and liability concerns, manufacturers of steel hangers, fasteners (screws/nails etc.) immediately improved their products by adding hot-dipped galvanization to all anchors, hangers and fasteners and in many cases, adding epoxy powder coatings in addition to increasing the levels of hot-dipped galvanization. This so far, as been ‘perceived’ as an adequate solution. However, galvanic corrosion created between the high copper content of the wood and the galvanizing has shown to be so severe that the normal industry standard of G90 galvanizing will corrode in as little as 12 months and G185 can be seriously compromised with 24 months. Surprisingly, the G185 with no engineering testing available, has been the industry default for code officials. Without a barrier between the pressure treated wood and galvanized hardware, serious corrosion is inevitable. More work still needs to be done in safely addressing this EPA approved pressure treatment.

Standard, traditional deck installation and construction as a whole has come under great scrutiny within the last decade too. Many structural solutions have been advanced to improve deck attachments and stability. Highly publicized deck collapses have focused a spot light on safety issues but have missed the target on the major cause of fatalities and injuries. Deaths resulting from deck collapses although tragic are less than 40 per year across the US. However, statistics provided by the National Safety Council show fatalities on stairs approaching 2,000 per year- which do not include the serious injuries that have additionally occurred. (National Safety Council Injury Facts 2011 Edition).
The above injuries are a result of slips and falls on the most dangerous area of any deck or home: stairs (deck stairs, wood stairs, exterior stairs, interior stairs). Substandard construction practices have led to unstable railing and the inability to provide adequate grip as a person traverses a stairway. For years building codes have existed requiring rail posts to withstand 200lbs. of lateral load. Until just recently, there have been no solutions which allow standard wood stair construction to meet these criteria. Traditional poor construction methods are a direct cause that has led to these above statistics.

There have been just a handful of manufacturer’s that have made serious efforts at addressing various lateral load deck safety concerns for safer stair railings. One of these manufacturer’s, EZ Stairs,Inc. makes an adjustable bracket that can also be used as a vertical deck stair rail post attachment for deck stairs. Also read how ICC-ES has recognized EZ Stair’s stair rail solution.
ESRecognizesInnovativeSolutions_StairRailSafetyConcerns.pdf

Unfortunately, until such time as adequate code enforcement is required the above unnecessary fatalities and injuries will continue and many feel given the large number of reported injuries, it is grossly negligent for Building Inspectors not to require tested and validated products. The ICC-ES does an adequate job of informing the code official community of code tested solutions but they are largely ignored and sadly expose the general public to hazards that are unnecessary.

EZ Stairs Inc. is not only a easy to install two stringer stair system for risers and treads, but also functions as a vertical rail post attachment (rail safety bracket) that exceeds current code by 2.5x giving you safe, reliable stairs. Build exterior deck stairs up to 7′ wide or 9′ wide interior stairs with only 2 stringers- saving labor and materials. Since the riser acts as a load bearing joist, you get an incredibly strong stair that doesn’t squeak. With the patented adjustable dual-purpose exterior/interior brackets EZ Stairs won Pro Sales Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for new product innovation in the construction industry. In 2005, it introduced its composite deck compatibility solution and was chosen for LBM Journal’s ‘Hot Products’ Award at the International Builders Show, and again voted one of the fifty ‘Hot Products’ at more recent International Builders Shows. EZ Stairs is code approved and recognized by the ICC-ESR 2295.
For more information, and to view 3D demos, visit the ez-stair.com website, or call 866-693-9570.

Deck Stairs Made Easy.

Deck Stairs are often the last part of the deck to be tackled because they are often the most difficult part of the deck to build. I’ve found a solution for building deck stairs that’s stronger, faster and easier than any system of stair building I’ve ever seen. I’ve built many decks in my early days as a professional. Building stairs was always something I had to tackle myself because I couldn’t trust anyone else to build the stairs correctly… the first time.

I’m referring to an adjustable, heavy duty steel stair bracket system, which allows you to make automatic adjustments to form any rise or run you require. You only need two stringers for deck stairs up to 7’ in width. No center stringers are needed at all because riser acts as a load-bearing joist, giving you strong stairs. Most of the saw cuts are eliminated and require only three to four cuts per stringer.

These EZ Stairs® brackets not only adjust, but are also approved as ‘joist hangers’. This allows you to attach 2” thick risers that span across the stair like floor joists, every 10” or 11” between the two stringers. This eliminates the need for several center stringers running down the stair as in conventional construction. Since there are only two stringers, you also eliminate the need to align and attach several cut stringers in order to build your stair.

