Shop Sweet Shop #6: Stairway to Storage Heaven - Part 1

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Blog entry by magaoitin posted 12-22-2016 10:53 PM 1528 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Uncompleted Project #264: Exterior concrete pad Part 6 of Shop Sweet Shop series Part 7: Stairway to Storage Heaven - Part 2 - Installing plumbing in my stairs »

I have a feeling I am going to end up with a number of posts on just my stair build. I have some crazy ideas and there is a lot of detail I am putting into something as simple as a set of shop stairs, but if it all works out, this is going to be more than just a way to access my loft, or simply another place to store more junk under.

I’m only 2 weekends into the stair build as of today and have at least 2-3 more weeks for finishes, time permitting. My weeks are typically one day on the weekend. I think that is why it has taken me over a year to get this far. I am currently on day 40-ish of my remodel.

When I purchased my house, the 30×30 shop was just a shell, with the exception of the “loft”. The previous owners had started to build out for a living space or maybe an office? There was a 5’x10’ area “downstairs” for the bathroom, an old pull down attic stair for the access up to the loft, and some drywall in various stages of taping in half of the upstairs. A large window was installed as well to look down into the shop. The loft runs the length of the south side of my shop so it is 30’ long. It’s bisected by the center roof truss so it is broken up into an 8’x15’ space (by the wall opening) and an 11’ x 15’ space by the window. In the large area, 3’ of the floor is cantilevered over the post and beam below.

Along with a 4×8 opening for hoisting stuff up and down.

I have been using an extension ladder for the last year to get up and down to this space for storage, and decided that since I was working on the interior finishes; it was time to get a set of stairs in. I could have made this part of my first permit application but I didn’t have the final design done and already knew I would be pushing a 12 month window for the first phase of the build out.

The Finish Floor of the loft is 7’ 9 1/2” above the concrete floor of the shop. Unfortunately there is only a single sheet of 19/32” ply for the floor, and with 2×6 joists on 16” centers it is a bit springy. As I find used plywood I plan on putting down another lay 3/4” to stiffen it up. So I am using 7’ 10 1/4” as the total rise. This gives me (13) risers at 7 1/4”. I used a bunch of scrap 1 1/8” plywood for the treads, and then re-purposed some 5/8” OSB sheathing for the risers. The 2×12 stringers and a couple of 4×4 posts are new.

Now my loft is FULL of stuff. I have spent countless hours moving my tools and stuff from one side of the shop to the other to work on the buildout and am burned out with moving stuff right now. I didn’t want to completely empty the loft out to do the stairs (stupid decision in hindsight), so I piled everything up on one side of the loft, marked out where the cut was going to be and left it all up there. This is what they call foreshadowing in storytelling.

I figured (2) post-jack stands would be all I need to support the demoed joists until I could slap in my header and new column.

I bought (instead of renting) a couple of adjustable Jack Posts at Home Depot ($50 each). And set these up about 6” back from my cut line with an 8’ 4×4 post as a spreader. This half of the Loft is held up with a 15’ long 8×8 beam on a couple of 8×8 columns, so it isn’t going anywhere when I start cutting, I just needed to support 4 joists that would be hanging loose with no real weight on them.

I pulled the floor sheathing off above and started to cut the joist. My plan was to cut the (4) joists, nail up a 2×6 beam to the face, install a new 4×4 column to support the load, remove the jacks, and finish cutting the 90° section of the stairs.

What I NEGLECTED to calculate was that I had piled all my stuff up on the cantilevered part of the floor and as I cut the joists, the floor was actually lift up, and away from me, instead of pressing down over the jack stands as it typically does. The weight of my stuff, plus the weight of the framed wall above and the window all added up.

As I cut the second joist the sawsall started to bind half way through the cut, but I didn’t think much of it. On the third joist it bound up so bad I couldn’t get the blade out or finish the cut…thankfully. I stepped back and was wondering why was this happening, when I looked over and finally saw the cantilever section and it all came together.

Luckily I had an old 8×8 that I was going to use for the corner post that was already the right height. And tried to get it under the perimeter wall, however, with cutting 2 and a half joists, the cantilevered part of the floor/ceiling had dropped by over an inch. The frantic use of the BFH (12 lb sledge) and I got it wedged in place. Cutting the remaining 1 and a half joist was easy then. Amazing what the lack of pressure will do.

The rest demoed out fine, but it was a good lesson for me. I was concerned with the floor falling on top of me as I was cutting, but it never crossed my mind that with the cantilevered section, the floor could pull away and “fall up” from me. Since I used up all my luck for one day I went in the house, changed my underwear, and had a drink.

I was a little impatient in waiting for another work project to start that would give me the 1 1/8” plywood scraps for my final treads, so I premade the lower section of stairs a couple weekends prior and just tacked on the OSB as temp treads. At work, we were cutting 12-24” off from full sheets of 1 1/8” that were just going to get scraped, and I didn’t see any reason to spend $110 for (2) sheets of 1 1/8 at the box store. Later I pulled off the OSB and installed the plywood, then trimmed down the OSB for the risers.

Now what should I do with this “wasted” space under the lower section of the stairs?!?

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.

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