Outdoor Stairs: Types, Materials And Designs

(Last Updated On: February 22, 2017)

Outdoor stairs are a great addition to your home but making that addition isn’t that easy. When you decide to build outdoor stairs for your home, you must take into consideration both its aesthetic and functional value. Apart from this, what you must take care of while installing the outdoor stairs in your home is that it should be safe. At the same time, the outdoor stairs design should also be appealing to your guests. The design will also depend upon the purpose for which the stairs are being built. If you are using your outdoor stairs for decorating your garden, then there are plenty of outdoor stairs ideas suitable to that. There are also a variety of materials available for outdoor stairs design ideas like wood, iron, brick or stone. It’s totally your call as to which outdoor stairs design to pick and what material to use. If you want to go for something durable then, stone is the best material suiting your need and if you want to go for something cheaper then brick will be the best thing for you. Here’s a detailed explanation about the types of outdoor stairs.

Types of outdoor stairs

  • Wood stairs

Wood is by far considered to be one of the most classic materials for building outdoor stairs. Wood stairs is a perfect inexpensive addition to the concrete patio. Wood is easy to work with and can be cut in any size and shape to fit in any space. But wood is also prone to many kinds of maintenance issues resulting in its longevity issues. To make your wood stairs last long, you should use a weather stain on the wood for preventing the material from rotting, weakening and breaking. Wood can be availed in many textures and colors in line with the requirement of the decor around it.

  • Brick stairs

Bricks stairs is a nice way to add color and class to the exterior of a house. Homes having brick stairs usually possess a higher value and brick can also withstand onslaught in any type of weather. Brick stairs are available in many types of sizes and they are very good for adding vintage value and giving a clean feel to your house.

  • Concrete stairs

Concrete is a permanent or let’s say a long term solution for your stairs. Concrete is perfect for garden. Color of concrete is very neutral and it generally goes well with any type of exterior outdoor stairs design. Concrete can also be molded by stencils or barriers for creating different patterns and designs.

  • Aluminum stairs

Aluminum outdoor stairs are one of the best ways to add stairs to the space. Installation of aluminum outdoor stair is very quick, easy and cheap. These are also weather resistant and durable. You can also install aluminum spiral stairs which can lead you to balcony or any other level of house. Aluminum stairs are also light in weight.

  • Stone stairs

Stone gives a classical touch to your exterior structure. Stone can be a bit difficult to work with but it ensures you with durability and reliability for many years. Stone stairs stand very well in the test of time. There are three types of outdoor stairs which are made from natural stone: flag stone steps, solid stone steps and border stone steps. Each of them are usually made from cleaved or sawed stones with a bush or flamed hammer surface finish. The surface treatment comprises of slip resistance of the surface and no other anti-slip treatment are needed.

Once you have decided, as to what type of outdoor stairs you want to install in your home, it’s now the time to know the how to build those outdoor stairs. Building outdoor stairs is an intimidating project but if you have the proper knowledge, you can build outdoor stairs with ease. Here is the step wise DIY (do-it-yourself) method on how to build outdoor stairs.

How to build outdoor stairs

men building-outdoor-stairs

When you are planning to build the stairs, you must have an exact idea of the total run which is the measurement of the horizontal distance from the start of the lowest step to the edge of the uppermost landing. The terms like run and rise indicates the measurement of the each individual stairs. Ideal slope is considered between 30 to 35 degrees. You need to learn a thumb rule that if you use a 7 inch rise and 11 inch run for single individual step then that slope will be simple to maintain. Most of the home codes need a 3 foot passage width but it’s your choice if you want to make it even wider.

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The parts of the stairs upon which you walk are called as treads while risers derive their name from rise measurement. All outdoor staircases have the same primary parts. Stringers are the slanted part which provides support to the structure. Make use of either 2*10 inch lumber or 2*12 inch lumber for building the stringers. The appropriate space between the stringer must be 24 inches. If you are having a thicker lumber then you can space them up to 36 inches. Here’s a step-wise method on how to build outdoor stairs.

