After climbing up and down my ladder for the past five months, I am gloriously happy to announce that my tiny house has STAIRS! And darn good looking ones too, I might add.
I would offer to give you a step-by-step explanation of how I did it, but that pun just seems far too obvious. Plus this guy does a better job of it – I stole most of his ideas. Probably all for the best, given I had no idea what I was doing.
I was pretty anxious about building these stairs, to be honest. I thought it was going to one of the harder parts of the project to tackle, and I was pleasantly surprised with how relatively straight forward they turned out to be. I used 19mm ply for the whole thing and overall they feel pretty stable!
The secret key to this project for me are the nailers that attach the stairs to the wall. A nailer (no idea if this term is used in Australia, but it’s what my American online stair guru called them) is mounted onto the wall and helps support the tread of your stairs. More on these below.
Getting around the wheel well
As you can see here I was far too busy celebrating mild carpentry success to take any useful photos of the process as we went, sorry. But as I said, the technique is relatively straight forward. Firstly, we mounted a nailer to the wall of the house the same length as the stairs for the base level to sit on. This was done with lots of liquid nails and a few screws to secure the lot. I kinda wish I’d realised earlier that the 25mm screws I was using were only a few mms longer than my nailers were thick, meaning only a few mms would’ve penetrated into the wall. Oops. They seemed to hold well enough and there are plenty of other supports, but it’s something to make note of.
NOTE: Check the length of your nails/screws vs the thickness of whatever you’re screwing
To get around my wheel well we cut supports to the height of the first step and the depth of the stairs minus the wheel well. These supported the rest of the weight of the base level, covered the wheel well and gave me my first step. Winning! Boogey time.
To stabilise the supports I attached angle brackets to each piece and screwed them to the floor. We glued, then nailed the base down into each support, as well as the nailer running the horizontal length of the base. So far, so good! Not to mention super sweaty.
NOTE: Human weights do well to counteract any bow in your ply and ensure good connection with supports
From there it was mostly more of the same! Nailers on the wall and on the back of the previous step to support the horizontal length of each tread, vertical supports underneath to take the rest of the weight. Obviously, be sure to check that your nailers are level with the vertical supports. And that your supports are level and the tops are level and that anything else you can think of to level is level too. No-one likes a wonky step.
NOTE: Buy lots of liquid nails. LOTS and lots. You’ll need it.
Well, at least 3 tubes of the stuff. You’ll also probably scrape lots of it off as it oozes out from the joins so then you’ll need even more and will end up with it stuck all over you in various places. Fair warning.
The idea was to make three big boxes on top of the base and add little steps in between that would double as drawers for extra storage.
Adaptation is key
Of course, this wouldn’t be a useful building blog if I didn’t accurately represent everything that went wrong, including having to change the height and length of my steps right off the bat. At least forty minutes of careful maths (supervised by Dad of course, thanks Dad) had gone into working out the measurements earlier that morning. Upon closer inspection, I realised that most of the maths was redundant given my power switches and transformers for the lights were right at my calculated step height. This also made attaching the nailers for the tallest box a bit tricky as the last thing I wanted was to put a nail through the wall and short circuit my functioning lights. Sooo, for now one nailer is attached only using liquid nails. I wonder how accurate that name really is? I’ll probably add an extra support in that biggest box for security, just in case. At the moment the ply it supports gives just a tiiiiiny bit underneath my weight and I tell ya, that tiny bit is more than enough for my liking.
NOTE: Don’t put nails through your wiring in the walls. This isn’t a stairs specific note, just good advice in general.
The end result of the changes wasn’t tragic. As you can see I have spectacular, functional stairs. They’re just slightly steeper and slightly one less step than I drawn on my plan.
Nevertheless, she persisted!
As it happens, the changes were meant to be. With the steeper steps, my Mum’s old vintage fruit and veggie boxes were the perfect height to act as my drawer-steps. They were of course totally unstable and unsuitable for using as anything other than decorations at a rustic fairy garden themed wedding. I had to get a bit DIY-makeovery on them and this time Google was not much help. Urgh. Seriously internet, get your act together. Turns out, my new-found stair building geniusness translated into gluing three bits of ply into a box quite nicely – taadaa!
Obviously there’s no drawers in there yet, but they already function as excellent hidey holes for bits and bobs. Drawer updates to come.
Overall, a total success!
I realise by this stage that most of you are fearing for my mortal life, based on my flippant confidence and carefree attitude towards building a relatively important structural component of my house. Fret not, dear friends, one doesn’t get to this stage in a tiny house build without a certain amount of know-how.
Obviously, I made my nephew test them first.
As always, a massive shout out to my number one Tiny House buddy, Brodie Rob. Couldn’t have done it with you and my wonderful friend Siang, thank you both so much! Many hands make level stairs.