Stairs

There is something special about stairs. Each floor is its own world and the stairs provide an easy pathway joining worlds. OK, I can't express my feelings about stairs any better than that right now.

November 17. I started the stairs to the second floor way back in March when I built the landing, so I am excited about continuing this part of the house. I found a great stair calculator here:

www.blocklayer.com/stairs/stairseng.aspx

It works like this: I type in the length and height values, rise and run, and the calculator provides the measurements required to lay out the points at the tips of the stair stringers making it easy to draw the pattern on a 2x12. I used the brass guides on the carpenters square that I used when I designed stairs for the garage to make the drawing even easier:

I cut the stringer and tested it for fit, from the second floor to the landing:

Satisfied, I used the first stringer as a template to draw a second pattern:

Lots of sawing, I put a new blade in the circular saw to make sure I would get clean, straight cuts. I used the reciprocating saw to finish each cut to the notch. If I cut the notch out with the circular saw, it would weaken the back of the stringer.

I nailed 1/2" and 3/4" spacers to the studs to allow for the finished wall and a skirt that will slip behind the stairs later:

I cut 1/4" off the bottom of the stringer to allow for a 1" thick tread above 3/4" flooring. I mounted the first stringer by predrilling it and nailing it to the studs with 20 penny nails. I framed the east wall of the stairwell and mounted the second stringer:

The middle stringer has no supporting studs, so I cut a notch in the top o the stringer and nailed a 2x4 cleat to it. It hangs on this cleat which is secured to the header with 16 penny nails:

The three stringers:

A work light view:

November 18. I cut up some scrap 3/4" plywood left over from the floor to make temporary treads, nailed them to the stringers:

Then I went upstairs and repeated the exercise for the attic stairs. I pulled the temporary stairs from the first landing since they were only approximately correct and used them on the attic landing:

Attic stairs from the landing going up:

From the first floor looking up:

I still have a couple little stringers to cut to complete each little stairway to the landings, but I can now walk from the basement to the attic without a ladder.

December 22. I ripped out the basement stairs:

These have to be redone to have an even staircase. I need a ladder again.

December 22 - 23. I cut two stringers for the basement steps. These will suffice because I will use 2x12's for treads, ripped down to the correct tread width. I used the same stair calculator webpage that I used for the first and second floor stairs. Here I mark the board using the carpenter's square with brass stair gauges attached:

Low 40's outside but it's comfortable working in the sun room :-)

First stringer cut. You can also see the stringers I cut for the little staircase to the west room off the sun room in the background:

The basement stringers fit after I chiseled away some of the concrete wall in the stairwell. Noisy and jarring work with a hammer drill, but it's done:

I bolted two pressure-treated 2x8's to the walls using wedge anchors, then nailed the stringers to the 2x8's. I extended the sump pump pipe and screwed on temporary treads so I wouldn't need the ladder anymore:

December 24. More treads for a safer temporary stairway:

March 23. I built a temporary landing and steps to comply with safety code, to get a temporary certificate of occupancy:

We will back fill around the back of the house to bring the ground level up to the first step. Two steps up will not require a hand rail.

March 26. The basement stairwell will need something above it to keep people from falling into it. Railings? How about half walls? I drilled into the concrete where the concrete company poured some extra. I tapped in two anchors bolts on each side and secured 2x8's to the tops of the walls. Here is one:

Here's a wall:

The walls are nailed to the 2x8 and also to the far wall, nailed to studs and the bottom plates. From the basement:

April. We need stairs everywhere, and they have to meet code for rise height and run width, they need hand rails and they must have enough clearance above the nosing. Here are steps into the kitchen area from the sunroom:

Here are the steps with a railing. I threw these steps up to meet code. I will finish them later, after we get our certificate of occupancy. The stairway height is short enough that balusters are not required:

The stairs in the living room to the landing will require balusters. I took off the construction treads:

I cut the bottom of the wall to allow for the newel posts:

Dry-fitting the unfinished oak treads and the newel posts:

No time to finish the treads now - must get a temporary certificate of occupancy so we can live in the house! Here I rip a tread to the correct width using the old radial arm saw:

After cutting, priming and painting risers, I finish nailed them to the stringers, then glued and finish nailed the oak treads. I used wood glue though construction adhesive would have been a better choice, more flexible. Live and learn:

Railings next:

Each baluster had to be custom measured and cut. To get the correct height and angle, I set a baluster on the tread, plumbed it with a level and marked it with a pencil:

I numbered and marked several balusters at a time, then cut the tops with the radial arm saw set at the correct angle. I drilled the bottoms of the balusters for wooden pins:

Drilled and marked the treads:

Installing balusters:

The stairway to the landing is built, though unfinished:

We got our temporary certificate of occupancy at the end of April. Move in!

June. Oak stair treads ready to finish:

Three coats of polyurethane, sand between coats, wipe with tack cloth before applying each coat.

Pull off the plywood constrution treads:

Lay a bead of Liquid Nails subfloor glue first, fit the finished treads:

Shoot in 9 finish nails per tread:

All done but the trim:

(After walking on these for 6 months, still very quiet.)

Here are the attic stairs, 3/4" plywood, solid and quiet simply finish nailed to stringers:

Half walls for railings:

Inside stairs all done.