Introduction: Cat Staircase Deluxe

Here’s my take on a cat staircase.  My cats love climbing, and I wanted to create something that would look good in the space while adding light to my dimly lit office.

My friend Alan and I were inspired by this project at IKEAHackers, and set aside a weekend to create two our own design, one for each of us.  It took the weekend plus several nights, and we love how they turned out.

The backbone of the staircase is the Stolmen post from IKEA, with mounting fixtures to lock the steps in place.   Each step is two feet long, carpeted on top, and has a light chamber on the bottom.  The steps span from 2’ to 7’ off the floor.  The main light is provided by 27’ of white LED ribbon, and color-changing LED strips provide ambiance lighting.  The steps are very sturdy and don’t shake at all, even with our 15 lb. cats.

The cats absolutely love these and are on them all the time.  They’ll run up to the window ledge or sleep on the different steps.   They’ll even leapfrog over each other to get where they’re going.

Step 1: Materials

Bendy Board (Bendable plywood), ¼” by 4’ by 8’ (need about half a sheet)
1” by 10” by 12‘ Lumber (cut into 2’ lengths at the store for easy transport)
3/16” x 2’ by 2’ Lauan Plywood
(3 sheets) Corrugated Plastic, 18” x 24” SuperClear 4mm (corrugatedplastics.net)
Scrap ½” plywood, about 14” x 9”
(14) 2 ½” x ¼” machine screws with nuts
(3) 1” x ¼” machine screws
(6) 2 ½” x 1/8” machine screws
(12) ¼” acorn nuts
(6) 1/8” acorn nuts
(16)  1” washers
(12) ½” washers
Gorilla Wood Glue, Wood Putty

IKEA Stuff
Stolmen Post, white 
(6) Stolmen Mounting Fixture
(2) 2’2” x 3’3” Door Mats or a 2’ by 6’ piece of carpet
Color-changing LED strips (“Dioder” kit)

Lighting Stuff
(2) 12v LED ribbon, Warm white 16.4’ roll  (LEDwholesalers)
12v, 4 amp transformer
White electrical tape
Soldering Iron, Solder, etc

Painting Stuff
Primer
Paint - we used Glidden Vintage White semi-gloss
Paint supplies - roller, etc

Step 2: Tools

Earplugs and eye protection

Table, Compound Miter, Jigsaw Saw

Drill with bits, plus a 2” hole-cut bit

Sander & sandpaper

Brad nailer with staples

Hand tools:  Hammer, screwdriver, etc

Step 3: Create a Basic Step

Cut each 2’ step out of the 1”x12” wood.

Drill the 2” post hole at one end, and trim that end into a semicircle.  (we used a bowl for tracing)

Drill an additional 1/8” hole near the other end (will support the cover)

Label the top so we can keep track of each step’s components.

Step 4: Add Spacers for the Hardware

We’ll use the Stolmen Mounting Fixture to attach the step to the post, but there's a gap between the fixture and the step that we need to fill.  

Cut two 1” x 2” wooden spacers from the ¼” plywood.  Glue them to the bottom of the step, on opposite sides of the post hole.

Slide the step onto the post and mark where the fixture’s holes line up.  Drill ¼” holes for the attachment screws.

Step 5: Cut the Carpets

Trace each step onto the carpet and cut it out.  

Trace and cut out the 2” post hole.  Don't cut out the smaller screw holes.

Step 6: Cut Wood for the Sides

*** Be safe and protect your eyes, ears, and other body parts.

Cut 2 ½” wide strips from the plywood and bendy board.

If you're not familiar with Bendy Board, it’s a plywood made with all the plies in one direction.  If you’re cutting it with a table saw, use front and back supports so the board doesn't snap under its own weight.  The board will curve up, so create a guard to hold it down against the table using a straight edge and clamps.

Step 7: Make a "Lift" to Hold the Steps During Assembly

Create a lift – a spacer -- by gluing two 20” pieces of the ¼” plywood together.

We’ll place each step on this while we attach the sides, and this will give us a nice, consistent 3/8” lip.

Step 8: Attach the End Piece

Cut a strip of plywood to the exact width of the step – ours was 9 ¼” -- and glue & staple it into place.

Step 9: Attach the Bendy Board

Tip:  Make sure the air pressure of your stapler is correct by testing it out on scrap pieces of the bendy board.  If the pressure’s too high the staples will shoot right through the soft board.

