Replacing porch stairs - what species / size to use?

cramponOctober 16, 2013

I have a 99 year-old Craftsman bungalow in Portland Oregon. The steps to the front porch are painted 2 x 12s, which is what most of the houses in the neighborhood use. The paint takes a beating with our wet winters, and the steps need to be re-painted every year. Now I'm starting to get some peeling of old paint layers (I'd like to place the blame for insufficient prep on the previous owner ;-), and the steps are looking pretty ratty.

I'd like to replace the current 2 x 12s with something that needs less maintenance. I don't mind staining every year, but I want to get away from sanding and painting every year.'s the deal. The house siding goes around the sides of the staircase, and I'm not sure I can remove the existing stringers without taking off the siding. (This photo is not my house, but it should give you the idea: )

I want to do this quick and easy, so removing and then replacing the siding to get at the stringers is out. If I keep the same stringers, I believe I have to use 2 x material to replace the stairs (that is, if I use 1 x, it will screw up the stair dimensions at the top step).

That's is too bad, because I'd really like to use ipe or cumaru 1 x 6s, or maybe 5/4 x 6s, because I can get those locally. If I get 2 x 6s in either material, I would have to get it shipped, and from a strength perspective, it seems like 2 x 6 stairs would be way overbuilt. Am I right that replacing a 2 x plank with a 1 x or 5/4 x plank will make the stairs hazardous to use?

Taking all the above into account, my options seem to be, in rough order of cost:
-2 x 6 ipe (don't see 2 x 12s anywhere, and they would be out of budget anyway)
-2 x 6 cumaru (again, don't see 2 x 12s)
-cedar in either 2 x 12 or 2 x 6
-redwood in either 2 x 12 or 2 x 6
-fir in either 2 x 12 or 2 x 6 (Salvaged old-growth fir is easier to find around here than a hoppy IPA)
-pressure treated pine in either 2 x 12 or 2 x 6

Any suggestions? Is it possible to get away with 1 x 6s? If not, which material would you suggest, and why? I'd like to spend less than $500 on the materials if possible, but 2 x 6s of the tropical hardwoods would likely cost more than that, especially when considering shipping.


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If 1x's are heavy enough just cut some shims off the end of the 1x to match the original thickness. Length never comes out even so you will have some scraps anyway.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 10:32AM
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Thanks Hendricus, I thought about that approach, but the shims would be visible from the front. I thought about mitering that front edge at 45* and ripping down a long thin piece to cover the gap (kind of like you would do for a countertop), but not sure if I'll be able to do that kind of miter cut in tropical hardwood - I hear it's a bear to work with. Attaching that thin piece could be tricky as well.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 3:18PM
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