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Outdoor Spiral Stairs

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Project by Judd posted 09-27-2008 07:16 PM 60411 views 12 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Once upon a time… You know how it goes. The other day I was out on the deck looking at a spiral stairs I had built about twenty years ago. I use them every day and wonder how I would connect the two decks without them.

A view of the completed spiral stairs

Yes, I have built numerous outdoor projects, but this is the one for which I am most proud.

The curved railing

Tread details

During one winter, way long ago, I built each of the tread as a unit, from two pieces of CCA treated 2X6, one piece of 4X6, and one short piece of 2X6 as the tread end. I bored a 1 1/2 inch hole in each tread so a 1 1/2 galvanized pipe could become the center pole holding everything together.

Stair closeup

Each tread weighed a few pounds when completed. That following spring I was ready to construct the stairs and enlisted the help of Cathie, my wife, to help put everything together. We had no problems screwing all the steps together while the stairs were laying on their side. The next step should bring a smile to everyone. I can remember standing there admiring our handywork and commenting, “It should be no problem to swing this into place, because I have the pipe flange in place and ready to go.” So the two of us walk up to the stairs, laying there waiting for us, and grab hold and lift. Problem was that the thing wouldn’t budge! My, my, did the stairs every get heavy! It is truly amazing how fifteen stairs become so heavy after they are screwed together. I remember sitting there and laughing loudly. That would have been the best picture!

So, with some extra help from a block and tackle, and some friends, we finally get the stairs into place and secured. Now comes the fun part – the spiral railing. Over the months of construction, I had been asked repeatedly how was I going to build the railing? I would just smile and say, “wait until spring and I will have you help me.”

Railing closeup

After erecting the main stairs, I moved my 14 inch bandsaw onto the lower deck. No small feet in itself! Have you ever lifted an old cast iron Delta bandsaw? I had upgraded the bandsaw over the years to include a 1 1/2 horse, heavy duty, motor. It turns out that was a good move! The spiral railing was constructed from two 24 feet long 2×6 CCA treated deck boards that were resawed to 3/16 inch thick. The seven best results from the two very long boards were used to laminate the railing. Remember I said this was constructed in the eighties? There were not many glue options back then. I chose the Urea formeldahyde glue that was used to construct the World War II Mosquito Bomber. Nasty stuff! I do not have pictures of this part of the construction because it was somewhat intense!

Picture this – 24 feet of 3/16 inch CCA treated 2X6 lumber lying in the grass, in the sun, all seven pieces. Curling and moving with the sun’s rays beating every ounce of moisture out of them, while I try to figure out how to spread this nasty glue on them, which has a working time of under two hours. Thank goodnes for the two helpers! I am sure this would have made a great Laurel and Hardy movie! Just imagine three guys running around trying to keep these seven boards flat, trying to get glue on them and hoist htem all into position, clamp and screw beginning at the top, and working down to the bottom. And then there was the slight breeze…

Another rail closeup
And we were successful. And amazed. And tired. Likely, I will never forget that day. Neither will my former friends. Just kidding!

Prologue: The spiral stairs is still in production and used every day. I have been looking things over to see how I might add additional ballistairs – I am concerned about grandchildren who climb like monkeys all over the stairs. Why wasn’t I concerened about my own children using these stairs? The only rational answer is “Grand parenting must be more serious business”!

-- Judd, Adel, Iowa, http://www.stoneyhedge.com





27 comments so far

View fredf's profile

fredf

495 posts in 4098 days


#1 posted 09-27-2008 08:09 PM

Wow! really neat stairway! Hmmm where can I hang a 2nd floor deck now???? going to have to think about this a while! actually could use a 1/4 turn off a not so high deck even.. I might just have a spot!

What did you use for a footing on the bottom????

-- Fred, Springfield, Ma

View Judd's profile

Judd

6 posts in 3921 days


#2 posted 09-27-2008 08:41 PM

Fred,

I sank a 4X4 in concrete below the lower deck, then placed the lower deck flooring over that, and the 1 1/2 inch floor flange on top of that. It has been really firm over the years. The treads are 36 inches from center of 1 1/2 pipe hole to outer tread edge.

Thanks for the comments!

Judd

-- Judd, Adel, Iowa, http://www.stoneyhedge.com

View Kerux's profile

Kerux

812 posts in 4272 days


#3 posted 09-27-2008 09:26 PM

Holy Cow! I’ve got a ranch and I want that spiral staircase…

-- http://caledoniachurchofchrist.yolasite.com/

View Quentin's profile

Quentin

47 posts in 4534 days


#4 posted 09-29-2008 08:33 PM

Great project and excellent story! I love it!

View mtnwild's profile

mtnwild

3474 posts in 3915 days


#5 posted 09-29-2008 11:18 PM

WOW! what a great project. Good story. Always wanted to make one of those. After seeing yours I’m inspired, inspiralled? Got that on my list of things to do. LOL>>>>>>>

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View TomK 's profile

TomK

504 posts in 4262 days


#6 posted 09-30-2008 10:17 AM

That is an inspired spiral staircase. Spirals have always fascinated me. these look so much better than the wrought iron versions!

