If you’ve decided to remodel the stairs in your home, or you’re doing a remodeling job for one of your clients, it’s important to make sure you know what the proper stair tread thickness is. If you’re unfamiliar with what specifically stair treads are, they’re the flat boards that lay horizontally on your stairs. So, what should the proper thickness of your stair tread be?

What is the proper thickness for stair treads?

According to building codes, stair tread for wood stairs has to be anywhere from 1” to 1 ½” in thickness. When it comes to other materials, the thickness may differ.

There isn’t one unifying rule for every kind of material stair treads may be built out of. This is because stair treads can be crafted from thick oak to think stainless steel. Since wood stairs are the most popular material used in homes today, here are three wooden stair tread specifications for your personal reference:

  1. The strength of your stair treads needs to have a thickness that can effectively support a person going up and down the stairs without splitting or breaking.
  2. If the stair treads are supported by risers, then the thickness should be no less than 1”.
  3. If your stair tread is supported by open risers, then the thickness shouldn’t be supported by a stair tread less than 1 ½” thick.

Although there are no codes outlining maximum thickness for your stair treads, treads that are too thick can be hazardous. Typically, thick treads also have a thick tread nose. This extended nose can cause people going up and down the stairs to trip or even fall.

Plywood thickness for stair treads

As mentioned above, you can create stair treads out of a variety of materials, including stainless steel, wood, granite, marble, quartz, glass, and so on. If you’re interested in a cost-friendly yet reliable option, plywood treads are definitely the way to go. Plywood is durable, easy to use, and available for a very reasonable price.

The thickness of your plywood stair treads should be anywhere from 1” to 1 ½” in thickness. It’s important to invest in quality plywood. As a rule of thumb, always remember that the fewer stairway stringers you use, the thicker you want your stair treads to be.

For instance, if you use four stringers, the tread doesn’t need to be as thick as if you only use three stringers. It’s important to note though that thicker treads are stronger, more durable, and can even reduce squeaking too.

Deciding on the right stair tread material and thickness

Before you decide on the material and thickness of your stair treads, always consult your local building codes. These codes will vary by location. Once you understand these codes, you can then get to work. To help you choose the right material for your treads, take advantage of the information below.

Stainless steel: Stainless steel can be a lot thinner than plywood due to its strength. Stainless steel can also be buffed, powder-coated, painted, or receive patina finishes. Stainless steel won’t rust, and it’s quite durable.

Plywood: Like mentioned above, plywood is inexpensive, easy to work with, and quite durable at a 1” to 1 ½ “ thickness. However, plywood is not water-resistant unless tiled or sealed.

Glass: Glass is much more costly than plywood yet is extremely beautiful. Glass is also easy to clean, not damaged by liquids, and can last years if taken care of. Glass, however, can be scratched by cleats or anything hard that should happen to be dropped onto them.

Natural stone: This includes both granite and marble. Both of these natural stones have that timeless look and are extremely durable. On the flip side, granite and marble are expensive and have to be sealed annually with a protective wax.

Hardwood: Hardwood is strong, durable, and has a long life if properly sealed on a regular basis. Hardwood, however, is typically expensive, needs regular maintenance, and can be extremely slick, causing slips and falls.

What should your stair riser thickness be?

A stair riser is the vertical portion of the stairs that fill the space from one step to the next. Open rising staircases don’t have risers, only closed riser staircases do. If you are planning on building a closed riser staircase, then what should the riser thickness be?

According to general specifications, your stair riser thickness should be no less than ½”. In fact, many professionals recommend risers with a thickness of ¾”. It’s also important to note that if you do build a closed riser staircase, your stair treads will need to have a note as well. This is not the case for open riser staircases.

A final word

Now that you understand what the typical stair tread thickness should be, you can feel comfortable knowing that you are following proper codes while also making your home a safer place for your household.

Above all, always remember to consult your local building codes before you go to work. This will save you the hassle of having to redo your stairs if your measurements are off.

Josh Hurd

Josh Hurd has been freelance writing since 2006. He attended the University of Akron, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
Josh Hurd

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