Can free, easy to use STAIR DESIGN SOFTWARE gain you time, money, and cut out errors?

Ness Tillson in his studio

Staircase Software for Professional and Amateur Stair Builders.

This article was written in 2008:
StairDesigner software has changed but the context of the stair building industry has surprising not changed much.

Technology, as usual is moving much faster than people and business.

So also surprisingly nearly 10 years after, this article is still pertinent.

Hope you enjoy reading it!

To see the new versions of StairDesigner please visit our new web site:


My name is Ness Tillson. I’ve been a full time professional stair builder since 1980. I have a small workshop and build made to measure stairs and handrails.
Stair building is one of the most difficult jobs that a carpenter or woodworker can come up against. It is also one of the most rewarding.

The geometry required is often complicated and setting out the stair plans, marking up the cutting lists, and marking up all the different stair parts can be a long, complicated and error prone task.

Up to recently I have been using only CAD software to draw up staircase plans and a spread sheet to calculate stairs and staircase parts. I did the stair calculation by hand and drafted up the staircase plans with Autocad. This was a big improvement over manually drawing the stair plans, but the staircase design process remained time consuming and error prone.

For several years now I have been looking into specialized stair calculator software.

I said to myself dedicated stair software should be of great help, cut through the complicated stair calculation and maths, and prepare automatically all the stair plans and cutting lists  to start building the stairs quickly. Surely good stair software can simplify the task and eliminate errors, making for a more agreeable and also more profitable stair construction job.

There are a few companies that offer stair software that on the paper, really look a real time saver. But after test runs and on closer inspection I generally found the staircase software complicated to use with a steep learning curve,, unable to cope with the many different real life situations of one off made to measure stair building. Worst of all, most of the offers on the market, for a small shop like mine, were very expensive ($5000 and more, not counting, updates, hard ware and the time needed for training ). I would say that all the stair cad software that I found was targeted at big companies making mainly simple repeat staircase plans on complicated CNC machinery, so not for me.

Last year a during a trade fair in Lyon I stumbled on StairDesigner.

At first glance this stair calculator software seemed very interesting.

  • StairDesigner wasn’t very expensive (around 1000 euros) so I wasn’t risking my life and family if it didn’t work.
  • It seemed easy to use, so I wasn’t going to loose my hair spending months getting it to work.
  • This stair software  coped with a wide range of different stair calculations and designs.
  • For specific stair details StairDesigner drawings could be modified using Autocad.
  • And best of all this stair cad software had a free down load to test drive, so I could be sure that it would be useful before buying.

So I down loaded the free demo version of StairDesigner and here’s what I found.

Just look at this video to see how simple it is to set up a stair.

This stair software is very easy to use.

The interface is clean and self explanatory. After quick input of a few parameters, the staircase software will calculate the stair plans and automatically draw the general stair plan, the plans of all the individual stair parts, print out a full staircase cutting list and draws a real 3D perspective of the stairs. StairDesigner also writes the DXF files for modification in Autocad or driving a CNC router. You can design and calculate stairs in a very short time and even a complete novice will up and running in minutes.

StairDesigner can calculate a wide range of staircase styles

Newel stairs, with boxed or cut strings, stairs with continuous geometrical wreathed strings and handrails, central cut strings, spiral stairs, curved stairs, etc..

StairDesigner builds a real 3D perspective drawing of stairs

Complete with lighting and wood textures, the 3D model can be opened with any CAD or presentation software to give really great presentations for customers.
Here’s an exemple of a 3D perspective drawing of stairs that comes straight out of StairDesigner:

staircase cad drawing

Building the stairs is very fast!

With a bit of practice I was up and designing a stair in minutes. Once the software is set up for your specific manufacturing details a stair can be calculated and drawn up, complete with workshop drawings, cutting lists and 3D perspective,  in 15 minutes!

Of course this stair calculator software has its limits. A lot of detail that goes into stair plans is not drawn as I usually make it. For instance I have special way of making bull nosed first step and risers that StairDesigner just doesn’t draw. To get around this I opened the StairDesigner drawing in Autocad (of course you can use any CAD software that can open the industry standard DXF files) and added the step, very easy, very quick.

So to conclude:

If want to gain time and you’re looking for versatile easy to use stair calculator and design software for drawing automatically: stairs plans and workshop documents, and 3D perspectives, you can’t go wrong with StairDesigner.

A free version is available for downloading. Printing is disabled in the demo version but you can try all the functions and StairDesigner will still calculate your stairs and give you a full 3D perspective!

