The journey to the basement begins with a single step. And then nine more of them.
And, if you’re lucky, you make it there alive…
Behold, my crappy stairs. You may remember that, before the remodel, these stairs used to live in my garage. I don’t know why that’s relevant. It’s not, really, but here’s a picture anyway…
I had thought my crappy stairs’ only crime was being ugly, but as I removed them, I discovered something much more sinister…
No, not a body! Don’t be creepy.
When I cut through the last step, the stringers (those long pieces on the sides that hold the steps) just fell out. They were connected to nothing. Why is that significant? See exhibit A:
Last year, three of my friends were kind enough to carry my pool table (which weighs a bajillion pounds) down into my basement. Little did they know they were risking their very lives! If those crappy stairs had shifted under them, who knows what might have happened? I might have accidentally killed my friends! (Sorry, guys. My bad.)
So, obviously, stairs have a pretty important job to do. Their ability to support you makes all the difference between arriving safely on another floor and meeting your doom. You would think that building new ones myself might be a lot of pressure for me, but, compared to the death stairs I had (and survived), odds were that I could do better. And, of course, I did.
So here are my
not professionally engineered plans:
My stairs are at a steep 45 degree angle, but they have to be; otherwise, tall people would knock themselves unconscious walking down. I designed them to accommodate a 6 ft person. People over 6 ft are used to ducking anyway, so those super tall freaks are on their own.
Anyway, here’s how you build stairs:
- Watch a bunch of YouTube videos on how to cut stringers
- Cut stringers
- Figure out a way to support stringers
- Install the steps
- Do a happy dance (away from the stairs, dummy)
Of course, first I made a template. Because I’m sensible. And I like foam core.
Remember asking your math teacher when you were ever going to use crappy geometry in real life? Well, here you go. I give you… The Pythagorean Theorem. In case you forgot…
So, I used this to figure out the hypotenuse. (OMG am I blowing your mind right now with this crap or what?) In my case, the hypotenuse equals the distance between each step’s outside (or inside – same difference) corner. Why is this important? Because the edges of wood are curved and this made it a huge pain in the ass to draw those outside triangle points.
So I drew guidelines down the length of my board at 12 3/16″ (the length of my hypotenuse) increments. Then, because I am brilliant (Hello! Using theorems over here!), I MacGyvered this contraption with a couple of clamps, a small piece of wood and my square and set it up so that each tread and riser would measure 8 5/8″. Then all I had to do was line up the point of my square with each guideline and draw my cut lines. My dad would be so proud. (If he were to read this post, which he won’t because his flip phone has no access to the interwebs.)
If you were lost during that whole part, that’s OK. Your takeaway should just be that I’m super smart and awesome.
So, with that part done, I anchored a ledger board to the concrete for my stringers to hang on.
At this point, I had to take away my ladder so I could put the center stringer in place, so I carried all of my cut wood down the ladder and then began literally building myself out of the basement. I installed a couple of risers, one low and one high, and used them to get my stairs square, level and plumb.
And then things went rather quickly. Good thing, because I didn’t bring any food or water down there with me.
Given that my former death stairs were not attached to the concrete at all, I was already ahead of the game by hanging my stringers on a ledger board. Still, I added L brackets at the top and a couple more concrete anchors at the bottom for good measure. Any deaths that happen on these stairs will not be due to faulty craftsmanship.
I’m calling these stairs “rough”, because I will be putting another pretty layer over them that will close the gap between them and the walls (That’ll be in part 2.), but there’s nothing rough about them. They came together perfectly. In fact, this may be the project I’m most proud of to date.
I freaking built stairs, people! Could I be any more awesome?