When you make something on your own, chances are it will turn out exactly the way you want it to. This happens because you are the only one with the authentic image in mind of what you want.
In wood-working, you don’t have to be a professional to make something stunning, especially in point in time. so, when you need wooden steps and it happens you have asked a couple of experts to make it for you and doesn’t feel home, it is time you attempted to build free standing wooden steps on your own.
It is not that hard. It entirely depends on what style you have in mind and with some simple calculations, a good plan and right materials, you will have free standing stairs in a short while.
1. What do you need?
Just like a recipe, building wooden steps has a list of items you must have. These include;
- A good pencil
- A right amount of 16d exterior galvanized framing nails
- A jigsaw, circular saw and a chop saw
- A board bender
- A nail gun
- A string line
- A framing square definitely the one with stair gauges
- A hammer for framing
- Pressure treated boards
- Tape measure
Note that, you must have at least 6 pieces of wood which have to be in perfect shape. If they are not straight or they have cracks, complications may surface later, which is not something you would like to deal with.
2. Measuring and calculating
I know maths is not a cup of tea for everyone. For a beginner like you, this is going to be super easy! We are just going to establish estimates. However, if you prefer working with exact numbers, before we start the final height of your portable stairs.
What is your height? Here is where I come in; I start by determining the height of a step. Take the final height of your stairs and divide it by 7. 7 is a custom height for most steps. The answer you get is the number of steps you are going to work on.
Just to explain in a manner that I won’t lose you on the way. I want to introduce my own values. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to get exact values like mine. My final stairway height is 63 inches. I divided 63 with 7 and got 9 steps.
My stringers will be three so that, my stairs will have great strength. I will make each stringer from 2×9 piece. On the outside, my stringers are 27 inches wide. That means I will need double (2x27x27); one as a footer the remaining other as a header.
My legs will be 2×4.5. This piece will be covering the bottom part of the step in an evenly spread manner. For you to have a balanced step, make sure you leave an extra inch on every side of the stringer.
The stairway is in a triangular shape, if you can recall your basic maths, we will need to employ the Pythagoras theory since the header and the footer meet at 900 on the ground. That is why, when cutting the legs that are perpendicular to the ground, you need the right height for the length of the wooden steps and their diagonal height.
3. Setting up the framing square
Now that you have established the number of steps and treads’ sizes you need, the next step is to map-out the frame.
First, make sure you have a stair gauge, its work at this point is to help you get rid of stringer mistakes, and you just don’t want them to be loose. Or yoummay ask someone to help you hold them.
Custom tread length is usually 10.5 inches and that exactly what I am using. So, with my framing square, I will put the tread length on the right and my 7 on the left. Remember the 2 by 9? On far left, I will place my square so that I can have a clear outside framing square.
Then, I would grab my 7inch side and place it across, aligning it on a straight line at the top. Remember my 7 inch side is rib to rib with the 10.5 side. With my pencil, I will make marks up until I have my 9 steps in spot check.
Using the same method, you can layout the bottom step. This time, unlike the bottom step which went across, the up-step goes upwards. Here, you should have your 2×4.5 on the top and the bottom serving as the header and footer respectively.
Subtracting 0.5 inches on our 2 inch by 4.5 inch, we should have 1.5 inches by 4 inches. That is where we mark our accurate measurements running from top to bottom at the back of our 2×4.5 steps. You can cut the marked out areas if you know where you are headed or leave them for later if you are not sure.
4. Cut the steps
At this point, is where you are going to realize why I insisted on having perfect wood like the ones that have no cracks? You know when you cut cracked wood; it splits which is quite annoying because you will have to re-start the whole process again.
But if you have perfect wood, reach for your circular saw and cut out a margin from your marked lines. Then when you are done, come back with your hand saw and cut the small margin you left slowly and neatly.
If you are working with two more people, you could be cutting the tread while one of your partners’ cuts the stringers and the remaining one perfects the legs and balusters. You will notice that this way, you will be working faster. But for perfectionists like me who want to work alone, we are going to cut everything step by step until we are done, right?
Once you get to your legs, make certain that the let-in’s are cut correctly. If I have lost you on the let-in’s, they are the cut outs we made earlier measuring 4×3(mine) inside the legs of the steps. What was yours? 4×3 I mean that, I only took out half of the thickness from the original intended so that I could allow my board to settle on each other strongly.
5. Putting everything together
Up to this point, your wood and frames are ready, we just need to put them together and have our free standing stairs ready. You see, building free standing stairs is less complicated.
Before we start nailing things, confirm that you have positioned your header and footer on the stringers with the middle ones in between. Don’t forget the extra inches on the sides of the stringers.
Flip the whole frame upside down then pick your 16d nails. Start by nailing in one of the stringer’s sides by targeting extra sides. Do the same with the other side of stringers.
Now pick your board bender and place it outside the stringers, tighten it but not too tight just with enough pressure. Go round the outside stringers nailing them in position with three nails into each stringer, then finalize by the middle ones which will be effortless since all the hard parts are in place.
Following that, attach your legs in an orderly and precise manner. You can add four legs on side of the header along with stringers of that side and two legs right at the top of the tread. This way, you will achieve the maximum support your free standing steps need. You can use another person to hold them up for you as you nail them or use scrap blocks.
One thing you may consider before attaching your legs is the beauty of your wooden stairs. Remember the let-in’s? At this point, your project would be flawless if you double-nailed your let-in’s while they were facing inside rather than outside. I get it, it is a bit confusing but you will thank me later.
6. Rounding up
Now that everything is in place, you can go ahead and flip the wooden staircase into its normal position. You may realize that, it missing a strength boost. Well, that shouldn’t worry you.
You will begin by getting hold of your tape measure to find out the length of your cross brace, then take it to your extra wood, measure and mark the points. Take your marked extra wood, cut it accurately then go ahead and nail it across behind your vertical legs.
If you feel like you need a handrail, adding it is similarly simple. You just need to determine the number of balusters you want which depends on the number of steps you have. After that, go ahead and cut into the right fit for balusters into the tread, then nail them in place.
If you needed a handrail, I bet it’s done now, if you didn’t, well and good. You can also choose to paint it using your desirable colours or just leave it the way it is. If you decide to paint it, you can brush-paint or spray-paint. But remember it is a portable stairway so choose a colour that will blend easily with whatever purpose your stairs will serve.Let it dry and as easy as that is how to build free standing wooden steps.