Step by Step: Developing Design Standards for Hardwood Stairways

More than 1,500 wood samples are currently being evaluated at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) as part of an experiment that is helping researchers gain insight into the structural capabilities of various domestic hardwoods.

Hybrid hardwood, glass, and steel staircase in a commercial building.

In collaboration with Mississippi State University and Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association, engineers at the Lab are developing structural design standards for use in residential stairway and guard construction.

The project aims to survey the strength and stiffness of species such as red oak, white oak, Southern Pine, hard maple, and yellow poplar from nearly all regions of the United States.  Engineers and builders typically use these species solely for aesthetic purposes, but researchers believe testing their strength will lead to greater economic value and opportunity in the domestic wood construction industry. Ultimately, this will also contribute to a thriving job market, and allow forests and stewardship to thrive on both private and public lands.

Laminated hardwood curved staircase that incorporates a large variety of species for architectural effect.

Though the project began in 2017, engineers are still busy testing the species’ mechanical properties against current ASTM standards.  Final testing and result analysis will conclude in 2020. To learn more about this study, read the full Research in Progress report.

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta