1846 Homestead Renovation

The Stairs in the New Addition

When the framers started to work on the second story, it was obvious that we needed to install the stairs in order to make their lives easier.  It did look strange to be building stairs to seemingly nowhere, but the decision was made that it was time for them to be installed and install them we did.

The Design

What would the stairs look like?  I really wanted to get the old staircase out of my great grandparents’ house.  It was the first banister I ever slid down (with the permission of my great aunt Margaret Jo and in spite of the disapproving look from my grandmother).  That was an undertaking too great for even us. Those stairs probably weren’t tall enough and they were oriented wrong.

These stairs were going into the new addition.  We designed the new addition to look like a barn behind the old house, and we really liked the idea of it looking somewhat like a barn on the inside as well.  What kind of stairs go inside a barn?  My grandfather was born and raised in a house not far from here.  That barn had narrow, steep wooden stairs.  That would have been cool to replicate, but we didn’t think that was exactly what we were looking for.  We were looking for scale, certainly.  I searched the Internet for ideas and I was consistently drawn to an industrial metal staircase.

We opted for a straight run staircase.  Our stairs are open tread, metal with wooden treads.  The handrails are metal and we used metal cattle panels to close the opening in both the handrails and the railing along the loft.  Here is how we (actually Jerry, Don, and Jackie) built them.


The Plan

Jerry and Jackie Cate spent a couple of days installing the stairs.  It was truly a DIY stairs project.  Jerry and I ordered the metal and picked it up in a trailer we borrowed from Don.  Jerry cut the metal pieces and drilled the bolt holes in each piece and had all ready to assemble when Jackie showed up with the welder.

I was teaching at the University of Connecticut the week the stairs were built.  Jerry pushed it too hard and ended up in the emergency room with heat exhaustion.  That was a bad deal.  Scared the bejeezus out of our son, Jacob.  I doubt my being there would have prevented the ER visit, but it is frightening that an ER visit was necessary.

Putting It All Together

The runners were welded to plates that were bolted into the beam supporting the front edge of the loft.  Jerry and Jackie welded the supports for each step into place.  They installed wooden treads using carriage bolts.

Yes, they are heavy.  They are incredibly heavy.  No, I don’t know how they got them in place.  I am very glad that I don’t know.  I am even happier that I wasn’t here the day all of this went up.  Things like that make me nervous.

To finish the stairs, I cleaned the metal with lacquer thinner and then used a paint for metal.  We decided to go with a flat black.  I didn’t spray paint it either.  I rolled on two coats and rolling took care of the cattle panels as well.  It was the fastest paint job in the house.  I stained the treads using Golden Oak and then two coats of poly.  I need to go back and put on several more coats of poly, but they are good for now.

The Finished Product

We added handrails, of course. The handrails were made by my grandfather, Warren Ferguson, for our church many, many years ago.  The church members decided to build a new building.  They tore down the old building to make way for the new.  Don saved the handrails and then gave them to us to use.  They are a wonderful addition to our home.  This big project turned out exactly like we envisioned!


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