Manufactured home porch steps, however typical or stylish they may be, marks the beginning of your home, the place where the family life starts and the rest of the world ends.
And when the weather is pleasantly warm, we sit on those steps (underneath the awning) and watch the pets play with kids or simply sip our iced tea.
Front porch stairs are used to invite family and friends and welcome guests in for a chat or spell. Yet they are some of the often-overlooked parts of the home.
Installing stylish porch steps or revamping what you already have can boost the appeal of your home’s exterior.
Adding curb appeal to your porch steps, or creating new ones from scratch, can be cheap and easy as winking. The rest of this guide just proves it.
How to Build Manufactured Home Porch Steps in Four Easy Steps
From a technical perspective, there is nothing hard about building porch steps.
Any homeowner with minimal carpentry experience or skills can assemble the parts and make the essential cuts.
But because there are several building codes to observe as well as ensuring such things as comfort and safety, embarking on a DIY porch step building can be one of the toughest tasks you’ve ever undertaken.
Tall steps are hard to climb. Shallow steps are dangerous and uncomfortable. Since there isn’t much room for mistakes, installing porch steps requires a lot of calculations and careful layout.
So, before even embarking on a DIY project, consider consulting the codes and regulations of your local building departments.
Once you’re aware of the codes, you can follow this procedure:
First, the anatomy of the porch steps:
The typical porch steps are made of 3 parts:
Those angled boards (often cut from 2 x 12s) extending from the ground up to the deck are called Stringers. Their purpose is to support the weight of the climber and other parts of the whole structure.
Stringers are almost always spaced 16 inches on center and a typical “staircase” will have about 3 of them.
When deciding the width of your porch steps, just know that the wider your steps are the better will be your experience when climbing them.
Treads form the top horizontal surface on each step while risers are added under and directly the frontal lip of every tread.
Except for the side rails, the rest of the porch steps are virtually made of treated wood to reduce susceptibility to the insults of the weather.
If the tread is not made of wood, it would definitely be PVC or composite lumber.
Here are some of the tools you might need
- A compound miter saw
- Circular saw (preferably 15-Amp)
- Jigsaw (preferably 5-Amp)
- Brushless Driver/Drill
- Smoothing Hand Plane
- Hand saw (about 20”)
- Wood Rasp
- Framing square (16” x 24”)
Step 1: Calculate the Rise and Run
Start by finding the total vertical length of the porch “staircase”.
Lay a straight board on the edge of the porch and let it extend to the ground while observing a reasonable level of reasonable steepness.
Proceed to measure the length between the edge of the porch where the board begins to the point the board touches the ground.
Let us with a hypothetical rise of 57″. With that rise known, we can easily calculate the rise of each step.
So, we will divide 57′ by 7″ (with 7″ being the typical rise to expect for each step) to get 8.13″. Now round down the figure to get the exact number of steps: 8 steps.
Then, to find out the exact rise per step, we divide 57″ by the 8 steps to 9.1″ per step.
Next, you need to calculate the overall run of your staircase, basically the entire horizontal length of the staircase between the lowest step to the edge of the porch.
You can simply multiply the total number of your steps by each step’s horizontal depth.
The typical length of porch steps is 10” which is just enough space to support two 2 x 6 treads. In this example, our staircase has eight 10” deep steps, which means the total run is 80”.
If your porch is considerably tall (seldom occurs on manufactured homes), the staircase structure should be interrupted with intermediated landings after 7 or 8 steps.
Again, remember to consult your local building inspector to get more specific information regarding the measurements of the porch staircase.
Step 2: Cut the stringers
This is the most technical part.
Before laying out your steps on a 2 x 12, make a decision on how your stringers will join the porch.
They normally join it at one of the two points: directly to the deck’s rim joist in such a way that the topmost step is near-flush with the rest of the decking, or onto the framing below the deck – our example follows the latter.
If you choose to mount it under the deck, your stringers will have to attach the joists (you can decide to attach them to the blocking installed between the joists, but that would be an afterthought).
Bear in mind that, if you follow this method, your stringers must be cut longer so that they can reach the framing.
Use the framing square (need to be attached with stair gauges) to mark the tread notches.
The small brass fixtures will clamp on the square to provide a more accurate way of making several identical notches.
Proceed by clamping one stair gauge on the tongue of the square exactly at the rise’s dimension.
Then take the other gauge and attach it to the square’s body directly at the run’s dimension (note that the tongue is framing the leg’s narrow leg while the body is its wider part).
Go on by laying the square on your 2 x 12 while ensuring that the gauges are pressed on the edge of the board; mark the riser and the tread.
Slide your square down until it aligns with the notch you drew previously. Draw the next notch.
Once you have drawn all the riser-and-tread notches on your first stringer, use the portable circular saw to cut the notches.
