I'm building a house and using stairs for the look of the roof. Will monsters spawn up there at night (assuming I'm sufficiently far away)? Do I have to put torches up there to prevent that?


You do not need to put torches up there. Passive mobs spawn on grass only (at least in grassy areas...), aggressive mobs spawn on cube-blocks only. No steps, no slabs etc.

Edit. As mentioned in comments, monster can be spawned in upside-down stairs, at least in 1.4.6 version (which is old, though)
Here you may check it for 1.8 version:

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    You may be right, but do you have any source for that in 1.5? Previously I had read that mobs didn't spawn on anything but opaque blocks, which let out blocks that were transparent (like leaves) and some that let light through (stairs, for some reason). However, now that stairs are opaque to light, will they spawn hostile mobs? – Cyclops Apr 28 '11 at 12:17
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    > Doesn't that just make the texture lose its transparency? I'm sure light still passes through leaves when you have your graphics displaying in fast mode... – GnomeSlice Apr 28 '11 at 13:56
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    They don't spawn on "Glass, Ice, Stone Slabs, or other see-through or non-cube blocks". And "Since the graphics mode affects whether Leaves are see-through, it also affects spawning behavior" : minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Spawn#Enemy_Mobs . – SevenSidedDie Apr 28 '11 at 20:27
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    For reference, mobs will spawn on upside-down stairs (however, you are unlikely to use them for a roof) – IQAndreas Jul 19 '13 at 15:52
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    @IQAndreas Really? In that case it might be very much worth adding as an answer (in fact it's what actually brought me to this question). Do they also spawn on upside down slabs? – Ulukaï Dec 29 '15 at 14:02

As of Windows 10 Edition, today a skeleton spawned on the roof of a librarian's house, which is made of wooden stairs only.

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