For each step…

Measure a length of bendy board by holding it in place around the edge of the step, and marking where it extends past the end.

Attach it by working from one end to the other, using more staples and wood glue than usual.  The tension makes the board pull away from the step, and the staples hold it in place while the glue sets.

I recommend using Gorilla Wood Glue.  We tried other brands and they didn't hold the board at all.

Step 10: Paint the Steps

Hammer in any exposed staples and use wood filler to fill in any dents.  Fill in any large gaps with caulk or wood putty.

Sand down the outer sides of the step, and prime and paint.

You don’t need to paint the top of each step, since it gets covered by the carpet.

Step 11: Cut the Plastic Covers

Cut a cover from the corrugated plastic for each step, and trim it to fit inside the bendy board. 

Cut the post and screw holes into the plastic cover.  Make sure they line up exactly or they won't fit together later.

Step 12: Assemble the Brackets

Assemble the fixtures to the steps, but leave everything loose so it can fit onto the post.

Step 13: Add the Lights

Cut six pieces of LED ribbon, each 54” long, and solder them to 2’ pieces of wire. 

Attach the ribbon and wire to the step.  Start at one end of the bendy board siding and work your way around the curve to the other end.  Leave the flat end piece uncovered.  Route the wire back to the post and attach it to the bottom of the step.

TIP:  Use a bit of hot glue to attach the ribbon to the step.  The ribbon has an adhesive backing, but it only held for a couple of days so I had to redo the lights..

If you’re using the LED bars, glue them in place and route the wiring to the post.  I cut the 4-wire lines to fit, but you could use them at full length if you don’t mind the extra wire.

Step 14: Position and Mount the Post

The post has an optional brace, but you’ll have to place the post 10" from the wall if you want to use it. 

Place steps in the floor to determine placement of the post and install the ceiling bracket.

My staircase had to be right up against the wall to avoid a doorway, so I couldn't use the brace that came with the post and needed to make my own.

Step 15: (Optional) Create a Wall Brace

A wall brace will make the post very steady and prevent it from turning.

A brace can be made from an 8” x 9” piece of ½” plywood, or larger if your post is further from the wall.

Drill a 2” hole at the right position and crop off the outer corners, and add stain or paint as desired.

Step 16: Prepare the Step for the Brace

Trace the outline of the brace onto the top step, to see where it overlaps.  Trace the outline of the fixture too.

Cut spacers from the 20” lift we made earlier and glue them to the step.  Make sure to steer clear of the area over the fixture.

Trim the carpet piece to make room for the spacers and fit it into place

Step 17: Attach the Brace to the Top Step

Slide the top step onto the post, and tighten the screws connecting the step to the fixture. 

Slide the brace onto the post and line it up with the step. 

Mark and drill ¼” holes, taking care to avoid the fixture hardware. 

Use the long screws and 1” washers to lock it all together.

Step 18: (Optional) Add a Footer Brace If Needed

A footer brace will turn a springy carpet into a solid base.  It shouldn't be needed for solid floors, and you should be careful not to damage your floors.

A brace can be made from a 6” by 9” piece of ½” plywood, or larger if your post is further from the way.
Add three screws that line up with the holes in the post footer.   Note that the screws just hold the footer in position, and they don’t actually screw into it.

Add stain or paint as desired.

Step 19: Slide Everything Onto the Post

Line up the components in order – top carpet, top step, top cover, second carpet, second step, second cover, etc.  Check and double check to make sure you've got everything in the right order.

Slide all the pieces onto the post, just enough to fit onto the post.  It’s easier to lift the post if everything is near the bottom.

Step 20: Lift the Post Into Position

Lift the post into place and fit it into the ceiling bracket.  Add the floor brace if you’re using one.

Extend the footer and lock the post into place.

Step 21: Secure the Top Step and Wall Mount

Slide the top shelf into position, tighten the fixture bolts to secure it. 

The end of the step will sag at first, but you can hold it up horizontally to make it easier to tighten the bolts.

Get the top step really, really, secure, and attach the brace to the wall if you’re using it.  The whole post should feel very stable.

Step 22: Secure All the Steps

Work your way down the steps, positioning each one and tightening it in place.

Space them out and rotate any way you like - I separated my steps by 8”, and Alan used 11”. 

Even after they're secure you can still twist them horizontally, so you can try out different arrangements and see what works best.

