Alex Brown
  • Stairway
Project Description

project: Stairway

date: 2004

This is another remodeling project, of which I consider to be the most challenging.  My cousin and her husband bought a house in Jamaica Plain; they rent out the first floor.  Having had a baby, they decided they’d like to expand their living space into the attic space.

They commissioned me in designing and constructing a stairway.  I knew where the stairway was to go and the space constraints, but I had to do research before I really knew what I would be doing.  Being built in the early 1900’s, there is an extensive use of ‘winder’ stairs (which appears to have been popular into the fifties to help conserve space).

My stairway was being built into an existing stairwell at the rear of the house.  It would be going from the kitchen into the current attic.  The project involved demolition and removal of a plaster wall, movement and replacement of a window, and my installation of a stairway.  I asked around on a forum for any help on how to build a winder stair using stringers, but this proved to be a lost knowledge (much like how to use the tables on a carpenter square — now there’s the little blue book).  I ended up using a book from my local library (published 1970’s) and one from my Papou (who built both of his houses).  Together, both provided me with several pages of information.  Fortunately the ‘microscopic’ diagrams were labeled well…Whew!  One of the key points of the construction was my cutting of the LVL into the winder stringers.  The layout and cutting had to be perfect to prevent my turning of a perfectly good LVL into scrap.

Well what can I say, for the most part everything worked out great.  Having been my first stairway, I look back and pick out everything I will do differently (and better) next time.  This is true for all of my projects, my learning by experience.

The next step will be adding dormers to the third floor.  Being three stories up I won’t be running that operation; however, we do plan on my helping out with the interior.

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