Take care not to cut them beyond the pencil markings.
The waste pieces can still be put to use by attaching them to the stringer. Cut the last bits of wood using the jigsaw or handsaw.
Next on, trim the stringer’s bottom to equal the thickness of the tread. If you are installing 2 x 6 treads, for instance, consider cutting 1.5” from the stringer’s bottom.
After cutting the first stringer, use it to judge the size of the remaining stringers. That’s to ensure that all the stringers are of the same size.
You will need to use a fastener to stick the stringers on the deck of your porch.
We recommend galvanized carriage bolts at a spacing of 16″ on center. Compared to other options at your disposal, carriage bolts turn out stronger than, say, screws or rivets, and are less prone to splitting your framing.
To protect the bottommost part of the stringers from moisture damage, consider resting them on a slab of stone – the stone goes a long way to offer firm support as well.
If you are uncomfortable with a stone immediately at the base of the steps, don’t attach the stringers directly on the bare ground. Consider pouring some fine gravel or a pad of concrete instead.
Once you have set your stringers as planned, confirm their alignment by laying a long level across them.
In case you find anomalies such as raised spots, pare the raised parts down using a rasp of block pane.
Step 3: Install the Risers and Treads
User your power miter saw to trim the raisers to the correct length (note that the power miter saw cuts faster and is more accurate than most other options).
Fasten the risers one by one to the stringers with deck screws (the come with small heads capable of sinking deep below the surface)
Once the risers have been installed, the next job would be to fasten all the treads with 3” deck screws.
It is recommended that you leave 1/8” – ¼” space between two treads all the way up.
Also, note that the 4 x 4 posts often used to provide support for the handrail tend to be bolted onto the stringers before you install the treads.
Step 4: Stain your steps
The final step entails wiping the porch stairs and applying a clear or stain wood preservative or any other exterior-grade finish you can find.
Complete the job by adding sparkle on deck by painting it with an acrylic-latex paint specifically made for porches.
NOTE: The above is a DIY procedure for installing porch steps. You can still hire a professional to do the whole job for you at a fee. We’d actually recommend you hire a professional if you don’t want to go through the whole hassle, but the DIY way tends to be the cheapest way.
Eight Mistakes Homeowners Make When Building Porch Stairs
1. Selecting Wrong Materials
Not just any type of wood is good for your steps. The perfect wood for steps, the deck, and most other parts of the porch is a pressure-treated cedar or redwood.
Of course, there are tons of other types of wood that could work, but they at least should be subjected to some form of treatment and certified as weather-resistant.
Because you are looking for wood capable of withstanding extreme weather and moisture penetration, you will need to choose from a range of preservative-based woods.
Borate preserved wood (preserved with inorganic Boron – SBX), for instance, is resistant to moisture-induced destruction but only when above the ground (remember the bottom part of your deck will sink into gravel or bare moist ground unless you choose to rest it on stone)
It is prudent to research widely before you choose the materials.
2. Using inappropriate fasteners
You also can’t use just any kind of fasteners to join the stringers on the rest of the structure.
Because you will use treated wood on your porch steps, your choices will be limited to a small number of special fasteners designed for treated wood.
They include Carriage Bolt, Lag Screw, Decking Screw, Spiral Shank, and Ring Shank types.
The kind of preservatives used to treat the wood of your choice may require different kinds of fasteners.
Wood treated with copper-based preservatives, for instance, works perfectly with stainless steel or hot-dip galvanized connectors and fasteners.
This is the most probable mistake you could do when attempting the DIY porch steps procedure. The material you use to make the steps can withstand different loads in the long run.
Porch steps should hold about 300 lbs of the load over a 4″ square area.
If you choose to use composite materials, you will need more support to meet the 300 lbs requirement.
Also, if you don’t get the measurements right, you might have spacing inconsistencies with the stringers and even the treads.
4. Being negligent with handrails and guardrails
It is easy to get overly focused on the steps and forget to give a thought to the accompanying handrails. Improperly attached handrails can be risky.
If you use low quality or inappropriate fasteners to attach the handrail to the rest of the staircase, they won’t be rigid enough to withstand the push or pull from a climbing person for a long time.
Most building regulations and codes require handrails to resist a load of 200 lbs or more from any direction. As you can tell, ordinary screws are not effective enough to resist that size of a load of load.
If you choose the correct fastener for the handrails, you’ll still need to connect the structure directly to the joists or the frame of the deck.
5. Not considering the access, safety, and beauty
Imagine what would happen if you added paint to beautify the porch steps and handrails?
If it rains, there are odds you would slip over on the slippery surface and sustain injuries.
Also, steep steps will not provide easy access to the porch.
Leaving open spaces between steps, however stylish it may look, can be dangerous; feet can be caught in them, causing falls and injuries.
