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Thread: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

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    Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Hello all, Iím ďnewĒ here. Well, new account as my old one got deleted. Anyway, I just bought a house and it has a nice deep garage that I can set my shop up in to do side work and Iím looking to get into railings for residential/commercial.

    I work in aviation now, which is repetitive and mostly JUST welding. I did do hundreds of railings before at a prior company but never measured in the field, was mostly working off CAD drawings.

    I will admit I am fairy rusty on the layout aspect, and was wondering how you guys measure and lay out for stair railing. The info is limited for what I can find. I saw one that made sense, was a guy on a Kings Metals video and he has a standard 4x4 baseplate with a small 1x1 tube welding in the middle, and he put these on the blank stair case where they would go if a railing was there and measure the points on the slope and the straight.

    But I remember doing a ton of math when I even had the railings all drawn up and I just donít want to make a mistake with a new customer. I was thinking this was a good way to measure, and then getting an digital angle finder to use on the treads and my layout should be good? Plus 36Ē height for code, no more than 4in picket spacing, etc.

    If you have any tips for layout please post it up. Or if you have any insight on how to get these kinds of jobs. I joined some neighborhood forums to advertise that Iím a welder in the area, but if you have any more tips that would be great, thanks!

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Embrace the mistakes and learn to correct them. Many other variables out side layout to cause issues. Good luck.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Thank you. Where I havenít done them in a few years I just donít feel confident enough, although I imagine itíll be like riding a bike. Would you say the information Iíve found is a good way to lay them out? Thanks for the reply.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Yes, that would be a start. There are/were thread on this website with different techniques for building railing.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by J93Welder View Post
    Hello all, I’m “new” here. Well, new account as my old one got deleted. Anyway, I just bought a house and it has a nice deep garage that I can set my shop up in to do side work and I’m looking to get into railings for residential/commercial.

    I work in aviation now, which is repetitive and mostly JUST welding. I did do hundreds of railings before at a prior company but never measured in the field, was mostly working off CAD drawings.

    I will admit I am fairy rusty on the layout aspect, and was wondering how you guys measure and lay out for stair railing. The info is limited for what I can find. I saw one that made sense, was a guy on a Kings Metals video and he has a standard 4x4 baseplate with a small 1x1 tube welding in the middle, and he put these on the blank stair case where they would go if a railing was there and measure the points on the slope and the straight.

    But I remember doing a ton of math when I even had the railings all drawn up and I just don’t want to make a mistake with a new customer. I was thinking this was a good way to measure, and then getting an digital angle finder to use on the treads and my layout should be good? Plus 36” height for code, no more than 4in picket spacing, etc.

    If you have any tips for layout please post it up. Or if you have any insight on how to get these kinds of jobs. I joined some neighborhood forums to advertise that I’m a welder in the area, but if you have any more tips that would be great, thanks!
    I used to make a lot of rails and stairs years ago now just for friends. But I used Cadd to lay them out, most were pipe railings. I would go to the job, I found that it is was best to take a level and a tape measure. I would draw a rough sketch so I could put the measurements on the sketch. I would measure the top deck, and then I would measure from the front of the bullnose of the top deck to the level that I had sitting on the second step perpendicular to the earth, and get the actual length of the first step. Then I would repeat that for each step, sounds like a lot of work but I had it down to about five minutes. I used to actually do both sides of a stoop like that and then split the difference of the angles. I would also drop the level on the top of each step and raise it usually but sometimes lower it to get how much the step was out of level, I would eyeball it, maybe an eighth inch, maybe a quarter, maybe three-eighths of an inch or a half or even five-eighths of an inch and three-quarters of an inch. Then I would just draw that into cadd complete with the actual angle of the steps and stoop or top platform. The top platform can be out an inch and quarter or more. Now I had an exact picture of what I was going to make. And then I would draw the rail and using a program that another fellow supplied most of the code for I would press a button and get the start and stop marks for where to place the pipe die on the straight pipe and just bend away.

    Before I did it with cadd, I used to chalk it out on a five by ten or a six by ten layout table or the floor and then make rails to match.


    This how I used to make them with Cadd.





    This is a rail that is bent in one piece using that program.

