How to build easy stairs for attic space

Written by judi light hopson
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How to build easy stairs for attic space
Practical wood steps work well for the attic. (wooden staircase image by Yali Shi from

Many homeowners don't use their attics because the access hatch doors or narrow stairs make transporting items to the attic too cumbersome. Constructing a staircase will make it easier to store items in the space. Stairs should be wide enough to hoist furniture or boxes up and down without too much trouble. Design your stairs well enough so that they're easy to navigate when you're storing or retrieving seasonal clothes or Christmas decorations.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • 5 cm by 30 cm(2 inch by 12 inch) lumber
  • Circular saw
  • Bolts
  • Electric screwdriver
  • 10 cm (4 inch) stainless steel screws
  • Metal handrail hardware
  • Metal handrail material

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  1. 1

    Locate space in a room below the attic that can accommodate the stairs. Use a tape measure to carve out a staircase at least `125 cm (42 inches) wide. Build the steps this wide if at all possible, since you might want to carry furniture pieces or other bulky items up to the attic. Place the steps against a long wall, since it's easier to secure a handrail to house framing this way. Avoid making the steps turn in a second direction.

  2. 2

    Measure the length of the stairs from the floor in your room to the top landing in the attic. Purchase 5 by 30 (2 by 12 inch) boards to construct two stringers, which are the sawtooth sides of any standard staircase. Use a circular saw to cut notches for the stair treads and risers that will fit on the stringers. Don't cut more than 10 cm (4 inches) toward the bottom of the stringer to make notches because this will weaken the stairs. Cut 5 cm by 30 cm (2 by 12 inch) boards for step treads. Allow a depth of 25 cm (10 inches) for your foot to rest as you navigate the stairs.

  3. 3

    Use bolts to secure the stair stringers at the top of the attic floor joists. Attach each tread to the notched stringers using 10 cm (4 inch) stainless steel screws and an electric screwdriver. Cut risers to fit the front face of the steps or buy premade risers for a more finished appearance.

  4. 4

    Avoid building steps that are overly steep if you don't have sufficient floor space in the room below the attic. Build a landing the width of the stairs and at least 90 cm (3 feet) deep to allow for turning a corner if you your stairs must have a bend. Construct a landing as a resting space if your staircase is extremely long or taller than 3 m (10 feet). Including a landing, even on a straight staircase, can help you take heavy pieces up and down much easier.

  5. 5

    Buy metal hardware to hold a metal handrail for the wall side of the staircase. Locate wooden studs of the house framing using a stud finder. Use metal screws to secure handrail hardware directly to wall studs. Attach a smooth metal handrail instead of a wooden handrail. Avoid using a wooden handrail in any storage area since wood can splinter easily if dented.

Tips and warnings

  • Avoid getting in a hurry to construct attic stairs. If you build a room in the attic in the future, you don't want to have to rebuild the stairs. Build the stringers and basic structure strong enough to support finished wood treads or premade risers in the future if you want the staircase to look more upscale.
  • Always add a wall switch at the bottom of the attic stairs to light the staircase. Not having sufficient light on the stairs or in the attic quite easily can cause an accident.

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