Most housing codes recommend 3/8” space between steps
6. Starting the project on the wrong “footing’
Porch steps should be attached correctly on the deck before the rest of the structure is completed.
Also, if the bottom part doesn’t get deep into the ground, the whole structure will be unstable.
Those are the things you could get wrong if you start on the wrong “footing.”
For that reason, it is advisable to begin by planning about the installation positions.
7. Ignoring the much-needed clearance
Carefully review your plans to prevent the likelihood that access into the porch may be made difficult.
Check the condition of the surface immediately below the steps – does it permit easy access into the porch?
If the surface is rocky and flawed in any way, you may reposition the steps or correct it by leveling or draining – just ensure it permits smooth entry and exit.
8. Not applying for the permits
Some jurisdictions require the homeowner to apply for a permit for the installation of the deck.
Because the porch often sits on a deck-like installation and the porch steps will be attached to them, it is important to check your local buildings codes for direction.
Five Premade Steps Shopping Tips
If you decide to forgo the DIY route, here are a some steps to finding some premade stairs online.
First and foremost, it is important for a homeowner to appreciate that adding onto a manufactured home is very different from adding onto a conventional home.
It usually requires some skills at the planning and installation stages and does take some time. Here are some key factors that you must take into consideration when shopping for porch steps;
Go through your warranty and make sure that whatever steps you want to add on does not void your warranty.
Most of the time, manufacturers do have approved additions that don’t void the warranty, read through the warranty thoroughly and inquire from the manufacturer about what you can and cannot.
Alternatively, just make sure you buy steps that don’t need to be attached to the home; this will mean you won’t interfere with the structure of the manufactured home and will therefore not void your warranty.
This also minimizes expenses as you won’t have to put frost line footings underneath the steps.
These stairs can be made from a variety of materials such as fiberglass, concrete, or wood.
You should decide after going through all available options and detailing your needs and requirements.
If you are on a lean budget wooden steps are the best option. They are also easy to carry, though they are not as deep or wide as the steps made from other materials.
Concrete steps are long lasting and quite heavy; their edges also do chip out after some time.
Fiberglass steps provide the middle ground; they are usually built around a wooden frame and are quite long lasting and durable.
The amount of money you want to spend on the steps is also something you must consider.
As earlier mentioned, if you are short of cash then you can opt for a porch steps made from wood rather than those made from concrete or fiberglass.
It is not every day you will be buying porch steps so it is advisable to get steps that are solid, sturdy, safe and long lasting.
4. Rules & Regulations
You should also acquaint yourself with the relevant rules and regulations such as provisions of the IRC which provide guidelines on how your steps should meet the general geometric provisions of model building codes.
Rules such as the maximum riser height should be 7.75’, the minimum tread depth should be 10’ and that a handrail must be provided if the stairs contain more than four risers usually apply.
5. Color Scheme
Lastly, you need to get steps that will not only be functional but should also enhance the overall beauty of your home.
Make sure the color choice, the size of the steps, and the hand rails are all in sync with the unique look you want your home to have.
Three Porch Stair Recommendations
Here is a brief list of some of the popular manufactured home porch steps currently available in the market:
Ideal for those homeowners who want to connect a relatively small area of their home with the ground.
Weighing around 80lbs this stair is quite portable and is easy to move from one point to the other.
With a width of 36”, a total depth of 48” and height of 32”: it does weigh only 135 pounds making it quite portable and easy to handle.
It also does have a sturdy wooden frame, making it quite durable and reliable.
This beautiful and well constructed fiber glass stair weighs only 172lbs, quite light when you consider that it is a 6 step stair.
It has a width of 36”, a height of 48” whereas the top ledge or step has a depth of 24”. It can come in a variety of colors too.
Most manufactured homes come raised slightly above the ground.
This means porch steps are necessary if you want to get into the house comfortably. Still, porch steps separate your home from the rest of the world – you know you need to switch into the family mode when you step on them.
If you are not using them to invite guests into the house, you are sitting there watching kids play in the front yard.
Porch steps are some of the easiest parts of the home to build yourself. But from a technical perspective, there are a few things you need to get right before embarking on the project. If you are not hiring a professional to do it, you will follow any DIY step by step as above.
The DIY way is the cheapest because you won’t incur costs on the labor and expertise.
Whether you choose a professional or the DIY route, there are mistakes you should ensure they are avoided at all costs.
Firstly, the construction material should be chosen carefully – not just any type of wood or composite plastic can be used to build porch steps.
Also, the choice of fasteners can make or break the structure. The handrails require special attention even though their installation is almost never mentioned in DIY guides.
Most building codes require handrails to support 200 lbs or more load from any direction.
The quality and strength of the materials used in the installation should be considered as well.
Get your spanning right and ensure that the space immediately in front of the steps is clear and in a usable state.