Stair building

A few friends of mine from church are getting together to repair and build a set of stairs for a single mom in town that can't afford to pay someone to do the work for her (and is too busy working two jobs to even attempt anything like it herself). We're all reasonably handy, but none of us are professional carpenters. I have done a fair amount of carpentry work in my previous jobs, but it has been many moons since I've attempted anything as complex as a set of stairs.

So tonight I spent some quality time with google and found a few sites with good information on building outdoor stairs. In particular, I thought this one was pretty good: A couple of good 'calculators' are available to do some of the math for you:, I'm sure there's more, but those were pretty good.

Because there will probably be 4-5 of us working together on this project for an afternoon, I thought it would be best to do up a proper set of drawings so that we all stay on the same page, and we can distribute the work between us more easily. I started with the layout for the stair risers (the diagonal 'beams' that the treads rest on), as that's the most complicated part of the whole project, and easiest to get wrong. 🙂

So, out came OpenOffice Draw and I spent some time renewing my love for doing shop drawings. OpenOffice has some decent tools, and draw is a good free alternative to MS Visio for basic work. It took me a while to figure out how to get the scaling set up correctly (tools>options>Draw>General>Scale), and a little while to figure out how to work with polygons (double-click to 'close' a polygon isn't the most intuitive). But overall I have to say it worked out pretty well. If you care, here's the resulting drawing of the stairs for the risers , with some detail about how it will be attached to the deck frame.

I've still got more work to do to create the drawings for the handrails and get together a materials list, but it's off to a good start so far.

Now I've just got to remember how to use a skillsaw without injuring myself or someone else... 🙂 I'll keep you posted on the project as it happens!