The brackets also provide ‘code compliant’ rail post support. According to their accredited testing, the brackets are used to provide rail post support for any type of wood stair which meets the code requirement for 200lb. Lateral load at 42”. This has never been achieved on any wood stairs system.

This stair building system is much simpler and faster than conventional stair building, without sacrificing structural integrity or strength. The stairs turn out so well made that you won’t even hear a squeak. In addition to deck stairs, they can be used for interior stairs: basement stairs, tongue and groove stairs, and even concrete formwork. Check out http://www.ez-stairs.com

Instructions from the website:
Set the brackets on the two 2×6 stringer members using the spacers and pivot screws. Remove spacers and rotate brackets to adjust stair height. Fix brackets in position, attach risers and treads.

Before you begin, determine the exact number of steps you need and exactly how wide you would like your steps to span. If you need additional assistance in obtaining the appropriate measurements-you can quickly link on our brochure ‘Let’s Get Started’ section (available in English and Spanish)* and the free stair calculator at http://www.ez-stairs.com/widgets/stair_calculator/index.html

You will only need (2) 2×6’s per stringer/side*. Make sure when you purchase your 2×6’s that you get them as straight as possible. The 2×6’s will need to be at least 12″ longer than the total length of your stairs. Two stringers are sufficient to span up to 7′ wide. You will only need to make a maximum of 3 to 4 cuts per stringer no matter how many steps you will be building.

For risers you will use 2×8’s — for treads you can use 2×12’s. Utilizing additional EZ Stairs mini-composite cleat brackets you may use any 2×6 tread material wood/and or composite. Time saving tip: when you determine how many steps you will need and how wide you want to span…get all your risers and treads pre-cut to exact lengths before you begin.

For interior jobs you can use same as above or the following can be used for spans up to 42″ to 48″ wide. Stringers still need to be 2×6’s. Interior risers can be 2×8’s or 3/4″ to
1 1/8” plywood. Interior treads can be 2×12’s or 1 1/8″ to 3/4″ plywood with EZ Stairs, stairs can be ‘pre-built’ or built ‘in-place’.

Tools/Materials needed will be: a power drill, saw (skill saw is preferable, but not required, #8 1 1/4″ Phillips flat head or star/square drive screws for the stair brackets, #8 2 1/2″ deck screws for every 9″ of tread and riser connection and EZ Stair Spacers for customized riser and tread measurements.

Watch 3D animation first at www.ez-stairs.com

Set-up (1) stringer at a time by placing 2×6’s parallel on a flat surface…start 6″ from end by placing EZ Stairs spacer, then bracket and spacer…..down the line. When you have all your spacers and brackets lined up and tight insert 2 pivot screws in each bracket… without tightening the pivot screws. Remove spacers and pivot your brackets to your exact riser and tread combination. Insert remaining screws in all the brackets except the first and last step… these brackets will need to be quickly pivoted out of the way to make the required minimal end cuts. Repeat the process on stringer #2 and install all risers and treads.

* Interior or exterior stairs can be framed out and installed in most cases 2-3 hours or less.
* Minimal skill is required and due to the fact that with EZ Stairs saw-cuts are drastically reduced…..material is seldom wasted.
* Spacers are adjustable to allow for customized rise and tread configurations. Spacers are factory set at ‘G’… accomplishes most tread and rise requirements.

Deck Stair Safety- Build Strong & Safe Deck Stairs

Poor Deck and Stair Construction Can Kill

In a recent article published in The Los Angeles Times, July 6th. of this year, a tragic deck collapse resulting in serious injury and death, is reported. The deck was part of a three story apartment complex in a Birmingham suburb. Seven party-goers is all it took to create this tragic event. Unfortunately, this is an all to common occurrence now days. Reports are continually surfacing, confirming the growing frequency of these serious, life threatening collapses.

collapsed deck and stairs

Over the past several years, much has been done to address deck and stair safety issues, but we still have a long way to go. One glaring example of the failure in deck and stair safety protocol is the industry standard of permitting “hot dipped galvanized” anchors, screws, hangers and other hardware to be in direct contact with ACQ, pressure treated wood. The galvanic corrosion created between the high copper content of the wood and the galvanizing is so severe that the normal industry standard of  G90 galvanizing will corrode in as little as 12 months and G185, such as Z-Max® can be gone in 24 months. The industry (including code officials) has adopted G185 as a fall back position with no engineering testing available to substantiate the validity or longevity of this adoption…..this is a “knee jerk” reaction and is an accident waiting to happen. Without a barrier between the pressure treated wood and galvanized hardware, serious corrosion is inevitable.

