How to Build a Folding Step Ladder

Written by robert preston
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How to Build a Folding Step Ladder
Build your own ladder. (bamboo ladder image by Craig Hanson from

A folding step ladder is a useful tool to have around the house for those who must occasionally perform handyman operations, but do not have a lot of storage space. A folding ladder unfolds out and locks in place when in use, allowing you to reach high spaces, then folds back in for storage, allowing it to take up much less space than a stationary ladder. A homemade folding step ladder can be constructed by those with wood working experience.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 2 wood planks, 5 feet 2 inches long, 4 5/8 inches wide, 7/8 inches thick
  • 4 wood planks, 16 1/2 inches long, 5 1/2 inches wide, 7/8 inches thick
  • Circular saw
  • Wood plank, 17 inches long, 7 inches wide, 7/8 inches thick
  • 2 wood planks 5 feet long, 1 3/4 inches wide, 7/8 inches thick
  • 2 wood planks, 15 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide, 3/8 inches thick
  • 2 wood planks, 3 feet 4 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide, 3/8 inches thick
  • 2 ladder hinges
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Rope
  • Utility knife

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  1. 1

    Set the circular saw to cut at a 30 degree angle, and make a 30 degree angle cut across the 4 5/8 inch widths of both 5 feet 2 inch long planks. Each plank will require two cuts, one at each end of the plank, with the two cuts parallel to each other. These are the side pieces on the end of the ladder you will climb, with one cut resting flat along the ground and the other flat beneath the cap.

  2. 2

    Cut a 30-degree cut across the 7/8 inch thickness of the 5 1/2 inch by 16 1/2 inch planks. These will be the steps of the ladder, and must be cut at both ends, with the cuts parallel. These angled cuts will allow the steps to be parallel to the ground while also running flush along the back and front of the side pieces.

  3. 3

    Attach the four steps to one side piece with the first step located 1 foot from the bottom of the side piece, and the remaining steps 1 foot above the step below them, with two nails in each step. The top of the steps run parallel to the cuts in the side pieces. Attach the second side after all steps are installed.

  4. 4

    Attach the 17-inch wood plank to the top of the side pieces. This is the top of the ladder, and the top of the side pieces should be centred in the bottom of the piece. Hammer nails through the top of the ladder and into the side pieces to secure.

  5. 5

    Use the circular saw to make a single 15-degree cut across the 7/8 inch thickness at one end of each of the 5 foot long pieces. These will be your legs.

  6. 6

    Lay the two legs down parallel to each other with their outer edges 15 inches apart and the angled cuts both facing down, then lay both 15 inch by 1/2 inch pieces across the top of the legs, 3 feet apart and centred along the length. Use nails to secure the planks in place.

  7. 7

    Nail the 3 feet 4 inch long planks between both 5 feet long planks, extending diagonally from one plank across the gap between the two and to the other plank. The legs will now have two parallel planks, connected by two beams parallel to the ground, and two in the shape of an X.

  8. 8

    Attach ladder hinges to the inside of each of the side pieces with screws just below the top of the ladder.

  9. 9

    Attach the legs to the open sides of the ladder hinges so that the angled cuts on the bottom of the legs face the opposite direction as the angled cuts on the side pieces. Your ladder can now be opened and closed.

  10. 10

    Open the ladder on a level surface so that the bottoms of the legs and side pieces both lay flat along the ground.

  11. 11

    Drill through both legs and both side pieces at a height 3 feet above the ground.

  12. 12

    Connect each side piece to each leg which it is aligned with using rope. Tie a knot in the rope, then pass the unknotted end through the hole in one leg and through the corresponding hole in one side piece. Use a second knot to secure the rope in place, then cut excess rope with the utility knife. The ropes will prevent the ladder from opening completely and falling when in use.

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