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    Last edited by William McCormick; 04-06-2020 at 02:36 AM.
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Outstanding!
    Miller Multimatic 220AC
    Miller Thunderbolt 225
    Victor OA

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Most codes give the max and minimum for the rise and run of a stair. A rough carpentry rule of thumb says that multiply the rise and run together and you should get between 70 and 75. So a 7.5 inch rise and a ten inch run is maximum for rise. If you have a 7 inch rise then the run should be 10.7 to 10 inches. I was told that a 7.5 rise is about the limit. An 8 inch rise is uncomfortable and likely not code.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by William McCormick View Post
    I used to make a lot of rails and stairs years ago now just for friends. But I used Cadd to lay them out, most were pipe railings. I would go to the job, I found that it is was best to take a level and a tape measure. I would draw a rough sketch so I could put the measurements on the sketch. I would measure the top deck, and then I would measure from the front of the bullnose of the top deck to the level that I had sitting on the second step perpendicular to the earth, and get the actual length of the first step. Then I would repeat that for each step, sounds like a lot of work but I had it down to about five minutes. I used to actually do both sides of a stoop like that and then split the difference of the angles. I would also drop the level on the top of each step and raise it usually but sometimes lower it to get how much the step was out of level, I would eyeball it, maybe an eighth inch, maybe a quarter, maybe three-eighths of an inch or a half or even five-eighths of an inch and three-quarters of an inch. Then I would just draw that into cadd complete with the actual angle of the steps and stoop or top platform. The top platform can be out an inch and quarter or more. Now I had an exact picture of what I was going to make. And then I would draw the rail and using a program that another fellow supplied most of the code for I would press a button and get the start and stop marks for where to place the pipe die on the straight pipe and just bend away.

    Before I did it with cadd, I used to chalk it out on a five by ten or a six by ten layout table or the floor and then make rails to match.


    This how I used to make them with Cadd.





    This is a rail that is bent in one piece using that program.

    Name:  Sunburst.jpg
Views: 639
Size:  232.9 KB
    Wow. Beautiful! That railing is prolly worth more than the house!
    :

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    This is how you measure stairs for railings, you can use baseplate or core drill.

    My example shows a railing less than 6 ft with 2 posts, but in reality you wouldn't need the middle post, it's just for illustration purposes,

    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/202...8c4f2b9da8.jpg


    I can't stress this enough

    You do not need a digital angle finder,

    You do not need baseplates with 1x1 tubes welded to them, all you need is a level to take the measurements

    If you take any more measurements or angles than what I have drawn, you're wasting time.
    Last edited by MetalMan23; 04-14-2020 at 11:35 PM.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    I'll make some more drawings tomorrow to show you the fabrication aspect of it, and how to stay 36" high while transitioning down stairs.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by MetalMan23 View Post
    This is how you measure stairs for railings, you can use baseplate or core drill.

    My example shows a railing less than 6 ft with 2 posts, but in reality you wouldn't need the middle post, it's just for illustration purposes,

    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/202...8c4f2b9da8.jpg


    I can't stress this enough

    You do not need a digital angle finder,

    You do not need baseplates with 1x1 tubes welded to them, all you need is a level to take the measurements

    If you take any more measurements or angles than what I have drawn, you're wasting time.
    Hey MetalMan! Thanks for the reply. I wrote you a DM before I posted this but thank you for getting back to me! Again Iím new to measuring these myself, but when building them I worked off blueprints and these plumb/straight measurements were on them. Iím going to assume you use the level on the side of the steps, measure off of that to the bottom step and thatís where you get your 6ft from?

    Also yes I used to just calculate the rise and run together to get the angle pitch for the railings. Thanks for the drawing, Iíll be on the lookout for your next drawing, this is good help!

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by Lis2323 View Post
    Wow. Beautiful! That railing is prolly worth more than the house!
    Thank You. Believe it or not those homes go for about $500,000.00 it is because of the lower city taxes there.

    Sincerely,

    William McCormick
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by MetalMan23 View Post
    This is how you measure stairs for railings, you can use baseplate or core drill.

    My example shows a railing less than 6 ft with 2 posts, but in reality you wouldn't need the middle post, it's just for illustration purposes,

    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/202...8c4f2b9da8.jpg


    I can't stress this enough

    You do not need a digital angle finder,

    You do not need baseplates with 1x1 tubes welded to them, all you need is a level to take the measurements

    If you take any more measurements or angles than what I have drawn, you're wasting time.
    I agree with you totally that is all that is actually needed. I used to go out sometimes and measure a couple in a day. All different ones I used to get some that had sloping platforms and I really did not know what it would look like if I put an upright here or there. So I started duplicating the stoop exactly and I did not need a long 2x4 to find level. Sometimes I would only have a two-foot level with me or even a torpedo level. So I just made it a rule to duplicate each step so when I got back I could draw it exactly as it looks for approval. That is how I got into drawing in each step. But the one that got me into drawing each step more than any is the diagonal rails that come down on an angle if you do not exaggerate the angle by making them very low at the end they look like pants that are too short. I had to raise the top so that I could get enough angle to make it look like it matches the angle of the step. The rail is much more angled down than the stoop but it still looks too high on the end. And the end is almost scraping the second to last step.