Take for example the recent NADRA (North American Deck and Railing Association) study that examined the number of injuries caused by outdoor decks and porches from 2003 to 2007. The report states that 224,000 people were injured nationally due to a deck or porch over the study period. Nearly 15 percent of these injuries were a result of a structural failure or collapse. The report concluded that of the 224,00 injuries, 33,000 were a result of a structural failure or collapse. The estimate for “serious” injuries resulting from those failures exceeds 18,000. Serious injuries included head trauma, concussion, major fractures, such as those associated with the back, and paralysis. Wood decks are constantly exposed to the elements and they have a limited life span of 10-15 years. It’s important to have your deck and deck stairs inspected so that signs of wood decay and deterioration can be repaired.

Other codes address “rail post support” safety. A rail post per code regulations is required to support a lateral load of 200 lbs. This is a poorly enforced area of the code and with many inspectors content with the bump test. If it doesn’t move too much when they bump it with their hip, the rail will pass inspection. Many rail posts are simply lagged or nailed to the rim joists and post which are mounted directly to the deck surface will simply not meet code. The tragedy is, there are systems available on the market that correctly address this problem. Simpson, USP and Deck-Loc have brackets which will meet code for rim joist attachment and EZ Stairs has the ONLY system available which will meet code for wood or composite stairs.

Attention is now being given to the ability of the vertical post’s strength when hit by various degrees of lateral thrust pressure.  These new directives, requiring the vertical rail post to support a minimum of 200 lbs. of lateral thrust, is making engineered stair systems such as EZ Stairs extremely popular, especially with this stair system’s ability to withstand over 500 lbs of lateral thrust for the ‘rail post support’ structural sections of the overall decking plans.

Stairs are perhaps the most overlooked area of construction. Stairs using standard cut stringers have been used for eons and are “grandfathered” into code as accepted construction. Stringers are cut from 2×12’s and greatly weakened in the process. Several stringers are then run longitudinal down length of the stair to make up for the strength loss during cutting. Long stair run tend to bounce and stringer failure is not uncommon. Additionally, many of these stairs are built without risers which is a “child safety” issue in many states. General Contractor and renowned professional deck builder, Pat Noonan of Minnesota says, “Of the 50+ decks I have torn off and replaced, not one had a stair system that outlasted the deck.”  The majority of them had shaky, unsafe stairs, and it was the main reason they were doing the rest of the deck.”

Engineered stair systems such as EZ Stairs overcome many of these problems and safety issues. This is due to the much more rigorous testing required to gain ICC/ES acceptance for a stair system which has not been simply “grand fathered” into common use. This adjustable bracket system is engineered in a completely different manner to conventional stair construction. These adjustable steel brackets lock the risers and treads onto the stringers, with a solid, joist hanger type connection. Only two stringers are required for stairs up to 7′ in width. This becomes possible because the two outside stringers are full depth, acting like beams running down the length of the stair ( only three end are cuts required per stringer). Next, the risers (which are locked to the steel brackets) span across the stair like joist hangers, at each step supporting the tread.

The result is a “rock solid” stair which has been tested at over 1,200 lbs. per sq. ft.(uniform distributed load), well in excess of the code requirement of only 100 lbs.per sq. ft. (commercial load). The  steel brackets adjust to form any rise or run required and are powder coated over a hot dipped galvanized finish. The powder coating (paint) sets up an effective barrier between the pressure treated wood and the galvanized finish, preventing corrosion. Additionally the structural risers overcome the child safety issue (found on stairs without risers) and as mentioned above, the brackets have been tested to exceed code requirements for lateral load applied to “rail post” supports.

General Contractor Pat Noonan continues, “Craftsmanship will only take you so far when you are dealing with a inferior framing system and components. When deck builders notch steps out of a 2”x12”, they are cutting all the strength out of the wood and putting the entire weight of the stair plus anyone walking up or down on 4” of wood left in the 2”x12”. With the EZ Stairs system, they are putting the weight on 11’ of solid wood- there’s no comparison”.

Strong, solid stairs with professional craftsmanship using EZ Stairs

For more information, visit the EZ Stairs® website, or call 866-693-9570.