UPDATE: I’m delighted to announce that we’ve now launched our new Wood Designer website where you can download the free version of StairDesigner plus loads of training resources…stair templates, eBooks, software documentation and 100s of video tutorials. We’ve added a support forum too to help you every step of the way, with your software and design through to install.

If you want to buy the software for your business, you can, and we’ve got all the resources and expert advice on tap to make sure you get the very best out of it. We’ve got some big discounts available at for you too.

If you want to continue to use the free/demo version of StairDesigner, we’ll show you how to extract the information you need to build your projects. With a Wood Designer Premium Support subscription, I’m excited to say you can now continue to use this version for as long as you like, without ever having to buy.

Click here to register for FREE at Wood Designer

Further Reading

Here are a few other articles that might interest you:

Commercial Stair Design Guidelines, Criteria and Dimensions
Design and Building stairs

Stair design
Stair Design rules

Stair design
Design a Staircase

Home Remedies: The Building Blocks of a Good Stairway
Building good stairways

Spiral Staircases
Progression in manufacturing a spiral stair

Commercial Stair Design – Guidelines, Criteria and Dimensions
Stair Design and Guidelines


  • David McClusky

    Reply Reply April 3, 2009

    I noted it is imperial measurements and I’m in the USA. Have you a version for us?

    • admin

      Reply Reply April 3, 2009

      Thanks for your quest Dave, Just open the “options” menu and change the units to inches. I’ve never really tried using the software in inches so I’ll be happy to have your impressions.

  • Paul Bradley

    Reply Reply February 9, 2010

    We are a company that do building regulation plans in the UK for domestic extensions, loft cnversins etc. How would the software benift us as we show the design of the stairs on our drawings. I like the look of the software but would like your advise. We onluy need to get the stair design passed planning and building control etc.

    Any advise appeciated.


    • admin

      Reply Reply February 9, 2010

      Hi Paul, StairDesigner can be helpful for just calculating the stairs. You just input the stair well dimensions and heights and you get your drawing complied to buidings standards. It could be of help to you but the software also produces all the manufacturing documents, which you wouldn’t be needing. The full version would enable you to export DXF files and past them into your plans, unfortuately the price of the software for using just 10% of it may seem a bit high. Another solution could be to just use the free demo version to caculate the stairs and redraw the stairs from the StairDesigner drawing or past a screen capture into you plans. This would depend on what sort of software you use to draw your plans, and the level of detail you need.

  • sameer

    Reply Reply June 5, 2010

    i need a stair software.where did i download from/

  • Chris Hall

    Reply Reply January 12, 2011

    Is this software only for PC, or is there a Mac-compatible version available?

    Thanks! If it can work on a Mac, I’ll try a demo out.


    • admin

      Reply Reply January 12, 2011

      Hello Chris, I’m sorry to say that StairDesigner only works under Windows. If you want to use it on a Mac you have to instal a Windows emulator.
      hope this is helpful,

  • kevin ward

    Reply Reply February 7, 2012

    can it draw quarter turn stairs??

    • admin

      Reply Reply February 8, 2012

      Hi Kevin,
      There’s no problem drawing quart turn stairs with StairDeisgner. The software is very flexible and will draw all common stairs easily. For some complex project you might need to edit in CAD but using both CAD and StairDeisgner you can deisgn every stair possible.
      hope this is helpful.

  • Bouhanik Malek

    Reply Reply February 23, 2012

    bonjour Ness je tiens a vous remercier pour toute vos instructions qui m’on apportees beaucoup plus a ce que je faisais auparavant je viens de constater que ce metier n’est pas apprendre seulement ,il faut aimer

  • abdukerim muhammed

    Reply Reply March 8, 2012

    keep it up

  • alex

    Reply Reply April 1, 2012

    My trial version software did not install correctly, cant be found on my computer, cant find reload.

  • David Wrobel

    Reply Reply November 28, 2012

    We are a steel fabricator in Kansas City. We design, build and install many steel stiars. I am always looking for better ways to design stairs. Your software looks like it will do a lot of good stuff and possibly help us in our business. I do however have a stair we are looking at and i was wonder if your system had the capability of designing it. It’s s fairly complicated multi-curve stair. I’d like to send you a plan view of it just to see if Stair Designer has the ability…please let me know if this is OK and where can I sent the PDF file? Thank you.

