How to make a wooden step ladder

Updated February 21, 2017

A basic wooden step ladder is essential for any home or workshop. Step ladders made with high quality wood make excellent gifts, and more utilitarian materials can give you a very affordable product using the same design.

Measure a 45-degree angle in the middle of two of your studs using your carpenter's square. Mark the angle with your pencil, then cut the boards along the line using the saw. Measure, mark and cut parallel 45-degree angles off the opposite ends of two halves, so that two of the boards have matching 45-degree angles at all sides. On the remaining boards, cut the ends with 45-degree angles going the opposite direction, so these boards have a longer side and a shorter side.

Measure the other 2-by-4 stud into one-foot step sections using the measuring tape and marking the measurements with a pencil. One of these sections should be cut about four inches longer than the others to serve as the top of the ladder. Cut the stud along these lines using the saw to separate the rungs of the ladder.

Build the main section of the ladder by placing the two stud sections with parallel ends side by side. Attach the shorter stud pieces between the two longer sections using three wood screws in each side. These steps should be installed at a 45-degree angle parallel with the angle at the ends of the studs.

Attach the top of the steps to the top of the two longer boards with four wood screws in each board. Make sure the top shelf is centred front to back and side to side.

Attach the studs with the opposing angles to the back of the ladder, directly below the top step using the door hinges. Attach the hinges to the top of the rear studs and the back of the main studs so the rear frame can either be pressed against the front studs or folded up parallel to them.

Install one or two steps on the rear ladder frame for additional support. Attach the ladder hinge to the outside of both ladder sections on each side of the ladder, at whichever position which will allow the ladder to extend fully.


Ladders can easily be stained or painted prior to assembly but after the individual pieces have been cut. You can add a paint can holder on the back of the ladder if desired by attaching a folding shelf.


Do not use the back of the ladder for climbing.

Things You'll Need

  • 2-by-4-foot studs, 3
  • 2-inch wood screws
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Door hinges
  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter's square
  • 12-inch ladder support hinges
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About the Author

Nat Fondell has been writing professionally since 2006. A former editor of the "North Park University Press," his work has appeared at scientific conferences and online, covering health, business and home repair. Fondell holds dual Bachelors of Arts degrees in journalism and history from North Park University and received pre-medical certification at Dominican University.