Step 23: Wire the Lights

*** Be careful with electricity and take any necessary precautions. 

Once the steps are in their final arrangement, drill holes to feed the wiring through. 

Place your transformer and run a wire from its output to power the first step. 

Connect the power to the step’s light ribbon, using the wire you routed from the ribbon to the post earlier.   Test to make sure the lights work, and tie in another 1'-long wire to power the next step.   Each step’s is wired in parallel to the others.

Feed the connector wire through the hole you just drilled, through the carpet and plastic cover, and to the next set of lights. 

Wire the color bars using the same technique.  Since I was wiring the color bars on each step individually, I reversed the Green and Blue lines on alternating steps for an interesting fade pattern.

Secure the wires to the step bottom so they won’t create a shadow on the plastic cover.  I used white tape and just a bit of hot glue, and they’re completely unnoticeable.

Repeat for each step.

Step 24: Finishing Up

Slide the plastic covers up onto the screws and add the acorn nuts to lock them in place.

Slide the carpet into position, and secure with a bit of double-sided tape.

Tape the wires to the post to hide them.

Step 25: Final Thoughts

If I were to create more of these, I would try RGB ribbon instead of the two sets of white and color.  This would simplify the wiring and make the color washes more intense, but I’d want to make sure the white setting (actually R+B+G) still looked good.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial, and I welcome your feedback.

We love the final results.  The cats use them constantly.

Comments

author
IvliaVespasia made it! (author)2014-05-16

Love the idea but might be tempted to use strip LED lights under each step as all I'd need to do is run the wires down the central pipe then connect together and plug into the mains. It also means that you can switch each step on (and off) individually as wanted. Will definitely be making for our cat though.

author
sbrown9578 made it! (author)2014-03-17

This is a great idea, the only thing I would do different is use a pole that I could run the wiring inside the pipe and small holes under the individual shelves to supply the lights with electricity. I think I may use this instructable but without any lighting. My cats like to chew wires. Haven't been able to break them of the habit, nothing but eliminating wiring altogether has worked. Spent pretty penny over the years replacing chewed up wires. I don't know why my cats haven't been fried yet, or at least have kitty afros. LOL Great instructable, thank you

author
Newa1030 made it! (author)2013-11-04

Cool instructable! I like the idea with the IKEA themed user manual :P As a Swedish person I approve of this :D Will share with my friends!

author
Lindie made it! (author)2013-09-19

Nice!

author
Eh Lie Us! made it! (author)2013-09-19

Right on. Great step-by-step pictures.

author
lostbord999 made it! (author)2013-09-15

This is very cool. I know the cats are going to enjoy this!

author
ecurtain made it! (author)ecurtain2013-09-19

They do indeed, thanks!

author
tseay made it! (author)2013-09-17

Love your design and how you made the it into lighting. But I think really big cats that are a little rowdy might break the steps. Or at least how the steps are mounted on the pole. Great idea though. Do you know what weight your steps can take? Curious kids might play with them too. Is there a way to get Ikea hardware without buying the whole kit?

author
ecurtain made it! (author)ecurtain2013-09-18

Hi Tseay,

The main body of each step is a piece of solid 1" lumber, so I think they're quite strong.  We chose lumber instead of plywood for the steps so they'd be as strong as possible.

I've had extra cats in the house for the past month.  There have been three 15 lb cats, plus a smaller one, using the staircase.

They get rowdy, *running* up and down, jumping over each other, occasionally fighting, etc.  Sometimes two will sit together, so the steps will support at least 30 lbs.   The steps haven't moved at all.  

I would definitely discourage kids from playing on the steps.  The steps can be positioned  higher to deter climbing.

There's no need to buy a kit.  We purchased the post by itself, and got the brackets in a pack of four.   Three packs gave us 12 brackets, just enough for two staircases.

Hope this helps!

author
Attmos made it! (author)2013-09-16

I agree, it's very cool. I've thought about something like this for my cats too. Where did you find this Bendy Board?

author
tseay made it! (author)tseay2013-09-17

Bendy board also known as laminate, some so thin you can cut it with a exacto knife. Hobby stores, lumber yards carry it.

author
ecurtain made it! (author)ecurtain2013-09-16

Hi Attmos,

We found ours at plywoodcompany.com, under "bending luaun". The folks there were very helpful. One sheet was enough for both our staircases, with quite a bit left over.

We'd ordered it for a different project, and gotten extra because it was so interesting. It's been sitting in my garage ever since, just waiting for a project!

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