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View John4859's profile

John4859

2 posts in 3040 days


#7 posted 02-21-2011 04:38 PM

Hi Judd,

This is a fantastic spiral stair. This is just what I need to connect my two decks. I see its been a long time since you posted, but I’m hoping this message reaches you. Can you give me the tread width that you used? What are the outer and inner tread widths? I can see that your stairs made about a 3/4 rotation from top to bottom. What is the height from finished bottom deck to finished top deck? I’m trying to figure out where my stairs will land.

Thanks so much for posting this. I hope I can build these stairs as well as you did.

John

View Judith's profile

Judith

2 posts in 2733 days


#8 posted 12-24-2011 07:21 PM

Wow. Those are some beautiful stairs. I must have been building mine at about the same time. I was in a hurry to get the project done so I just did some less than fancy cuts on a 4×4 and attached 8 wedge shaped steps staggered in the center with two step stringers at the top and at the bottom… the railing is certainly not as pretty as yours… just used some 2 bys and belt sanded them smooth at the top. It is still in great shape too, but it was never the work of art you created. Kudos!! https://s3.amazonaws.com/vs-lumberjocks.com/lwpxhfl.jpg!

View cajunmt's profile

cajunmt

6 posts in 2665 days


#9 posted 03-17-2012 02:28 AM

I view this page and the photos from this build once a day, like a mantra. I have decided to try and build them. As luck would have it I have a lower and an upper deck with an inch or two height difference between Judd’s. My upper deck is only cantalivered by 28 inches however, so unless i wanted the bottom stairs to terminate in the middle of my 6×6 support post I have find a way to push the stairs out away from the deck about 10 where the galvanized pipe would fit into the top flange. Any ideas?

-- Bradford Donnaud

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cajunmt

6 posts in 2665 days


#10 posted 03-17-2012 02:29 AM

Judd if your still checking this post, these stairs are really somthing.

-- Bradford Donnaud

View cajunmt's profile

cajunmt

6 posts in 2665 days


#11 posted 03-17-2012 02:31 AM

I wonder if it is possible to cement the pole and flange in the ground and then slide the separate tread units overtop of the pipe.

-- Bradford Donnaud

View Judd's profile

Judd

6 posts in 3921 days


#12 posted 03-22-2012 01:59 AM

Thanks for all the warm comments, everybody! I don’t check back often, but I do receive every email telling me somebody posted. someone wondered how I determined the tread height. I approached it this way. I measured the distance between the top of the upper deck to the top of the lower deck – knowing I would need some sort of “landing” to connect the stair to the upper deck. I knew that I would be building with treated dimensional lumber – arsenic treated back then. 2” lumber resembled 1 3/8 to 1 1/2 inches thick, while 1 inch lumber was about 3/4 inch. The 4X6 I used as the tread beam measured about 3 1/2 X 5 1/4 inches – not 5 1/2 inches. With these dimensions I worked through the basic height and came up with what you see in the photos. The tricky part was what to use for the actual tread to make the last tread arrive on top of the lower deck. I used two 2X6 planks, but I knew 2X8, 2X10, and 2X12 lumber was available, as well as combinations of those dimensions. I built one tread in the workshop in the winter to see what the actual tread dimensions would be. Then added that dimension until I reached the final dimension. All the treads were built that winter, and assembled the next spring.

Someone wanted a drawing, but I don’t think that is really necessary.
Let me know if there are more questions or if somebody really needs measurements.

Bradford, I don’t think sliding them over the pole will work because I screwed each tread to the next tread from the underside while the assembly was lying on its side. I doubt if you could screw two treads together and manage to slide them over the pipe. But then, I could be wrong! Maybe you could pour a footing with mounting bolts to fit a modified “flange” and build it, then simply swing it into place and bolt it… But, I digress…..

Judd

-- Judd, Adel, Iowa, http://www.stoneyhedge.com

View Schneiderbuckeye's profile

Schneiderbuckeye

1 post in 2196 days


#13 posted 06-13-2013 11:40 PM

Thanks. Going to try on my first granddaughters treehouse

View DaveCQE's profile

DaveCQE

9 posts in 1817 days


#14 posted 06-27-2014 10:14 PM

Hi Judd! I am planning on making stairs like the one you made. Of all the other ones I have seen, your is the one I like best for my house. Three questions: Did you need to tighten or l loosen the center pole as the wood shrank and swelled? What wall thickness was the center pole? Would the stairs hold your weight before the handrail was installed? Thanks!

View DaveCQE's profile

DaveCQE

9 posts in 1817 days


#15 posted 06-27-2014 10:20 PM

Hi Judd! I am planning on making stairs like the one you made. Of all the other ones I have seen, your is the one I like best for my house. Three questions: Did you need to tighten or l loosen the center pole as the wood shrank and swelled? What wall thickness was the center pole? Would the stairs hold your weight before the handrail was installed? Thanks!

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