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Exterior Stair Treads

BlueBottle's picture

Looking for a good replacement option for exterior stair treads.
Must be full-depth, i.e. one plank per tread.

Originally 1" x 11" bullnose pine stair treads, which give the desired look. However, they have not held up to the elements for very long and need to be replaced about 6 years later. Yes, they were sloped to drain, and well primed all sides; it rains a lot here.

Just spent a few hours looking into composite deck companies convinced that someone must have a full-depth stair tread product. Couldn't find one; they all say to use multiple smaller planks - not an option as it is too informal for a front entry. Plus, you can't paint the composite lumber to match, despite what one of them claims.

Considered casting lightweight concrete planks. Anyone try this before? I can't seem to find a lightweight mix available in bag or small batches here in Portland, OR.

Any other options/suggestions/advice?

(post #82692, reply #1 of 16)

how about 2x12 treated cut and planed to desired dimensions?

(post #82692, reply #4 of 16)

Thats a good option that might hold up better.
Though I wonder: won't planing one side will take most of the treatment off that side? Same with rounding the nose.

(post #82692, reply #2 of 16)

I have always used fir.  Never had a problem.

(post #82692, reply #3 of 16)

What is supporting the Treads?

If there is enough support my thought would be natural stone.


(post #82692, reply #5 of 16)

Treated wood stringers at 16" o.c.

Stone might be a bit heavy - that's why I was considering lightweight concrete.
Thanks though.

(post #82692, reply #8 of 16)

Sounds like stone wouldn't work.  For that matter, neither would any kind of concrete - at least not if it is 1" thick or close to that... with 16" OC support...

Heart pine sounds good.  Fir sounds like the reason the remodelers/repair guys have such good job security.

For that mater, maybe you might want to rethink the whole stair setup.  Wood framed stairs and "formal entry" to me really don't go together - although I'm sure some guys here have some pics of exceptions....


(post #82692, reply #9 of 16)

Mahogany is readily avail in wide planks and ought to serve well.

You ever get them posts mounted? I got six of them feet still.

Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Woodworks

Repairs, Remodeling, Restorations

"We strive for conversion,we get lost in conversation, and wallow in consternation. "

Edited 6/3/2008 6:18 pm ET by Sphere  

(post #82692, reply #13 of 16)

Mahogany sounds like a good fit but I'd almost like to see the porch floor matching... - either that or ipe....

No - posts aren't mounted - that is a few months down the road.  I just wanted to make sure I had a plan in place before the bricklayers left site - they were building the foundation and steps.  House is being framed now.  I don't do the columns and rails until after sheetrock otherwise they can get messed up.  I'll have to figure out some kind of plinth to go on the newel posts to cover up the brackets.  I've got to be careful about how the columns are installed too to make sure everything lines up right. 

I had a somewhat similar situation with some white composite porch railings just the other day.  The bracket, which looks very similar to what we are talking about cost 45 clams!!.. geese... but it worked well for mounting the newel post to the concrete (in that case).  In that case a composite post wrap slid down over the bracket and the structural 4x4 post and there was a composite (plastic) plinth molding to finish it off a bit.  I thought I had a no maint setup all in place but then realized that I'd have to get the azek columns painted because of the assembly nail holes.  Azek isn't life's bread - regardless of what some folks say....

Regarding the brackets you have, if you purchased them on my behalf, send me an E mail with the $$ cost and I'll send you my address and a check for a pair.  Otherwise I'll just get my regular BS guy to order them...



(post #82692, reply #14 of 16)

No, big deal, I got em because it appeared they were soon to be nonstock items.  And with the kind of work I have been getting, I thought it would be smart to stock up.

I'll hang on to them and if you need them and at that time they are not available or nothing better comes along, I can get em to ya.

I didn't have the camera on my install, but I do have a bad phone pic of the plinth, I just wrapped the bottom with 1x6 Ipe, and thats all the HO wanted. Just made two boxes and before the rail went on, dropped the plinths down the posts. Not even attached, just friction fit..worked for me (G).

As to te OP, I assumed he was painting the treads, so Mahog would be quick and simple ( if available near him). Kinda shy away from painted steps myself, never much cared for the scuffs and dings.

Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Woodworks

Repairs, Remodeling, Restorations

"We strive for conversion,we get lost in conversation, and wallow in consternation. "

(post #82692, reply #6 of 16)

if you can hunt down some heart pine you should be good for a lifetime... usually i can get boards 2.5" x 12-13"  and under 6ft  about free from the salvage guys and short boards have little value to them......


(post #82692, reply #7 of 16)

Great suggestion.
I'm looking in to it.
Can't imagine free/cheap lumber of that size though, but I'll be optimistic about it!

(post #82692, reply #10 of 16)

blue... i'd epoxy some Trex together to get my one piece, full depth tread

we've had a lot of good luck epoxying trex... you can hold it together with pocket screw on the bottom until the epoxy sets... or biscuits...
just gle & clamp... trex machines and sands well , and loves paint

Mike Smith Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

Mike Smith Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore


(post #82692, reply #11 of 16)

That is an intriguing idea!
Trex is the only composite company that says "yes" to paint on their product without a bunch of warnings and disclaimers.
Have you painted Trex and seen it hold the paint for years?
What kind of epoxy do you use?

(post #82692, reply #12 of 16)

Didn't say how long your run is, but we did these with bluestone. 16"OC.

Clients didn't want risers, but promised to stain the stringers darkly.

If dogs run free, then what must be,
Must be, and that is all.
True love can make a blade of grass
Stand up straight and tall.
In harmony with the cosmic sea,
True love needs no company,
It can cure the soul, it can make it whole,
If dogs run free.

The Village Woodworks, Inc

Chapel Hill, NC


We'll have a kid Or maybe we'll rent one He's got to be straight We don't want a bent one He'll drink his baby brew From a big brass cup Someday he may be president If things loosen up

DSC05507.jpg69.05 KB

(post #82692, reply #16 of 16)

we've been using trex for some tri applications for more than ten years

trex loves paint better than wood does

most of our epoxy is West system

Mike Smith Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

Mike Smith Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore


(post #82692, reply #15 of 16)

Mahogany (Swietenia  not meranti) don't paint it if you don't have to (tannin bleed risk).