Over the winter, the bottom step of the precarious stairs at our back door rotted away….

After being “repaired” by a couple cinder blocks, it looked like this:

stairs before #2


Seeing as stairs are one of my favourite design challenges, I took it upon myself to make some steel stringers to be used with cedar rough cut 2”x6” planks steps to replace the unsafe teeter totter that we had create at our back door.

I took some measurements and got to work.


The stringers are made with 3/16” steel plate that was bent to create a 10” wide channel shape. The steps and cut off sections at the top and bottom of the stairs were laid out.

This is a typical layout for stair stringers:

stringer layout


Though this blueprint is not of the stairs I built, it demonstrates the angles at the top and the bottom of the stringers. These angles are critical to be able to mount the stairs to the existing structure and to also sit level to the ground.  If the angles are wrong or not square to the step, someone will most likely fall down the stairs. If you have ever used stairs that are old or not built properly, you most likely have felt uneasy using them.

Did you know that if steps are not exactly the same height (within 1/8” or 3mm), your body will be off balance all the way up or down the stairs? 3 mm is pretty small.

Once the stringers were done and the plank (step) supports were welded onto the stringers, I primed the two stringers. The next day, I realized I had used up most of the black paint I had and did not have enough of any one colour to paint both stringers…So I improvised. It was fun to blend different colours together, it was like being a kid with no guidelines or rules. It was Awesome!

stair stringer


Making the stairs plumb and level was a challenge because neither the house nor the ground were plumb or level. When I designed the stairs, I thought the 6”x 8” under the stairs was just a support for the step and didn’t realize it was actually holding the whole house up. Oops.  I had to add wood block on the bottom of stringer to lift the first step above the support beam.  It worked out fine since I had made the bottom step lower than the top one in case something like this happened.



stairs first step


After the steps were installed, it felt very strange going up and down stairs that didn’t rock back and forth like the cinder blocks did but it feels pretty awesome not having to worry about falling every time we go in and out of the garden into the house….

stairs finished



Stairs are not the easiest thing to put together or lay out but if you find someone that is knowledgeable and patient enough, be sure to ask them as many questions as possible. Being curious and inquisitive are the best ways to learn anything in my opinion.

As always, if you have any questions or a comment about this or any other thing you see on my website, send me an email Izabelle.awesome @gmail.com