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Factory-built stairs worth it?


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Ignacio's Forum Posts: 24

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By Ignacio in Houston, TX on 10/4/2009


Hi, I am in the midst of building a quite little house, 8 feet by 4 feet that will initially be a clubhouse for my children, and then a garden shed. I am cloning it from one I saw in the country and photographed.  Simple construction T1-11 siding with 2x4's turned sideways for the walls and 2x2's for sill and top plate. Cool details like a 2 feet by 4 feet front porch that make it much more fun and much less utilitarian.

This is my first framing job. I found 'the box' to be pretty simple even though I made minor mistakes. Cutting rafters and doing the roof was complicated, and these were the most straightforward possible rafters. From this experience and for the future (obviously not for this shed) full-sized stairs like curvy ones seem pretty daunting to me. I searched the Internet and I see several sites offering factory-built stairs. Does anyone know if these are worth it versus having a framing crew go at it?

-- IV


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Eric's Forum Posts: 12

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By Eric in Leander, TX on 10/5/2009


It depends on what type of stairs you are referring to.  For a set of freestanding iron stairs, it will be easier to order a premanufactured set.  However, if you are just referring to a set of stairs that will be up against a curved wall, the framer should be able to handle that just fine.  The problem with preordering a set of stairs that will be against framing like that are the inconsistencies in the framing itself.  If there is a problem with the drawings and things don't work just right, you might end up with a set of stairs that don't fit properly and that can cause a whole new set of problems.  I prefer site built just for the simple reason that issues are going to arise and they can be solved easily when the framing is being done on site. 

As you mentioned, framing a roof is difficult and so are stairs.  If you are going to attempt some of the framing yourself, you might want to try a premanufactured set to eliminate that challenge.  Even if it is done properly the first time, it will take you a considerable amount of time to do it.  That alone might be worth the extra money to get it elsewhere.

I hope that helps.  Best of luck.  I am sure your kids are going to love the new clubhouse.

Eric


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By Michael in Port Neches, TX on 10/5/2009


Ignacio,

If you've figured everything else out to this point, you'll be disappointed with somebody else building your stairs.  The hardest part are the stringers, which you can purchase precut at most any lumber store.  They come in 4 and 8 ft. sections.  You can find them treated if you look or ask.  If 2" material is too thick for the small house, buy one piece to use as a template then select the 1" material you need.  If you buy other materials for the stair project, most stores will not be upset if you return the sample when you're done.

To create a curved stair, simply angle the stringers closer together at the top than the bottom and mark a line parallel to the house on the stringer top then rip the angle with your saw.  Do the same for the risers before assembly, or if you prefer to assemble the entire staircase first, you can mark and cut your arc with a handsaw or chainsaw before it is fastened to the house.  Be careful to stay outside the stringers or you'll end up with a pile of worthless lumber!

When you buy the stringer sample, you'll notice the cuts are sized for a standard stair step.  If this riser and tread is too large for the playhouse, you can easily recalculate the riser portion, but I'd suggest you keep the tread length standard for safety and resist the temptation to cut your stringers out of 1" lumber.  You can create a template out of paper and use a square to assure proper placement as you mark each step on the uncut board you've chosen.

Building your own stairs will be the crowning achievement of the project each time you see your children playing on it.  Remember, always measure twice so you cut only once.

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By Jennifer in Ft Worth, TX on 10/6/2009


Curvy stairs can mean so many things (as I've learned). We built a tower, and first wanted stairs that followed the curve, then changed that to stairs that met the curve, but didn't have curved stringers.

I read a lot, and laid out the cuts for our first (wood) stringers using 2x12s. When we started getting to the finishing stages, we decided we wanted to go with metal stringers, since the stairs were going to be open stairs. The metal stringers we ordered over the Internet.

We still cut out the treads ourselves and I did all the staining. It is very satisfying to figure it out for yourself.

Jennifer


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By DCG in Lago Vista, TX on 10/6/2009


I have a set of 270-degree circular stairs.  My original design was to buy a pre-built spiral staircase (steel) and implement that way. Spiral staircases start at about $3K and can run into big money, but are readily available on the Web.

The main design concern was the ability to get a fridge and queen-sized beds up the stairs.

As it turned out, the most economical option was to translate the circular staircase into an octagonal staircase, which could be easily framed.

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