GRAITEC Advance Steel Does Stairs

May 1, 2013 | Comments

This is my second review of GRAITEC’s Advance Steel, the first time being a general overview of the software. In this review, I’ll focus on how Advance Steel handles modeling and detailing different types of miscellaneous steel, such as stairs, platforms, and handrails.

According to the GRAITEC Web site, Advance Steel provides tools to design and model straight and spiral stairs, railings, cage ladders, and more. I decided to test out the claim, utilizing whatever information I could find online or from GRAITEC support.

A variety of stair types, handrails, and cage ladders can be created within Advance Steel. The tools to create them are found on the Extended Modeling Panel within the Home Tab, and under the Extended Modeling Tab on the Structural Elements Panel (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Locations of commands for creating stair elements

Straight StairsI can choose to create these items by using predefined information that I set up within a library, or else customize my items by adjusting the specific variables and settings within the appropriate dialog boxes.Drawing straight stairs requires just two points: the starting point and an ending point. I found the easiest way to pick the two points is to simply draw two construction lines. Figure 2 shows the construction lines I created for a staircase with a rise of 8’ and a run of 12’.

Figure 1: Locations of commands for creating stair elements
From these, I created my stairs by choosing the Straight Stair icon, picking the start point and then the end point. Advance Steel prompted me to pick a stair alignment: left, middle, or right. I chose middle. With the straight stair run created, the Stair Dialogue box automatically opened so that I could specify additional options (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Stair properties dialog box for specifying options
The dialog box allowed me to change individual stair properties or to choose properties from a predefined library. If I were to be designing stairs with constantly the same specifications project to project, then the library ensures that I don’t have to go and pick all these settings each time; I would just choose a predefined type.Within the dialog box, I found I could control every aspect of the stair: its overall height, length, and width; the stringer profile and associated tread types and sizes; top and bottom step details, and landings; and more.

As an example of the variety provided by GRAITEC, the dialog box in figure 4 shows the General Step Tab. Selecting Tread Type allowed me to see 24 tread types along with the fields I could modify, such as how the tread attaches to the stringer — bolted, welded, and so on. Changing tread types was as easy as picking a desired Tread Type from the predefined list.

Figure 4: Predefined tread types available in Advance Steel
Selecting the Landings Tab let me add, remove, or modify landings on the stairs. For instance, I wanted to add a 48” landing at the top, and get rid of an extra stringer at the bottom. To make these changes, I took the following steps:

  1. In the sub-categories contained within the Landings tab, I choose the Top Landing subcategory.
  2. I added the 48″ of channel to support for the landing.
  3. I used the Top Cover subcategory to add the desired decking, expanded metal grating.
  4. To remove the extra stringer/landing at the bottom, I unchecked the Create Frontand Create Rear fields from the Bottom Landing subcategory.

I can modify the stair’s properties at any time just by selecting any part of the stair, and then right-clicking to access the Advance Joint Properties item. In figure 5, you can see the completed stair run with its 48” grate covered landing at the top.

Figure 5: Completed stair updated with bottom stringer removed and top landing added
Adding HandrailsAdding handrails to my stair run was pretty easy. Here are the steps I took:

  1. First, I chose the Hand-railing icon from the Structural Elements Panel on the Extended Modeling Tab.
  2. Advance Steel prompted me to select the base beams from my railing. I selected the stringer and platform support channel.
  3. For the start point of my railing, I selected the top inside of the channel at the bottom of my stringer.
  4. For the end point, I choose the top inside of the channel at the back of my platform support.
  5. Advance Steel asked if I wanted to select a nosing point relative to the start point. I chose the default setting of No.
  6. An Attention dialog box popped up to inform me that no template values were found and the default values would be used. This seemed to me like an unneeded step.
  7. After the handrail was added, the Railings dialog box opened to allow me to modify the handrail to my specifications.

Figure 6 shows the result of my stair run with the handrail added.

Figure 6: Handrail added to the stairs
Using the dialog box, I added pickets to the rail by selecting Handrail/Pickets tab within the Railings dialog box. I choose the appropriate fields and then input the desired information as shown in figure 7.

Figure 7: Handrail with pickets added
To add a loop return to the bottom of my handrail, I used the Handrail/End of Handrail tab of the dialog box (see figure 8).
Figure 8: Adding a loop return to the handrail
To copy my handrail and its associated settings to the other side of the stairs, I used theCreate by Template icon, found in the Tools category on the tool palette. I took these steps:

  1. First, I selected the connection part (the railing).
  2. Next, I selected my base beams for the railing.
  3. Then, I input the start point and end point of the railing.

Advance Steel copied my handrail to the other side, completing my design of a straight stair run, as illustrated by figure 9.

Figure 9: Completed stairs with platform and two handrails
Spiral Stair Design

Designing spiral stairs is similar to creating straight stairs, except I needed to define three points instead of two. The first two points define the height and position of the central post, while the third point defines the direction of the first (or last) tread and the width associated with the tread.

There are two directions by which to create spiral stairs with Advance Steel: from the bottom to the top, or top to bottom. Either way, I locate the first step or then Advance Steel calculates the position of the last step according to the first step’s position, the number (or the height) of the steps, and the rotation angle between them.

To aid in creating this spiral stair, I again began by drawing two construction lines: one 8’ vertical line to define the center point and height of the stair, and then a 4’ horizontal line to define both the width of a step and the location of the first stair (see figure 10).

Figure 10: Two construction lines defining the height, center, and starting point of a spiral staircase

First, I selected the bottom endpoint of the 8’ vertical construction line. This specifies the center point of the spiral.From the Extended Modeling tab, I chose the Spiral Staircase icon on the Structural Elements Panel, and then drew the staircase like this:

  1. Next, I chose the top endpoint of the same construction line; this defines the spiral’s height.
  2. Advance Steel prompted me to either specify a first step or the last step; I chose the first step.
  3. To define the first stair location and the width of the stair, I selected the outside end point of the horizontal construction line.

From there my spiral staircase was created by Advance Steel, which opened the Spiral Stairs dialog box (see figure 11). As before, the dialog box gave me control of every aspect of the stair: columns, stringers, treads and tread connection, posts, handrails, and more.

Figure 11: Spiral stair and properties dialog box
Adding a cover plate to the top of my column was as easy as selecting the Create Cover Plate field from the Column & Stringer tab, and then inputting the desired dimensions. Likewise, creating a bottom kick rail was as simple: select the appropriate fields and input the desired dimensions.Figure 12 shows my completed spiral stair. For examples of stairs designed by GRAITEC customers, take a look at their examples page at (The samples can be downloaded as DWF files.)

Figure 12: Completed spiral stair

I was impressed with how easily Advance Steel creates stairs to my specification, and the ease with which I could modify their properties, along with associated components. GRAITEC includes a large library of stair tread types, and I had the option to define my own types and save them as templates for future use. The prompts were helpful in guiding me through the creation process. I am able to modify almost every aspect of stair assemblies.

I recommend anyone looking for an efficient way to design and document miscellaneous steel projects to consider GRAITEC’s Advance Steel Software.



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