Basement Stairs – Getting to the Woman Cave

Welcome to spring my fellow renovators! As usual, I have a dozen projects going on at the same time – and most aren’t very photogenic – yet.

Let’s go down to the woman cave and get that pesky staircase built for the basement.

Here we go – watch your step. And a warning – this is  a longer post than most.

First we need a plan. Go to My Carpentry.Com for a really good calculator. You need exact measurements of the distance from one finished floor to the next to make a good, safe set of stairs.

1 stair plan

The items needed for laying out stairs is pretty simple. A framing square and some stair nuts, or some other means to make stops on the square to make consistent marks on the stringer. And for me, a life size cardboard template.

2 mock up

Calculating the proper size of the stair is easier if you use a template like this. Here the cardboard template is in place. The 2X4 wood in the foreground is a mock up of the bottom step height to make sure I have enough head room to meet code.

3 stringer template

Once I’ve gotten the stringer template made I’m ready to transfer to the real stringer. The wood for the stairs is typical Misadventures material. Most use a 2X12, but here we’ll use a LVL or Laminated Veneer Lumber beam. I like using laminated lumber on stair stringers for several reasons.It’s really strong, straight and won’t warp or change after cutting, which is something dimensional lumber will sometimes do.

4 stringer jig

Since I’ll be making 3 stringers for this project, I’ll make a set of jigs for the cuts. The one on the left is for the ‘run’ cut and the right one is for the ‘rise’ cut. I find it so much easier and faster to take a few minutes and make a jig if I have a lot of repetitive cuts to make. On stairs consistency is a safety issue, so make ’em right.

5 saw spacer block

One more jig and I’m done – promise. I also make a little spacer that is the width of the saw shoe plus the thickness of the saw blade. This will vary slightly from one blade to the next, so I made a new one to match this blade. You need this little block – so make it.

6 stringer end cut

Jig and block together – so sweet! The block is used to line up the layout mark on the stringer and then you butt the cutting jig next to the block. I screw the jig to the stringer to keep it secure.

7 sawing stringer

Then we cut the stringer stopping right at the intersecting line. No over cutting here.

8 hand saw finish cut

Then we take a hand saw and finish the cut. Over cutting will weaken your stringer, especially if you use dimensional lumber. I could overcut this LVL – but I would never do that – my OCD would never allow it. You can see how straight and square the cut is – that’s why you use a jig.

9 fitting first stringer

Now we check out how we did – we’ll check to make sure the rise and run are correct before we mess up any other materials. You can see how much longer and less steep the stairs are next to the original.

10 checking level

Check for level on the steps and I think we’re ready to make some clones!

11 tracing stringer

Take the finished stringer and clamp it to the next and carefully trace the pattern.

12 stringer end cut

The spacer block is also used to make the end cuts.

13 two down

Two finished and one to go.

14 three stringers together

Once all three are cut I line them up with the framing square and screw them all together.

15 sanding stringers

The three are then tweaked with a belt sander to make them all identical. Now – this is crazy precise for a simple stair stringer – but remember this is my hobby. It does show that taking a few minutes building a jig will make your project a lot easier to build.

16 old stairs

I think it’s time to say goodbye to these 81 year old stairs.

Hang in there – we’ll make something out of this place yet.

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4 thoughts on “Basement Stairs – Getting to the Woman Cave

    • Ha, ha Marti! Well, that’s what I think too. I love to make things as good as I can, but there’s more time than skill on most of my projects. Thanks for stopping by my blog-mess.

    • Thanks, Gil! You are so right – and I’m getting too old to walk up a set of stairs that are as steep as a ladder. Your place is looking great!

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