Installing Loft Staircase Treads 11/28/09

Now that I have 4 out of 13 loft staircase treads in place, I think I have all the kinks worked out in my peculiar method of installation. The rest of the treads should all be installed fairly routinely. This document describes how I install a log tread in the loft staircase. These are the steps:

1. Plug in the porch crane winch, freewheel the hook down to the roadway, and lower the winch control.

2. Take a loop of small rope up to the woodshed and select a tread blank.

3. Use the rope loop to drag the tread down to the roadway below the porch.

4. Connect the rope loop to the crane hook and use the control to lift the blank above the railing.

5. Walk up onto the porch, retrieve the winch control, swing the tread over the tall sawhorses, and lower it onto the sawhorses.

6. Broom off the surface of the tread to keep grit out of the planer.

7. Plane the top surface of the tread so that it is flat and smooth

8. Select the edge that will be the nose of the tread and plane it straight.

9. Round off the nose of the tread.

10. Place the tread in the sawing jig with the nose registered snugly

11. Use a yardstick to find the center of the tread, then make a mark 7.5 inches from each side of the mark. This marks the boundaries of the notch.

12. Wrap a coil of metal flashing around the end of the tread so that it lines up with one of the pencil marks and is square with the tread.

13. Draw a line on the tread blank along the flashing to mark where the first cut should be.

14. Do steps 12 and 13 for the other mark to make a line for the other side of the notch.

15. Use a Skilsaw to cut a kerf on each of the lines.

16. Use the Skilsaw to cut six or so more kerfs in between those two.

17. Use the big one-man crosscut saw to deepen each of the kerfs so that the bottom of each kerf is exactly in line with the gauge boards on the sawing jig. This establishes the surface of the bottom of the notch.

18. Use a fairly big hammer and chisel to break and/or cut the wood away between the kerfs. This forms the rough notch that will receive the staircase stringer.

19. With the blank still in the sawing jig, use the planer to plane down the bottom curved surface of the tread so it is ready for varnish. Use a scraper for deep concavities.

20. Take the tread out of the sawing jig and place it face up on the tall sawhoses.

21. Check the stringer to see if the center line is at the center of the stringer at the point where the tread is to go.

22. Make a center mark on the top surface of the tread. This may be offset a little if step 21 showed that the center is off a little. The notch needs to be aligned with the stringer, but the center line needs to be lined up with the center line of the staircase. Both can be achieved by carefully placing the center mark on the tread.

23. Lay a yardstick on the top of the tread so that the 18 inch mark is on the center mark.

24. Make a mark on the tread at each end of the yardstick.

25. Using a square against the nose of the tread, draw two perpendicular lines on the tread one going through each of the pencil marks. These mark where the tread will be cut.

26. Clamp the tread to the tall sawhorses with a short board and two bar clamps.

27. Use a Skilsaw to cut a kerf on each of the pencil lines. The saw can't cut deep enough to cut all the way through.

28. Use a hand saw to finish each cut. When starting the cut, make the saw teeth hug the inside of the kerf, that is keep them toward the center of the tread. Since the Skilsaw makes a bigger kerf, the handsaw needs to hug the inside surface of the first kerf in order to have a smooth flat surface on the end of the tread.

29. Use a hammer and chisel to chamfer the four outside corners of the tread.

30. Turn the tread over on the sawhorses and use a hammer and chisel to chamfer both curved edges of the tread tying in to the chamfers on the corners.

31. Bring the tread inside to install it.

32. Rebuild the tread-holding jig so it is at the proper height for this tread.

33. Carry the tread up and set it on the top tread already installed.

34. Clamp each end of the tread to it's tread-holding jig so that the tread is supported by the jig which is standing on the floor.

35. Position the tread so that it is up against the stringer.

36. Use a plumb bob hanging from each end of the tread nose to see whether it lines up with the marks on the floor.

37. If the tread sticks out too far, the notch needs to be deepened; if it doesn't stick out far enough, the notch is too deep and needs to be shimmed.

38. Take the tread back down and either deepen the notch, or install shims.

39. Repeat steps 33 through 38 until the tread snugly seats on the stringer in exactly the right position with its center line mark lined up with the center line mark on the stringer.

40. With the tread sitting in the right position, place the drilling jig on the tread with its center line mark lined up with the marks on the tread and on the stringer.

41. Install the brace by stretching two overlapping 1x2s between the wall in front and the base of the drilling jig where it touches the tread surface, and then clamping the two 1x2s together.

42. Bow the brace a little so that you can get a small shim between the brace and the drilling jig. Then when you let go of the brace, it will return to its straight position but the shim tightens it up to snugly hold the drilling jig and tread in place.

43. Use the half-inch drill motor with a half-inch augur to drill a hole down through one of the three alignment holes in the drilling jig.

44. Pull the drill out when the hole is as deep as it can get before the drill chuck hits the drilling jig. The hole will not be all the way through the stringer.

45. Put a piece of half-inch allthread in the chuck of the cordless drill.

46. Use the cordless drill to turn the allthread all the way down into the hole you just drilled. Then un-chuck the drill. This allthread will keep the jig, the tread, and the stringer in alignment for drilling the next holes.

47. Repeat steps 43 through 46 for one of the other holes.

48. Repeat steps 43 through 44 for the third hole.

49. Unclamp the 1x2 brace and remove it.

50. Remove the drilling jig by lifting it straight up and over the two allthreads.

51. Use the half-inch drill and augur back in the third hole to drill the hole all the way through the stringer. With the drilling jig out of the way, the 18-inch augur is plenty long enough to go all the way through.

52. With a hammer and small chisel, cut the recess in the third hole that will receive the square part of a carriage bolt.

53. Prepare the end of a dowel, somewhat smaller than a half-inch in diameter, by sawing it off square and drilling a small hole in the end of it.

54. Run this dowel down through the hole so it peeks out a couple inches below the underside of the stringer.

55. Use small shims driven up into the hole alongside the dowel to tighten it up. Hammer both the shims and the dowel up until it is snug and close to the surface of the stringer.

56. Use a 1 1/4" spade bit in the cordless drill with the point in the small hole in the end of the dowel, running at high speed, and advancing slowly, to cut the counterbore hole in the underside of the stringer.

57. Use a hammer and a block of wood to drive a half-inch carriage bolt down into the hole until the head is about an inch or two from the tread surface.

58. Using a wrench on the square part of the carriage bolt, turn the bolt so that the square part lines up with the square recess you chiseled in the tread.

59. With the hammer and the block of wood, drive the bolt all the way down.

60. Fasten a washer and nut to the end of the bolt and tighten it up moderately with a wrench.

61. Connect the cordless drill chuck to one of the allthreads sticking up out of the tread.

62. Use the cordless drill to back the allthread out of the hole and take it all the way out.

63. Repeat steps 51 through 60 for one of the other two holes.

64. Connect the cordless drill chuck to the last allthread sticking up out of the tread.

65. Use the cordless drill to back the allthread out of the hole and take it all the way out.

66. Repeat steps 51 through 60 for the last hole.

67. Apply three coats of varnish to the tread sanding between the coats.

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