  • Notch the stringers

The first step on how to build outdoor stairs is to notch the stringers material so that both threads and risers can be built into them. Make use of carpenters square and stairs gauges for accomplishing this job.  Try and secure the stringer to the lower most landing with a bolt.

  • Cut the stringers

Once you have set the stringer, make use of a circular saw for cutting out the notches but make sure to not to cut them all the way. Once you start the cuts with a circular saw, finish them up with a hand saw and then set the stringer. Take care of your safety and don’t forget to wear safety gear including the eye protection and don’t ignore the instruction. Follow each and every manufacturer’s instruction while operating the circular saw.

  • Construct the risers

Hang the stringers by using either a rim joist of a joist hanger. Add a concrete slab for outdoor stairs with landing if that is part of your outdoor stairs design. Secure your stringer with 8d galvanized nails. The next step is to find the distance between the risers face to the edge of the notch and then cut the treads so that they extend a bit.

  • Add railing

Once you are done with constructing the risers, now you can finally begin with building the rails by securing 4*4 inch lumber for posts. After that cut the notches into the posts and then attach them to the stringers. Once you are finish attaching, add the posts to it. After building the post, add top rail to it and toenail it with 8d galvanized nails.

As discussed above the last step of how to build outdoor stairs was adding the rails. This step is bit complicated as you are availed with many options for outdoor stairs railing. Usually indoor stairs railing and outdoor stairs railing are mostly the same with the weather being the main differential. An outdoor stairs railing has to face all weather circumstances and needs strong materials. Here are some of the options for outdoor stairs railing from which you can choose the one matching your home and suiting your needs.

Types of outdoor stairs railing

  • Wood railing

Installing outdoor-stairs-railing

If you want to go for outdoor stairs railing for a rustic and classy look, then, wood is the best option you should go for. If you want to go for a more contemporary look, then you can go for polished wood railing. If you want a classic look then you can go for carved wood railing. If you want rustic look then you can go for stained wood railing. Thus wood alone has plenty of outdoor stairs railing options according to your need and choice. If you are having a log home or a home constructed in rural area then it can be made more appealing by using oak, pine, maple, cypress or even mahogany. These railing can also be painted. But without fail, these outdoor stairs railing must be sealed to get protection against weather conditions like snow, heat, rain and UV rays. If not sealed, uncertain weather conditions can deteriorate the natural beauty of your wood railing.

  • Metal railing

If you are looking for outdoor stairs railing with strong durability, low maintenance issues, then, metal stairs would probably the type you are looking for. One of the benefits of these types of outdoor stairs railing is that it can be painted to match with the exterior home design and color. These are basically used more with contemporary outdoor stair designs. Some of them are very simple and unadorned while others can be pre-molded into various designs.

  • Wrought iron and stainless steel railing

Wrought iron railings are basically attached with elegance. Generally you will find such types of railing on the outside stairways nearby the glass doors and they are also painted to match the pastel shades of nearby trimmings and walls. Fabricated and hollow rods of wrought iron railings are selected for more delicate and lighter appearance. In very rare circumstances only, you will see stainless steel as a choice for your railing. As they usually need to be weatherproofed for maintaining their polished look.

  • Stone, marble or granite railing

The classiest look among all the types of railings will always be of granite, marble and stone railings. But installation of these types of railing will always require a professional. These are not only fragile but they are also very much prone to the risk of cracking and breaking. Generally they need special fasteners so that they are held in place.

  • Aluminum, vinyl and fiberglass railing

If you want to go for some inexpensive options for your outdoor stairs railing, then you can opt for railings made of vinyl, aluminum and fiberglass. These are preferred when the budget is limited and still you want to have something reliable. These railings are very much durable and they stand very well against harsh weather conditions. Apart being inexpensive, they are quite strong. The only drawback which you will find in aluminum, vinyl and fiberglass railings is that they are not very classy and beautiful as compared to other types of outdoor stairs railing.

