Here's a method I use to keep nails — and squeaks — out of staircases I build on site. On a new-construction job, like the one shown here, it's a good idea to give the drywallers a heads up; they can cut the pieces that go on the bottom of the stringers and set them aside for installation after the stairs are finished.

I start by preparing the skirtboards, first fitting them in place. When transferring the locations of the treads and risers, I don't automatically copy the stringer's actual shape. Because the tips of a dimension-lumber rough stringer will naturally shrink, I make the marks on the skirt reflect the stringer's original shape, being careful to...

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