So now we know what we’re up against. It won’t take much to make a better (and safer) set of stairs. But it will take quite a bit to create a good comfortable set of stairs – and make it work in our limited space.
Let’s make a set – shall we?
First the new and final (I promise) plan for the upstairs.
The red shows the original wall location and top stair position. We’ll worry about what to do up here later.
Now on to making the stair stringers.
Here’s a good video showing how to lay out your stairs.
You’ll need a framing square and some stair gages – or a piece of wood clamped at the right spot.
I’ve made a short run of stairs before – but not 18′ – yikes! no margin for error here. So I decided to make a Masonite template.
I feel much better now. The template allows for mistakes before we get to the big dance.
The problem you might have with a long run of stairs is finding nice straight 2X stock that has limited knots and checks. So Instead of using standard dimensional lumber I used LSL – Laminated Stand Lumber. You can read about it here.
I laid out and cut the first stringer only – just to make sure. Here it’s in place so I could finish the top detail cuts.
The top detail cuts. Here you can see my “cheater blocks” The skinny one is the thickness of the stair tread. The thicker one is the floor joist to top of finished floor. I use blocks like these to make sure there’s no mistake on measuring the complicated cut of the stringer at the top. Usually this top cut is pretty simple, but I’m incorporating the stringer on top of a supporting wall, so it’s a little more complicated.
Once the first stringer is cut, all you have to do is trace the one to the next. You can see my Masonite template on the ground.
Two down, one to go. You can see that I used a circular saw to cut the primary cut and then the jig saw to finish the corners to prevent any over cuts. After all three were cut I clamped them all together and belt sanded the surfaces to be identical.
Obsessive? Why sure.
Also, I used this.
This is a set of jigs – one for the rise and one for the run cuts. I screwed these into the stringer to make the saw cuts with the circular saw perfectly flat and level. In the picture, the lower jig is laying on a piece of wood to show how it was placed on the stringer.
The two stringers that go next to the walls have to have spacers added to give clearance for the 3/4″ skirt board and the 1/2″ drywall. Adding these before you attach them to the walls will make your life so much easier when it comes time to finish off the stairwell.
Now all we have to do is attach the stringers to the walls and level the pair to make a nice safe support for the treads. The third stringer will be added after the two end stringers are in place.
Now you can see the top cuts on the stringers that I laid out with the cheater blocks. The stair stringer lays on top of a supporting wall for the living room, so in my opinion it’s stronger than the 6 nails in the other one. Also the stringers are attached to each side wall stud. It’s built like a tank.
The first sub-floor down. You can see the cheater block on top of the stringer. There will be a 1/2 plywood underlayment and then 3/4″ hardwood on top of that. This will allow the top stair tread to be incorporated into the floor, making it seamless.
Here is the original stringer location and the new. By moving the wall over we gained 6″ of run at the bottom of the stairs.
This is what all that hard work was about. You can see the original stair elevation compared to the new. The new stair stringers will give us an 11″ tread and a 34 degree incline. Sure beats 45.
Can I get an “Amen”?
Sorry for the long post – but I just wanted to get this out of my system.
One day I’ll get to make something pretty.