Patrick's Barn: Building Basic Stairs - Fine Homebuilding
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Editor's Notepad

Editor's Notepad


Patrick's Barn: Building Basic Stairs

comments (8) May 30th, 2012 in Blogs
patrick_mccombe Patrick McCombe, Associate editor

The completed stair to our barns 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.
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.
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, Im 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, Ive added a ledger under the joists when connecting stringers to the upper floor, but this double thickness girder had me scratching my head. I didnt 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.  
The completed stair to our barns 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.Click To Enlarge

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.


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.


posted in: Blogs, patrick's barn

Comments (8)

Edward1234 Edward1234 writes: Great Article. Thank you for posting this. You might be interested in checking out fine luxury homes by Brejnik Fine Homes(www.brejnik.ca). They build fine luxury houses. Brejnik team consists of qualified and trusted: Architects, Interior Designers, Appraisers / Lenders, Trades & Suppliers, Geo-technical engineers, Structural Engineers, Arborists, Landscape Architects, Pool & Water Feature.
Posted: 5:41 am on May 15th

patrick_mccombe patrick_mccombe writes: Thanks for the comments everyone. The community interaction is one of the main reasons I post to this blog. user-1060588, The nails are actually going across the grain because of the angled nature of the stringers. Airtite, not sure what you're talking about with regard to bearing at the bottom of the stringer as there's 9 or 10 inches of bearing there and a kicker to prevent the stairs stringers from sliding. This also reduces the load on the top. And at the top: it's true the strap doesn't reach the bottom of the stringer, but the nails are into the lower half of the stringer. Maximize the photo and you'll likely see what I mean. As far as safety glasses on my little boy, he wears them when we're using striking tools without fail, but an impact driver doesn't seem like a threat. I suppose a screw or bit could break sending schrapnel, but that seems unlikely. As far as me wearing safety glasses, I plead guilty as charged. Since I've passed the big 4-0, I need bifocals. The lenses are polycarbonate so they offer some protection, but admittedly, they aren't big enough to guarantee safety. We'll try to do better in the future. And you're right, a precious moment could be ruined forever with an eye injury.
Posted: 7:37 am on June 5th

c4cet c4cet writes: randychom is right about spending time with his kid building stuff can't get any better. I enjoyed working with my kids building stuff through the years from bird houses to remodeling their homes. As parents its our responsibility to make sure our kids (and yourself) have the correct eye and ear protection on when working together. The time together can't get any better, but it could get worse if you have an accident with out the correct eye and/or ear protection. Check out Pyramex Mini-Intruder Safety glasses. They work great for kids wearing ear mutts.
Posted: 11:02 pm on June 4th

user-1060588 user-1060588 writes: using fasteners in the end grain is a no-no.
Posted: 5:30 pm on June 4th

randychom randychom writes: Love your son's answer about building things together , what a Fathers Day moment. And to the guy with the safety glasses comment , you don't have kids I bet because ear mutts and glasses don't mix on little ears , lighten up if you didnt have something nice to say shut the hell up. Hes sending time with his kid building stuff can't get any better.
Posted: 2:14 pm on June 4th

airtite airtite writes: The straps appear only to be connected to the notched grain of the stair stringer. It is necessary to reach the bottom, continuous grain of the stringer otherwise you are only fastened to the uppermost tread.
There is a similar concern on the bearing of the bottom of the stringers...no bearing support of the continuous grain.
Posted: 9:28 am on June 4th

c4cet c4cet writes: Nice job with the stairs. It would be nice to see a pair of safety glasses on your son and you also. Need to practice safety as well as building it right.
Posted: 7:32 am on June 4th

howdydoodee howdydoodee writes: Great Job!
That's how things should be done - simply and with minimum use of bought materials. Use what you have and do it right the first time.
Posted: 11:47 pm on May 30th

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