How to Measure Stair Steps

How to Measure Stair Steps

Master the art of measuring stair steps with our guide on getting dimensions for treads, risers, and width to ensure safety and compliance in stair construction.

Knowing how to measure stair steps accurately is crucial when constructing or renovating staircases to ensure safety, compliance with building codes, and aesthetic harmony within your home.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the detailed process of measuring stair steps, covering basic measurements like tread depth and stair width. This is especially important to do, if you are planning to install carpet stair treads.

This process includes measuring the tread depth, riser height, and overall width of the stairs to achieve a comfortable and secure staircase design.

Stair Treads and Risers Dimensions   

The foundation of understanding how to measure stair steps lies in the stair treads and risers dimensions.

  • Tread: The horizontal part of the stair that you step on.

  • Riser: The vertical component between each tread.

Accurate measurements of each are critical for creating a safe and comfortable staircase. Let’s delve into how to capture these measurements correctly.

How Do You Measure Your Stairs?   

To start, you’ll need a reliable measuring tool like a tape measure, a level, and possibly a framing square. Here’s a step-by-step approach:

  1. Measure the Total Rise: This is the vertical distance from the floor at the bottom of the stairs to the floor at the top. Measure from the finished floor below to the finished floor level above.

  2. Measure the Total Run: This is the horizontal distance the staircase will cover. Measure from the edge of the first riser to the edge of the last riser.

  3. Count the Number of Steps: This determines how many treads and risers you need to measure individually.

  4. Measure Individual Risers and Treads: Use your level and measuring tape to measure the height (rise) and depth (run) of each step to ensure they are consistent.

How to Measure Stair Tread Depth   

Tread depth is crucial for stair safety, affecting how comfortably you can place your foot. Here's how to measure stair tread depth:

  1. Place the Measuring Tape: Hook the tape at the edge of the stair nose.

  2. Extend the Tape to the Back of the Tread: Measure to the point where the tread meets the riser above it.

  3. Record the Measurement: Note this measurement for each tread as variations can lead to tripping hazards.

Consistency in tread depth is essential for all stairs within a flight to prevent missteps.

How to Measure Stair Width   

Stair width is not only a matter of comfort but also of compliance with building codes, especially in public or multi-family buildings:

  1. Measure the Width of the Stair: Extend your measuring tape from one side of the stair to the other at the widest point, which is typically between the handrails or enclosed by walls.

  2. Check for Obstructions: Ensure there are no protruding elements that could restrict the usable width. 

Measuring for Headroom   

Headroom refers to the vertical space available from the edge of the tread vertically upwards. It’s crucial to measure this to ensure there’s enough space to move up and down the stairs without stooping:

  1. Use a Level: Extend it from the edge of a tread upwards to the ceiling.

  2. Measure the Distance: Ensure that this distance meets local building code requirements, which is typically a minimum of 6 feet 8 inches. 

Additional Tips for Accuracy   

  • Use a Carpenter's Square: This tool can help ensure that your risers and treads are perfectly square, which is vital for installation.

  • Double-Check with a Level: After measuring, use a level to check that treads and risers are level and plumb. Any deviation can be a trip hazard.

  • Document Everything: Keep detailed notes of all measurements and adjustments needed. This record will be invaluable during the building or renovation process. 


Measuring stair steps correctly is a foundational skill for any successful stair installation project. By following these detailed steps, you ensure that your staircase is safe, meets building codes, and fits perfectly into the architectural aesthetics of your building. Whether you're a seasoned contractor or a DIY enthusiast, taking the time to measure accurately is a crucial part of the staircase construction process.

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