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When you have finally decided on the type of outdoor stairs railing, your next concern is the its design. Outdoor stairs design is also very important as it decides how your stairs are going to look. Deciding on the design of the outdoor stairs is easy as compared to that of the design of the interior stairs as you don’t have to worry about wall getting in between or your stairs ruining the structure of the house. Here you can freely choose any type of design you want. However you need to be careful when there is any slope or incline or hill. Steps and stairs are very suitable and they cope well with the sloping paths and steeper inclines. They also connect architecture of a home with the outer landscape design. Exterior stairs design must be such which is hard wearing and must be resistant to all elements. However in search of something on these lines, you don’t have to compromise on its look. Even highly functional stairs which serve specific purposes look beautiful with the right outdoor stairs design and style. If your home or your home garden is in need of outdoor stairs, then here are some outdoor stairs design ideas to choose from.

Outdoor stairs design

  • The floating look

floating-stairs made of glass

Stairs which look effortless in their function are a delight to watch. Floating look is a kind of stairs where you seem to hover above the ground as if they are bobbing on the surface of the lake. Floating stairs gives your landscape a very sophisticated look. Actually all the steps which contribute in making the floating stairs are needed to be anchored to the ground. You can get the floating look of stairs by having a low profile of the steps and overhanging their supporting structure a bit. Because of the low profile, the anchor point goes out of the view and this makes each step to float independently. You can get a great view by setting the stone slab set over a graveled area which will conceal the supporting structure of concrete.

  • Balcony

If you want to connect your balcony to the rest of the home, install some external stairs for doing up the job. Sometimes you will have to do this because of the fire regulations. While you are doing outdoor stairs design for balcony, make sure to keep the construction material same as that of the balcony. Turn your stairwell back towards the property, if you are intending to keep the visual impact to the minimum. Install a rest point and a balustrade half way down. If you are having more than one level to connect and not having much room to maneuver then spiral staircases shall be better suited out of the doors. Don’t forget to consider water run off so that the stairs always remain safe.

  • Connected terraces

If you are having two levels that you want to connect in the exterior of the home then the best outdoor stairs design should be to go for two connected terraces. If your land is leveled then you can use a wide set of steps to bring both the structures together. The best outdoor stairs design ideas for connecting two structures is using large flat steps. This is not the right look to go for if you are having a very steep garden.

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When you are done with choosing the outdoor stairs design, it’s now time to decorate your stairs. There can be many ways of decorating your stairs, but the best possible way to decorate your stairs is to add lighting. Outdoor stairs lighting can be beneficial in two ways. One of the benefits of outdoor stairs lighting is the safety angle and another one is the decoration itself. Your garden can look magical at night with stairs in daytime it can be dangerous to use the same stairs at night without proper lighting. If you are planning to add lighting to your stairs, here are some of the outdoor stairs lighting ideas.

Outdoor staircase lighting

  • Rising to the occasion

Beautiful outdoor-stairs-lighting

Outdoor stairs lighting can be ordinary or it can be taken as a work of art. You can go for geometric cutouts in each riser as it allows plenty of lighting to illuminate through the stairs. Here you will also see different patterns on every riser which keeps the design from looking too busy.

  • Keep things simple

Sometimes all you need to do to have a perfect outdoor stairs lighting is some simple lighting alongside the steps. This style of lighting suits the overall garden and they look equally decorative all around the place. Keep your stairs and garden elegant, decent, simple and still very beautiful and decorative with the use of lighting on stairs. Other simple options to go for outdoor stairs lighting is to install banister cap lights or rope lights. You can also go for installing down lights which are built into the post.

  • Looking down lightings

Lights generally come upward when installed on stairs. You can go for trying something different and you can install looking down lighting in your home. This kind of lighting installation will result in creating soft pools of light along a stairway. Installing such lighting will show you the path while you descend or ascent the stairs without the lights flashing in your eyes or face.

You need to explore your options for the outdoor stairs and get to know your home structure, and pick the one which suits your home and your needs the most.


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