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    Sincerely,

    William McCormick
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    There is no rule that says the rise and run of the steps has to match the actual pitch of the step.

    How do you measure 10 foot rise steps inside a house?

    Nice rails. Compound bend, well done. Oh, you removed a similar rail. looks like water infiltration/ freeze in balusters, newel and bottom rail.
    Last edited by tapwelder; 04-22-2020 at 03:37 AM.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    My point, no shame in using a digital level or angle finder. It is easier to use and versatile and can be consistently used.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    my tip for a guy just starting out is to learn all you can about laying out iron. anyone can run a bead or hold a cutting torch. i worked with master layout guys that used nothing more than soapstone and the top of the bench to do stair and rail calculations. even these guys propped up a section like you described if they thought something wasn't right.
    i.u.o.e. # 15
    queens, ny and sunny fla

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by docwelder View Post
    my tip for a guy just starting out is to learn all you can about laying out iron. anyone can run a bead or hold a cutting torch. i worked with master layout guys that used nothing more than soapstone and the top of the bench to do stair and rail calculations. even these guys propped up a section like you described if they thought something wasn't right.

    Case in point. Itís not the gear you got itís the smarts and EXPERIENCE you absorb.


    I befriended a REAL old guy (total fíin train wreck) last winter. He did the most amazing railing work for custom high end homes in the area. He was THE guy builders and home owners called.

    Unfortunately I have no pics of his work but here is his shop before he was evicted from his home.

    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/202...f020ad5c95.jpg



    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/202...9bb5af3462.jpg
    :

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by Lis2323 View Post
    Case in point. It’s not the gear you got it’s the smarts and EXPERIENCE you absorb.


    I befriended a REAL old guy (total f’in train wreck) last winter. He did the most amazing railing work for custom high end homes in the area. He was THE guy builders and home owners called.

    Unfortunately I have no pics of his work but here is his shop before he was evicted from his home.

    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/202...f020ad5c95.jpg



    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/202...9bb5af3462.jpg
    lots of creative people (who probably cringe at being called artistic) have what's today called "issues". using me as example i believe the condition of a person's home or work enviorment is evidence of state of mind. my workshop was notoriously immacualte at corrections;my basement is an epic horror. my hard drive hasen't capacity enough to list my issues
    over the year's a few very talented layout men offered to show me a thing or two. thankfully nyc usually had lots of union work so i could make money by being a halfway decent welder but even today i regret not learning more than reading a ruler.
    i.u.o.e. # 15
    queens, ny and sunny fla

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by tapwelder View Post
    There is no rule that says the rise and run of the steps has to match the actual pitch of the step.

    How do you measure 10 foot rise steps inside a house?

    Nice rails. Compound bend, well done. Oh, you removed a similar rail. looks like water infiltration/ freeze in balusters, newel and bottom rail.
    I can just measure up to the ceiling and add the last top step which is often different than the rest of the steps for many reasons. From the stair guy making the top step, less in rise on purpose for future flooring thickness that never happened. To a lot of guys that do not want the first step to a be a low step, they say it is better for the first top step to not be a low step to allow for entering the staircase safely. I kind of agree with this and it is better than creating a low first step. And the occasional mud job that makes the top step higher in rise than the rest. If I am putting balusters at different places on the steps then I measure each and every step. And to my surprise, You can find 3/8" different in tread heights and an inch in tread runs. The reason I was surprised is that I have seen how they make them and I have made them myself, they are usually very accurate. Where you have to continue after you reach the top this is very important to make sure the top step is not different than the rest. Or else you cannot hit your rail heights and have it break exactly at the top step, without knowing it is not symmetrical. On a nice job we dip with an arc from the top platform to the stairs to cut down on the opening above the stairs. It also hides the top tread difference.


    Sincerely,

    William McCormick
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by tapwelder View Post
    There is no rule that says the rise and run of the steps has to match the actual pitch of the step.

    How do you measure 10 foot rise steps inside a house?

    Nice rails. Compound bend, well done. Oh, you removed a similar rail. looks like water infiltration/ freeze in balusters, newel and bottom rail.
    Someone had cut them out, before I got there. I use quick rock and most of the rails I do are powder coated aluminum so there is no expansion or freezing problems becaue they do not corrode, and some of these rails have been in for a long while. There was one set that kids played on like a gym that had some surface cracks but nothing bad or deep.

