Creating Stairs in Sloping Terrain

Reference Number: KB-00498
Last Modified: July 21, 2021

The information in this article applies to:

Home Designer Professional or Home Designer Architectural or HomeDesigner Suite


I would like to draw a set of stairs that cuts into sloping terrain to join two sidewalks, but when I draw stairs in my plan, they do not follow the terrain or join to my sidewalks. What should I do?

Stairs in a sloped terrain


You can create stairs that follow your terrain by drawing the stairs in an area defined by Retaining Walls and snapping the stairs to landings at each end.

The first step to creating stairs that follow the terrain in a plan is to create the landings that the stairs will attach to. We can define the heights of these landings to control the staircase's height, as well.

terrain stairs

To create stair landings

  1. Open the plan in which you want to create stairs in sloping terrain.

    Terrain with varying elevation

    In this example, the terrain has a single slope between two flat areas. 

  2. Select Tools> Display Options  from the menu and turn off the display of "Terrain, Primary Contours" layer.

    Note: While not strictly necessary, this will make drawing in the sloped area of the terrain easier.

  3. Select Build> Stairs> Landing  from the menu, then click and drag to draw a landing in the area of your plan where the stairs will be located.

    Landing placed in Terrain

  4. Using the Select Objects tool, click on the landing, move it if needed using the Move edit handle, and edit the size and shape as needed using the other landings edit handles.

  5. Once the landings shape is to your liking, select it once again and click the Open Object  edit button.

  6. On the General panel of the Stair Landing Specification dialog that displays:

    Adjust landing properties in the Stair Landing Specification dialog

    • Uncheck Auto Adjust Height and set the Top Height to match the height of the terrain or feature.

      For this example we will be setting it to 1".

      Note: When a building is present in a plan, the Top Height value of a stair landing is measured relative to the Default Floor Height for Floor 1, which is defined as 0".

      Bear in mind that this 0" value is not the same as 0" in the terrain if you have a building drawn in your plan. The program will automatically drop the terrain relative to the height of Floor 1, depending on the type of foundation that you build. 

    • Uncheck Auto Adjust Thickness and specify a thickness value you would like to use.

      In this example, a value of 4 5/8" is used.

    • Set whether or not you would like railings to be created on the selected landing edge or for all edges.

      For this example, we don't want any railings, so we selected the No Railing radio button and checked the Apply to All Edges checkbox.

    • Select the Materials panel to change the materials used for the landing.

    • Click OK to confirm all of your changes and close the dialog.

  7. With the landing still selected in a plan view, select the Copy/Paste edit button, then click where you'd like to place a second landing at.

    In this example, we will have a landing at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom.

    Two separate landings placed into the terrain

  8. Using the Select Objects tool, select the copied landing, click on the Open Object edit button to open it up the Stair Landing Specification, and adjust the Top Height and Thickness.

    In this example, the second stair landings top height value is set to -59" and the thickness is set to 1".

  9. Take an Orthographic view to check the heights of your landings relative to the terrain. If the landings and terrain are not near one another, return to floor plan view and make any necessary adjustments to the landing floor heights. Depending on the requirements of your drawing, you may need to make changes to your slope, instead.

    Two landings in an elevation view


To draw stairs between landings

  1. Select Build> Stairs> Draw Stairs  from the menu, and click and drag to create a set of stairs starting from the lower landing and ending at the top landing. A staircase will be created and the width will adjust to the width of the landings if they snap to each other.

    Stairs placed between the two landings

    Note: If the staircase doesn't adjust to the width of the landings, select the top/bottom edge of the staircase and adjust it so it stops and snaps to the edge of the landing(s). 

  2. Using the Select Objects tool, select the staircase and use its edit handles to make any desired adjustments to its position. The landings will also move with the stair.

  3. Take a Camera  view to see the results so far.

    Perspective Full Overview of the staircase placed in the terrain

To make sure that the terrain does not spill into the staircase area, we can use a terrain hole and retaining walls to cut the terrain around this sloped area.

To create a well around the stairs

  1. In a floor plan view, select Terrain> Terrain Feature> Terrain Hole and click and drag to create a hole encompassing the stair and the landings.

    Terrain hole encompassing the stairs

  2. Next, select Terrain> Terrain Wall and Curb> Straight Retaining Wall  and click and drag to create three retaining walls around three sides of the stairs, leaving the base of the stairs open.

    Three retaining walls placed

    • Draw the back wall of the well through the stairs rather than outside them.

    • Do not worry about positioning them precisely right now. Instead, draw them larger than the staircase and reposition them to ensure they snap to their desired location.

  3. Select each retaining wall and use the Move  edit handles to move them so that they bump up against the stairs.

    Retaining walls moved into place along the stair

  4. Create a Camera  view to see the results.

    Camera view of a stair section in sloped terrain

  5. You can then use the Material Painter  to apply new materials to the stair and railing components if you desire.

    Materials applied to stair using the Material Painter