7 Steps To Luxury Deck Stairs

Create A Gorgeous and Welcoming Deck With These Deck Stair Ideas

Stairs are too often an overlooked part of deck design. But they're far from a purely functional necessity - stairs are the gateway from your deck into your yard, the glue between two very different outdoor spaces.

For a deck that looks polished, thought-out, and complete, finished deck stairs are a necessity. Luckily, it's not too hard to give your deck steps those finishing touches that take them from forgettable to awe-inspiring. Here are the seven key elements of great deck stairs and how to easily ace each one.

Create A Gorgeous and Welcoming Deck With These Deck Stairs Ideas

Table of Contents

  1. Measure and Cut Stair Stringers
  2. Use Composite Deck Boards as Elegant Stair Treads
  3. Finish the Look with Matching or Contrasting Riser Boards
  4. Include Fascia Boards for a Polished Look
  5. Add Stair Railing for Safety and Convenience
  6. Take Your Deck to Showstopper Status with Stair Lighting
  7. Include a Handrail for Maximum Safety and Accessability

Measure and Cut Stair Stringers

We'll start with the least-glamorous part of your deck stairs: the bones. Stair stringers are long, notched boards that make up the structure of your deck stairs.

A diagram showing the different parts of deck stairs

The dimensions and details of your stringer boards depends heavily on the specifics of your deck: how high it is off the ground and how far your stairs will extend to the stair landing. This can be a tricky, frustrating process for many builders. That's why we created the definitive guide to make things as easy as possible: How To Calculate, Measure And Cut Stair Stringers.

You'll typically cut stair stringers out of 2x12 pressure-treated wood boards. Don't worry too much about the look, as we'll cover these up in the following steps. What's most important is measuring and cutting precisely.

Learn How To Measure Stair Stringers

Use Composite Deck Boards as Elegant Stair Treads

Stair treads are the flat, horizontal boards that you step on as you climb a set of stairs. Typically, the stair treads on your deck are made from the same boards that make up your deck surface. That means wood decks will usually have wood stair treads, and composite or PVC decks will typically use matching boards for the stairs.

High-quality composite or PVC deck boards make especially good stair treads because their uniquely-designed surface textures maximize the traction between your foot and the deck stair board. That's in addition to the typical benefits of PVC or composite decking: long-lasting durability and extremely low maintenance demands compared to traditional wood.

If you've got a wood deck, but would love to someday resurface it with lower-maintenance boards, stairs can be a great first step. Swap out your stair treads for composite deck boards this year, then plan the larger resurfacing project for a future year to spread out costs.

An Easy Option: Two Deck Boards With No Gap

Typically, deck stairs use two regularly-sized deck boards with no gap between them to create 11-inch steps

Typically, we recommend planning your stairs and cutting your stringers to set up for 11-inch long stair treads. That's a comfortable platform, even for those with big shoe sizes. It also allows you to easily create each stair tread with two regularly-sized composite deck boards without requiring you to rip any boards down to a smaller width.

Most composite or PVC deck boards are 5-1/2 inches wide. When you put two of them together with no gap in the middle, you get a perfect 11-inch step. That will also leave you plenty of room to mount deck railing posts, like the deck above with beautiful Key-Link Cable Railing. (We'll get to deck stair railing later on).

Use Three Boards For Longer, Gentler Steps

Some decks, homes, or homeowners need longer stairs that aren't as steep. If that's the case, we recommend going up to three deck boards per step. With no gapping between them, that will create steps that are each 16-1/2 inches long with a gentler slope.

A set of longer, gentler deck stairs using three PVC deck boards with no gapping

Use Contrasting Colors to Define Boundaries

Many decks combine multiple different colors of deck board to create eye-catching designs or pleasant contrasts. Deck stairs are no different. If your deck board uses a picture frame border around the outside, you can extend that picture-framing to your deck stairs by using the border color on the outside of each step:

If you use two colors of deck boards on your deck, you can do the same thing on your stairs for picture frame deck stairs

The contrasting color draws the eye to the boundaries of the deck and to the edge of each stair, which can make your stairs safer and easier to navigate. It's a great-looking design choice that also functionally improves safety - that's a win-win.

Shop Deck Boards

Finish the Look with Matching or Contrasting Riser Boards

Many decks stop at the bare-bones minimum: stair stringers and treads. While those stairs will be functional, they look unfinished and uninspiring, especially if you've put work into making the surface of your deck look polished and inviting with furniture, lighting, or decor.

If you inherited a deck with basic, skeletal stairs, there's good news: you can instantly upgrade the look by adding riser boards to cover the openings underneath each stair tread!

Matching riser boards and stair treads create a seamless look for a set of deck stairs

Riser boards run vertically from the top of one step to the bottom of the next. They keep objects from falling through your stairs and underneath your deck, plus they give your deck a beautiful, polished feel.

Matching Riser Boards Bring a Unified Feel

For a smooth, unified look, match your riser boards with your stair treads and deck surface. Fortunately, top decking brands like Trex and TimberTech offer specially-made riser boards to match their deck board colors.

A wide staircase with matching stair treads and riser boards

The deck above has a calming, unified feel by using TimberTech's English Walnut finish for the deck, stair treads, stair risers, and fascia boards. (We'll look more at fascia boards in our next section).