  • David Wrobel

    Reply Reply November 28, 2012

    David Wrobel :We are a steel fabricator in Kansas City. We design, build and install many steel stiars. I am always looking for better ways to design stairs. Your software looks like it will do a lot of good stuff and possibly help us in our business. I do however have a stair we are looking at and i was wonder if your system had the capability of designing it. It’s s fairly complicated multi-curve stair. I’d like to send you a plan view of it just to see if Stair Designer has the ability…please let me know if this is OK and where can I sent the PDF file? Thank you.

    • admin

      Reply Reply November 28, 2012

      Hi David,
      No problem to have a look at your project.
      Just send the file to and I’llset the project up for you in StairDesigner.
      all the best

  • fire honey

    Reply Reply November 2, 2013

    I have a small cabin with an A-frame loft that I’d like to build a spiral staircase to. The cabin main floor is 8’6″,The loft roof pitch is 12/12, the cabin is 16×16 and the opening to the loft is 4’9″ long and 2’8″ wide, coming off the slanted roof wall. I was considering removing two floorboards so I could extend the opening from 4’9″ an additional 10 inches so it would be 5’7″. Since this is such a small cabin and there is limited space as well as head clearance, I have a hard time understanding how I would design a spiral staircase, since I don’t think all the steps could come off a central pivot, they may need to overlap each other a bit. Is this doable? I have a mac, so I can’t run your software unfortunately.
    I want the stair case to be a between a 3/8 and 1/2 turn, and the steps can be very narrow, but it would be nice If I could walk up them instead of crawl up the ladder I currently have.
    Any advice would be appreciated. thanks!

    • admin

      Reply Reply November 13, 2013

      To advise you I need to understand clearly your project.
      Can you send me a sketch or plans with some photos, with a description ?
      send to

      All the best,

  • Ned Radzius

    Reply Reply January 21, 2015


    I would appreciate if I could have a trial activation code to be able to try all features of your software. It looks good but the demo version is very limited.

    Many thanks in advance,


    • Stefan

      Reply Reply January 27, 2015

      Hi Ned,

      All the features are fully activated except for print and output of the manufacturing documents.

      Incidentally, if you go over to Wood Designer and sign up as a Full member, we’ll provide one set of these each month for the price of membership. That way, you get to use this pro level software without having to buy it. If you do decide you want that output integrated, you can buy the full version of the software (discounted to Full members).

      All the best, Stefan

  • rick

    Reply Reply May 20, 2015

    We are looking at a software to design wrought iron railings and curved iron stair railings, will this software be the answer?

  • Ian

    Reply Reply January 6, 2016

    We’re a staircompany in the UK wanting drag ourselves in to 21st century, we do bespoke staircases which need to be tweeked to fit the stair wells to work with building reg s in the UK,some software we’ve seen doesn’t allow this and won’t work with the sizes we enter. How flexible is this software? can you alter your plans to fit such as alter individual treads/tweek kites. Sorry if this doesn’t make much sense.

    • Stefan

      Reply Reply January 8, 2016

      Hi Ian, thanks for your message.

      StairDesigner is very flexible for the kinds of applications you talk about. We sell it around the world so it needs to be capable of accommodating all sorts of building regs.
      You can download and test out StairDesigner here:

      If you need any more information don’t hesitate to contact us. We can also arrange an on-line demonstration for you if you wish.

      Kind regards, Stefan

  • cliff Sykes

    Reply Reply January 7, 2016

    I have the same question as the gentleman above I’m looking for a CAD program that can design metal stairs and wrought iron handrail handicap ramp rail and gates will your software designed stairs and miscellaneous metals

    • Stefan

      Reply Reply January 7, 2016

      Hi Cliff & Rick, thanks for your messages. The software is perfect for designing metal stairs. We’ve got a lot of clients using it for this. However, it will not design rails and gates. All the best, Stefan

  • Bob Tucker

    Reply Reply April 6, 2016

    Does this software allow for designing of custom newel posts (panels, mouldings , etc.) or detailed balustrade configurations ? I design a fair amount of stairs that incorporate wrought iron panels that have both vertical and horizontal members. Or is this something that would be better done with a CAD program?

    • admin

      Reply Reply April 7, 2016

      HI Bob,
      StairDesigner doesn’t allow to design custom decorative railings or newels. It is limited to the calculation of the general dimensions of parts and only the rectangular sections of parts are used. Decorative detailing can easily be done by exporting the plans in DXF and editing in CAD.
      best regards,Ness

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