Patrick’s Barn: Building Basic Stairs
One of my only complaints with my magazine job is the many hours I spend indoors behind a computer. On nice days, I long to be outside swinging a hammer. I got the chance to do just that recently during a two-week video shoot, but I had forgotten how long hours in the sun with high humidity really aren’t that great after all. So when the long Memorial Day weekend rolled around, I really didn’t want to be outside. Instead, despite beautiful weather, I stayed inside and built a staircase connecting the main barn to its loft.
The stair stringers are made from Douglas fir 2x12s, and the treads and risers are made from OSB subflooring left over from framing the loft floor. I ripped the OSB with a shooting board, which made cutting the many pieces relatively fast and easy. Everything is screwed together, so we can easily upgrade to hardwood or softwood treads and risers in the future.
My wife helped me move the heavy sheets, and she snapped these photos. She worked in the garden for much of the weekend. As a result, things are looking really good in there. My 6-year-old son also helped me over the 9 or 10 hours I spent working on the project. He handed me screws and tools and asked me questions. His questions showed he understood the mathematics of stairs surprisingly well. Once, when I was sensing he was getting bored, I asked him if he liked carpentry and if he’d fix or build things on his own someday. He replied, “Oh yes! You will come to my house and we’ll fix things together.”
I sure hope so.
You can read more about my barn here.
The completed stair to our barn's loft space has 14 risers and 14 treads. The landing is supported with a ledger and a short stud wall that I screwed to the concrete floor with Tapcon screws.
I built the landing using 2x6s and 3/4-in. OSB and screwed it to the ledger I had fastened to the building earlier. I then used a pair of temporary posts to hold it in place while I built the wall under the other side. Here, I'm checking the first stringer before I cut the two others that match it.
Using a saw guide (shooting board) to cut the 14 treads and risers made this task easier. The OSB was left over from framing the loft floor.
My 6-year-old son helped me on a couple of occasions, once for over an hour. He handed me screws and tools. He asked me about the drawings I made when calculating the rise and tread depth. His questions showed he understood surprisingly well.
In the past, I've added a ledger under the joists when connecting stringers to the upper floor, but this double thickness girder had me scratching my head. I didn't have bolts long enough to go through the two plies and a cleat, so I came up with this: an 8-in. tie strap connected with 16 sinkers.
This is the top (girder) side of the connection. I predrilled all the holes and filled every hole with a nail. The three straps are rated for 750 pounds each when used with 16 sinkers.
Starting with a Construction Master calculator for layout, I made a full-scale story pole to check it against the building. Turns out the concrete slab slopes 3/4 in., which could have screwed up the last step enough to make the stairs very dangerous.