So much goes into the planning and design of a deck, that it’s easy to overlook the deck stair landing. Of course, this would be a terrible oversight! If you want a safe, secure deck that meets code, you will need to build a stair landing. So, what deck stair landing options are available?
The best options for building a deck stair landing are:
- Concrete pad
Concrete is usually the best option because it is the strongest and most permanent.
Although many options will work, they will require different amounts of time, labor, and materials to build. Building codes must also be taken into account. Let’s discuss these stipulations more in depth.
Do Deck Stairs Need a Landing?
All exterior staircases are required by code to have landings at the bottom and top to make sure it is safe and there is plenty of room for doors to swing, and for people to use. In the case of a deck, it will also provide support for the base of your staircase, and a solid place to step off of the stairs to avoid accidents and injuries.
There are several pieces of building code to consider when building your deck stair landing. First, your landing must be nearly flat. It is allowed only 1/4” of slope per foot. If your deck is on the second floor or higher, you have another piece of the building code to factor in.
You cannot have more than 12 feet between floor levels or landings. If your deck is high up, this may mean that you have to add in one, or even more landings in your staircase.
In any freeze-thaw climate, the bottom of the stringers cannot be contacting the ground. They are not required to be on a large pad, but they must be sitting on something that reaches below the frost line, to prevent frost heave.
If you do plan to pour a cement pad for your landing, then this will suffice, as long as the footing reaches the required depth. Alternatively, you could use ground-rated wood posts or poured concrete footings in sonotubes to rest the stringers on. Then you are free to use a different material for the landing itself.
How Big Should a Landing Be?
When building your landing, you must be sure that it is of adequate size to meet code. Code R311.7 in IRC 2009 contains regulations that apply to staircase landings.
The first stipulation is that the landing must be at least 36” long from the staircase to the far edge of the landing pad. Additionally, your landing pad must be at least as wide as the stairs it is attached to.
This can become an issue if you have very wide stairs descending from your deck. No matter how wide the stairs are, you will need a landing pad that stretches the entire width of the stairs.
Deck Stair Landing Options
While your deck stair landing must meet certain criteria to pass code, there is no definitive rule as to what material it can be constructed from. Despite this, certain materials work much better than others.
First, the material needs to be able to be installed to a measurable and specific slope. Also, it needs to be sturdy enough to not shift under the weight of people walking.
For attached decks that are anchored below the frost line with footings, you can’t attach a floating structure, such as a landing pad with no footings. This will rise and fall with the movement of the land, while the deck stays firm, potentially causing damage over time.
As a rule, you can’t have a stable structure attached to a floating structure. Therefore if you anchor the stairs of an attached deck to a cement pad, it must have footings under it to the frost line like any of the other deck footings.
A concrete landing is the most permanent and stable solution for your deck stair landing. It will not shift under weight and will require almost no upkeep. A concrete landing will outlast the deck! However, it will also take the most work to build.
There are two main ways to construct your concrete landing. The first way is to build it so that the stairs can rest directly on top of the landing pad. This will require you to have footings under your landing pad, preferably directly underneath the stair stringers.
This pad is generally 6” thick with a 4” thick base of crushed stone, with the footings or piers underneath stretching below the frost line.
The second way of building your concrete landing is to have the stairs mounted on top of piers or footers, and then pour a separate pad for the landing that is not attached to the stairs. The piers will reach down below the frost line. However, the slab will not need to have any footers.
- Very strong and stable
- The most work of any option
- Lots of digging
- Concrete drying times
Flagstone Pavers or Brick Landings
If you don’t want to go through all of the work involved in pouring a concrete landing for your deck steps, then you might consider flagstone, pavers, or brick instead. These materials are cost-effective and they will not require as much digging as would be necessary with a concrete landing pad. These materials also eliminate drying times and a lot of the mess associated with mixing and pouring concrete.
While not being as strong or as permanent as concrete, flagstone, pavers, and bricks will not shift under the weight of people walking on them. They will also provide a non-slick surface that can help prevent slips and adds to safety.
If you are going to use a less permanent material than concrete to construct your deck stair landing, then you are going to need to mount the steps on their own footers which reach below frost depth.
Flagstone, pavers, and brick landings will require more upkeep than concrete. Over time they may settle unevenly or even move, but they can be fixed and reset without too much difficulty.
- Less work than a concrete landing
- Doesn’t require as much digging
- No drying time
- No mess from mixing
- Not as permanent or strong as concrete
- Requires more upkeep than concrete
What Not to Use for Deck Stair Landing
Even though the IRC code doesn’t outright ban any materials from being used for the construction of the stair landings, certain requirements must be met that cause some materials not to be good choices. The following materials are not recommended to be used for building your deck stair landing.
- Loose gravel
Because the slope of your landing must have a measurable slope of 1/4” per foot or less, hard, flat materials will be best to construct the landing pad from. With loose materials, this would be hard to verify and would make it difficult to pass inspection.
Looser materials such as these are also more prone to being disturbed and would need nearly constant attention.
For safety, stability, and to meet code, your deck stairs will be required to have landings. Make sure to plan for this during the design stage so it doesn’t become a problem during the building process. Decide what type of landing works best for you and then enjoy your new deck.
If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me in the comments section! Also, feel free to let me know what you thought of this article. If you enjoyed reading this, or if you learned something useful, please be sure to share it on social media and help others find it who may also benefit from the information contained within.