Doug Fir Ladder Treads

One of the projects this past week was cutting, sanding and clear coating my Doug Fir loft ladder treads. I found the material at BMR where I found the Fir for my ceiling and loft walls. Rory, who welded the steel support structure, thought it might look interesting to start with shorter treads at the bottom and make each progressive one 1/2" longer to the top so they would create a slight angle and offer more support at the top. I thought about this idea but decided I would rather them all be the same length. It was beneficial to have the steel component installed for some time before deciding on the tread length so I could figure out how long they needed to be. I decided to cut them to 16" since I wanted to overhang them a little out from the steel supports which are 14" long.
Once I cut the treads to length, I sanded them with 100 grit and then 150 grit sandpaper. Then I applied a coat of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil and urethane topcoat which I used on the loft floor and ceiling/wall T&G Fir. This finish is not meant for heavy traffic but I figured I would try it out for the treads since I do not plan to wear shoes when climbing up there. The other option would be to use a flooring finish but since I don't have that material yet, I am waiting to figure out what I will need. After drying, I sanded them with 400 grit sandpaper and repeated the process until I had applied 3 coats.
For installation, I decided to leave a space between the end of the tread and the wall since I need to add a piece of trim to cover the gap between the wall board and the diagonal steel support and since the weld joint would require either sanding or a mitered corner. I used a piece of 1/2" plywood as a spacer both for the wall gap and for the amount of overhang on the face. The treads are 5/4"x4" nominal so 1" x 3 1/2" actual dimensions and the steel surface is 2 1/2" which makes for a 1/2" overhang on the front and back of the tread. I used clamps to hold the wood in place while I drilled holes for the screws into the bottom of the tread.
I drilled one hole on each end first and then drove a screw in to set the tread in place. Then I removed the clamps, drilled and drove in the remaining screws. I used #12 x 1" sheet metal screws which is the same diameter as I used to secure the diagonal support and loft joists to the walls. Rory had thought about adding a piece of steel on the top of the horizontal steel pieces to create a key which would require a channel routered into the wood that would in theory keep it in place better over time. I decided this added extra steps to the process that I didn't feel were necessary since each tread has 6 screws so they should be set and I can always replace them over time if needed.
It's so rewarding to see this idea come to fruition. Yay design/build! For more photos, check out my flickr!

Steel Loft Ladder

In my last post about Steel Loft Joists, I talked about the various metal components I have introduced in my tiny house in an effort to learn more about it as a building material. I designed my house as a shed roof for a variety of reasons but one was so that I could install a permanent loft ladder attached to the taller wall. I did not want to have to move a ladder around on a daily basis. I also wanted the look of cantilevered floating stairs. Since wood is not really strong enough (in my experience) to cantilever and hold up over time, I chose to again commission a welder on site to design a ladder out of steel.
In the design, I wanted to maximize the horizontal space between the door opening and loft so that the ladder would have a shallower slope. I used wood to mock up the ladder slope and spacing of the rungs. In the space I have, I could build the ladder with a 65 degree slope (75 degrees is more typical). I talked with Rory about what types and sizes of steel would be appropriate to achieve what I desired. Tube steel or solid steel, flat bar or angle iron, etc.
We decided to use a 1/2"x3" piece of solid steel as the diagonal support for the cantilevered pieces which would be attached with screws into the framing. I plan to have Doug Fir stair treads on top of the cantilevered pieces for aesthetic and comfort reasons so we decided on pieces of angle iron welded to the diagonal support. We were able to use scraps on site which was great!
I had Rory cut an angle into the face of each piece of angle iron on the outer edge so they would appear lighter but still be just as strong. We first thought about a simple 45 degree angle but then decided that something more dramatic was necessary. I don't know what the exact degree the final angle came out to be since I suggested using the length of a speed square for the length of the cut. Rory cut each of these pieces to 14" so I can either make all 16" wood treads or taper the width from 14" at the bottom to 16" at the top. I still need to figure out which option I want.
Then, Rory sanded and welded all of the pieces together. He predrilled holes in the diagonal support where I marked for the screws to tie it into the studs. He tapered the holes so that the flat head screws would be flush with the steel. He also suggested to leave it unpainted since it does look unique raw.
Rory helped me install the ladder with the aid of some clamps. I predrilled very small holes for the screws and then drilled the screws in working from the bottom up. I am very happy with the way the steel part of the ladder turned out! Once the wall sheathing is up and painted, I will install the wood treads.
For more photos, please check out my flickr!