Out with the ladder, here come the stairs

In the past weeks, we’ve completed most of the wiring.  It is actually pretty easy to run wires with the service cavity because wires slip underneath the 2×3’s rather than needing holes to be drilled through all of the studs.  However, we did still need to drill through interior partition walls and joists.  Here’s a shot of many wires coming into a switch box at our main entrance.


We built a utility room in our bathroom for …. utilities.


Here’s our main AC panel.  We will probably have another smaller panel for DC loads.  The switch box to the left with the 18ga wires hanging from it is the control switch box for the Lunos HRV’s.


We also framed out a half wall which will enclose the alcove tub.  Our vanity will be on the other side of the half wall.  In the floor can be seen the recess which we hope will accommodate the tub’s trap… fingers crossed


The largest project of late has been creating the stairs.  We’ve decided to make a housed stringer stair.  A typical stair is built with rough stringers (usually a 2×12 with triangles cut out from it) and then trimmed out later with treads, risers, returns, and skirts.  But Mike likes the housed stringer style of stair because the frame is the finish.  The structure and the finish are all done at the same time – what you see is what you get.  We bought some 8/4 ash for the stringers, 5/4 maple for the treads and 4/4 maple for the risers (from Bradford Woodworking in Northampton and Forest Products Associates in Greenfield).  Mike milled it all down in the living room.  The hardwood supplier says there is a glut of Ash at the present time due to the emerald ash borer….. we may not have this tree much longer if things progress like this – could the ash go the way of the chestnut???  I hope not!

The stringers:…. Nice Ash you have there!!


The soon to be treads and risers:


There are a couple of ways to build winders, but the simplest seemed to be to build triangle boxes and then trim them out later.  It is also possible to build winding housed stringer stairs – maybe next time.


Two pieces of 5/4 maple about to be glued up for a tread.  I really appreciate biscuits for an application like this.  Not only do they add strength to the joint, but they help immensely with alignment during clamping.


Dry fit passed and ready for glue


All glued up and clamped.  checking for flatness.


If you can produce a nice tight joint, lots of clamps aren’t necessary.  I like to set the boards vertically after clamping and let the glue run down the seam for about 10 mins.  By then the glue has just begun to get a little firm.  It scrapes off nicely and then I give a quick wipe with a wet rag and the joint is left clean.  Leaving substantial glue on the joint can wreak havoc on your planer blades afterwards.


One of the many reasons I love this time of year is that our swales fill up with water.  This gives a nice long drink to our fruit tree roots as they unthaw.


Ella’s excited for the garden this year, too!


We managed to find a few hours to boil a bit of that sap we’ve collected.


Now- back to the stairs – laying out the stringers.  I took great care to get it right here to ensure a smooth install.


The jig is clamped and ready to go (putting the router to good use, Peter!).  A couple of good resources for building housed stringer stairs:

video for making the template

five part Video for making the stringers

Great book on making many types of stairs including housed stringers.


One stringer done


After the treads and risers were routed out, we needed a rabbet on the bottom edge for the drywall.  It will be screwed to the the bottom of the stringers, recessed into the rabbet on both stringers – hiding the underside of the treads and risers.


Our perimeter drain has been active these past days with all of our melting snow and rainfall…. a convenient place to wash one’s hands.


Here we go – after MANY hours of planning, milling, measuring, marking, routing, and cutting it is finally time to glue it all together!  The treads and risers are connected to the stringers by wedges and glue.  When the wedges are driven home, they are not coming out!  They are really tight!  It is definitely not ideal to use two clamps together like this, but we are lacking in long clamps so we made due.


After installing the top and bottom two treads to keep the whole thing together, we heaved it into position.  Light is not a word I would use to describe it.


wedges and glue driven in from behind.  It is not shown here but we used pocket screws to connect the top of the risers to the bottom of the treads.


The finished stair:


Really happy with the way everything went together.  It all fits nicely.


That’s the big excitement around here.  Tomorrow we will begin applying the finish to the stairs so that we can use them.  We decided on Vermont Natural Coatings’ floor finish.  it is a Whey based clear coat designed for floors.  We’re not sure when we will install the treads and risers on the lower winder stairs – probably when we install the flooring in the kitchen (it will also likely be hard maple).

As the days turn warmer we plan to move outside and begin installing the exterior roxul to the walls and building the window extensions to go with it.

Ella is excited for spring!


4 thoughts on “Out with the ladder, here come the stairs

  1. You never cease to amaze us with your skills, precision and patience!! Beautiful workmanship! Ella is going to be quite the gardener👏 👏❤️💞
    Cute bit of humor too😄. Looking forward to seeing you three and the “big house” in person very soon. Love and hugs😘

  2. Happy Easter! Looks like you have made so much progress on your home congratulations!! John and Katie Sent from Katie Pecora’s iPhone


  3. Happy Easter from the O-gang, to the three of you hard working bunnies! Awesome progress, gorgeous stairs, love n smoochies all around, xxxxx

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