White Risers Create a Dazzling Contrast

The other option is to use your riser boards to strike an eye-catching contrast with the other colors on your deck. White riser boards are an especially good way to accomplish this.

White riser boards create a brilliant contrast with darker-colored stair treads and deck boards

Using white riser boards works especially well if your home has white trim elements or white siding, or if your deck railing features white prominently. White stair risers are an excellent fit for the popular modern farmhouse look, which commonly uses white in contrast with darker colors.

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Include Fascia Boards for a Polished Look

Closely tied to riser boards are fascia boards, perhaps the most underrated deck addition there is. Fascia boards are a do-everything utility piece - they can cover a wide range of unfinished or unattractive deck structures, making your deck look completely thought-out and finished.

Fascia boards typically go on the outsides of your deck to cover the beams, joists, and other structural components. But when it comes to stairs, fascia boards cover up the stair stringers on the outside of your steps, as you can see below:

Deck stairs using a length of fascia board to cover the stair stringers

As we noted with riser boards, you can choose to match your fascia to the rest of your deck boards for a unified single-color look. But you can also use bright white fascia to create a jaw-dropping contrast, like the incredible deck below:

White fascia boards create a sharp contrast and a clean, modern look for a two-story deck area

When we say fascia boards are versatile, we mean it. Not only can they cover up your stair stringers, they can actually cordon off your entire underdeck area, making your deck feel more like an extension of your indoor living space. Check out this deck below, which uses vertical fascia boards for an ultra-polished look:

A luxurious home deck using fascia boards vertically to cover up the deck framing and underdeck area
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Add Stair Railing for Safety and Convenience

Stair railing isn't just a building code requirement for decks of a certain height - when designed properly, deck railing is an accent piece that adds to the overall look and feel of the deck.

Fortunately, deck railings of all styles and materials will have angled stair rail options, so you can extend the look and feel of your deck railing through your stairs and onto your stair landing.

Here are just a few examples of the beautiful, low-maintenance deck railings you can extend down your deck stairs:

Trex Transcend composite railing is a proven industry favorite, with a huge range of color options to match or contrast with your deck:

Specially-designed stair railing in the Trex Transcend composite railing system

The clean lines and modern style of cable railing looks especially sophisticated as it angles down a set of stairs, like this deck with TimberTech Classic Composite railing:

Specially-designed cable railing for stairs created by the TimberTech Classic Composite railing system

If you love the luxurious look of glass railing, we recommend glass balusters for stair railing sections. The glass balusters are a bit more versatile than full glass panels, which have to be cut very precisely to fit the exact angle and dimensions of deck stairs. Many decks will use full glass panels around the surface of their deck while switching to glass balusters for the stairs.

Pictured: Fortress AL13 Pure View Glass Baluster Railing

If you have glass deck railing, use glass balusters to easily extend your railing look down stairs

For a classic, modern look, metal railing is a great choice, with strong, clean lines and rails designed to keep your balusters perfectly vertical even as the railing angles downwards.

Pictured: AFCO Pro Aluminum Railing

A metal railing system by AFCO designed for stair sections
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Take Your Deck to Showstopper Status with Stair Lighting

Lighting is the cherry on top of an amazing deck. You've worked hard to make the inside of your home look exactly the way you want it to: comfortable, inviting, sophisticated and luxurious. The best way to extend that energy out into your outdoor living space is with deck lighting.

A beautifully-lit set of deck stairs with a large, glamorous landing

When it comes to stairs, lighting also serves another function: safety. Illuminating your deck stairs keeps your guests safe and allows you to comfortably use your deck late into the night.

Recessed stair lights are a game-changing addition to any deck. Small, unobtrusive riser lights are almost unnoticeable during the day, but at night bathe your steps in a warm glow for safe footpaths and a stunning and inviting look.

Brightly lit deck stairs with recessed LEDs casting light onto each step

Recessed lights can be round spotlights that shine straight out, like the one below:

A recessed stair light fixture

Or they can be designed to direct light downwards onto your stair tread so you get the full benefit of all the illumination your light creates:

A recessed stair light that casts like downward in a focused beam

As you can see in the fixtures above, low voltage lighting is incredibly easy to install - many lights come with a plug-and-play system that requires no complex wiring. Just plug a transformer into any regular wall outlet and plug your lights directly into the transformer and you're ready to start enjoying!

Shop Stair Lighting

Include a Handrail for Maximum Safety and Accessability

The finishing touch for a complete set of deck stairs is a handrail attached to your deck railing for safety.

An ADA-compliant handrail for Trex Signature metal deck railing

An ADA-compliant handrail will make your deck accessible to everyone and will keep your guests safe as they enter and exit. The best handarils, like the aluminum Trex Handrail above, will be continuously graspable, so you don't have to take your hand off the railing at any point as you walk up or down.

Shop Trex Handrail

Call Our Team To Plan Your Stunning Deck Stair Makeover

When it comes to planning the details of your deck build or renovation, there's no better partner than DecksDirect. With years of experience finding the best products to enhance every aspect of your deck, we're the ideal guide to getting the exact look and function you want for your space.

Call our team of experienced project planners at 1-888-824-5316. We'll help you plan an upgrade for your deck stairs that fits your style, timeline and budget, so you can start enjoying a better deck sooner!

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