Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Build a Straight Staircase (Without the Layout Editor)

Building staircases is often the bane of homeowners. The common instinct is to either start building from your bottom floor or your top floor, and to simply try your best to meet up with the other floor in the right number of steps.

With that method, you have no control over where your top step (or bottom step, depending on where you start) winds up. Some people get around this by building the bottom floor, the stairs, and then putting in the top floor, so that at least the top floor lines up with the stairs.

Another problem is that you often wind up with steps oddly spaced, or not aligned properly.

That's a pain in the butt.

There's an easier way to set up your stairs, so that they fit nicely in the room you're building, you know exactly where the top step and bottom step will be, and they line up perfectly with the upper floor.

It doesn't matter whether the staircase you want to build is along the cardinal axes, or whether it's at an angle--as long as you set the stairs straight to each other, this staircase tutorial will work.

To begin with, you're going to want to take your step item and size it appropriately so that it fits in the location where your top step will wind up. Use whatever material you like for your steps. Some ideas include:

  • Stair building block
  • Block building block
  • Divider tops (or bottoms)
  • Table
  • Shelf
  • Columns
  • Rocks

For this tutorial, I went with white marble stairs. Remember, size it to fit your upper floor's opening!

Next, you'll want to lower the first step down to the bottom floor.

Once your stair is positioned properly, take more of your step items and line them up in a straight line, each step item touching the one before it.

When you have your bottom step where you want it to be, stop adding steps. I advise that you have at least 9 steps between the bottom floor and upper floor. The larger the distance between the upper floor and the lower floor, the more steps you're going to need.

I find it easiest to have an odd number of steps. In this example, I have 9--the minimum that I feel is a good number for stairs.

Now that you have all of your steps lined up, you're going to want to raise the first step you placed. We'll call that step 1.

This next bit is going to seem strange until you really think about it--in a staircase of 9 steps, I want to raise step 5 next--the middle step. This is because it's easy to divide spaces in half visually, but much harder to accurately guess what 1/9th of the space looks like. If I were to raise step 2, I would need to divide the remaining space into 9. By raising step 5 and using it to divide the distance between the lower floor and the upper floor, I know for a fact that step 5 is exactly where it needs to go. It's the middle step, and it goes midway up.

Next, we're going to divide the space between step 1 and step 5. That would be step 3, the middle step of the remaining steps.

Now we get to divide the space between step 1 and step 3. Logically, that means we're raising step 2, as that's the step between 1 and 3.

There's a large gap between steps 3 and 5. We should probably fix that by raising step 4.

We now have half our stairway complete. It looks nice, and it didn't take any camera swiveling or multiple raises and lowerings of the steps to get them spaced properly. Which means that since we have half complete, we should probably think about the other half. We do the same thing, raising step 7 to split the space between the bottom floor and step 5.

Then we raise step 6 to split the space between 5 and 7.

Next, we raise step 8 to split the space between 7 and the bottom floor.

Finally, we raise step 9 a bit to make sure step 8 can be reached from the bottom floor. You may have to adjust the spacings of steps 8 and 9 to get their distances to match the rest of the steps.

In just a few minutes, you've produced a nice, even staircase with a minimum of hassle.

Here's a video showing the building of a staircase in action:

And here's the slideshow I presented at SOE Live 2014's Hardcore Decorating player panel.