    These steps although they look great and they walk great are different from one side to the other. And I always try to stay low in front, because it looks nasty if you are high in front. But I did not want to make two different rails although I have done that for other stairs that were very far off. So I duplicated the treads on the computer and then worked out a happy medium. Rather then getting to the job with a rail that can be made to fit, it is better if you have an exact plan. I knew I would not hit exactly where I wanted on either step but that is ok. This is that hard stone to drill Balmoral granite so I wanted to just set them on the stoop mark them and go home. But that is why I measure every tread, so I can do whatever I want later when I get back and draw them up.

    Attachment 1710657

    Sincerely,

    William McCormick
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by tapwelder View Post
    There is no rule that says the rise and run of the steps has to match the actual pitch of the step.

    How do you measure 10 foot rise steps inside a house?

    Nice rails. Compound bend, well done. Oh, you removed a similar rail. looks like water infiltration/ freeze in balusters, newel and bottom rail.
    Someone had cut them out, before I got there. I use quick rock and most of the rails I do are powder coated aluminum so there is no expansion or freezing problems becaue they do not corrode, and some of these rails have been in for a long while. There was one set that kids played on like a gym that had some surface cracks but nothing bad or deep.

    These steps although they look great and they walk great are different from one side to the other. And I always try to stay low in front, because it looks nasty if you are high in front. But I did not want to make two different rails although I have done that for other stairs that were very far off. So I duplicated the treads on the computer and then worked out a happy medium. Rather then getting to the job with a rail that can be made to fit, it is better if you have an exact plan. I knew I would not hit exactly where I wanted on either step but that is ok. This is that hard stone to drill Balmoral granite so I wanted to just set them on the stoop mark them and go home. But that is why I measure every tread, so I can do whatever I want later when I get back and draw them up.

    Name:  mas1.jpg
Views: 414
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    Sincerely,


    William McCormick
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Nice rails. What is the time difference in fabrication Aluminum vs steel rails? how do you weld them? How do you treat butt joints that need to be flush welded?.... this is an issue that seems to fail in many beautifully done rail. I have done several repairs on Ally pipe rails that fail at joints.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Quote Originally Posted by tapwelder View Post
    Nice rails. What is the time difference in fabrication Aluminum vs steel rails? how do you weld them? How do you treat butt joints that need to be flush welded?.... this is an issue that seems to fail in many beautifully done rail. I have done several repairs on Ally pipe rails that fail at joints.
    You have to penetrate when you weld, not just make a cosmetic weld which most guys do to save the grinding. Because of the strange angles of welding pipe to pipe, you either have to stop and start or do a cosmetic kind of weld. You get a little bubble gum when you totally penetrate because you have to keep changing the angle to get full penetration. But once welded you can plastically deform the railing and the welds hold. I TIG weld them, I do not think you could MIG weld pipe efficiently, and the extra grinding would make it suck.

    Those silver rails on the lodge are also aluminum. And again when you weld the U-channel to the 1 1/4" solid balusters it requires penetration, but they are amazingly strong joints. Sometimes I will Straight Polarity DC on the 1 1/4" solid bar, if I am in a hurry, I use a mix of Argon and helium but it goes very quickly and penetrates well. But you do not need it and with helium what it is I wouldn't anymore. You will warp the one and a quarter-inch bar if you have welded it correctly that is the downside. I make a little bracket that uses one C-clamp which you can tack to the bracket, to preload the bar in the opposite direction before I weld. So when you weld and let it cool and release the clamp, it is straight. If you are welding both sides of the one and a quarter-inch bar you do not need to do anything.

    Aluminum is much faster, I can make three sets of aluminum Pipe rails in a day. The problem is powder coating or epoxy etching primer and Imron, either way, it is the added cost of powder coating or a lot of time and still a lot of cost for epoxy etching primer, and Imron.


    Sincerely,

    William McCormick
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Duplicate post
    Last edited by William McCormick; 04-30-2020 at 12:59 AM. Reason: Duplicate
    If I wasn't so.....crazy, I wouldn't try to act normal, and you would be afraid.

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    Re: Stair Railing Layout and Measuring

    Thanks. I will try bid some ally rails. I have noticed on repairs no real prep.I usually clean breaks. I was recently on site doing an install, I noticed some ally pipe rails that were installed 10 years ago. I had admired the quality of the work at the time. Now they are broken apart at several joints.

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