Up until about six weeks ago, I had a largish house with a basement, a shop, a lumber pile, a mountain of hardware, and a river. Conveniently situated on a wooded acre with no noise ordinance. As long as my diy madness didn't require more than an acre of space, there were no restrictions on the scope or execution of my projects. I could build, leave my tools in the living room, cut holes in the walls. Whatever my hacking heart desired...
Then my guy and I split and I left my doer's paradise and moved into a corner of a smaller house on a regular sized lot in town.
My mom's house.
I love my mom a boatload and am glad she's willing to put a roof over my head til I find a suitable space, but I gotta say it's less than ideal for either of us. I'm 35 years old. I have a table saw and a teenage son. I have been known to leave my tools in the living room. And here's the kicker: my mom likes her house just the way it is. She doesn't want it changed. She and my stepdad don't want their place "modded".
But they can't monitor me 24 hours a day. So I do what I do. I try to do it subtly without making a giant mess, but I do it anyway.
Sorry, Mom. I can't help it.
Which brings us to the first (maybe only, we'll see) Mod My Mom's House -ible... a loft ladder. My temporary bedroom is in the loft space above the office, and I just can't jump that high. Traditional stairs are floor space hogs, and ordinary ladders are soooo boring.
Modeled loosely from a ship's stairway, this ladder uses just a handful of materials and takes up very little real estate. It also went up in a snap.
And in case you were wondering, I didn't even leave my tools in the living room.
Note: This, like most of my projects, is probably in violation of your local building code and may or may not be safe for the loads you intend to put on it. Works just fine for me, but it might not for you. Just so you know.
Also, I forgot to wear my gloves and safety glasses, but I am a very bad example of safe work habits (see DIY Sutures). Wear yours and work safely.
We good? Alright, then: let's make a ladder!
Step 1: Gather your tools & materials
saw(s): compound miter saw, jig saw, table saw
drill, driving bit, countersink bit
staple gun with staples
10' stick - 2x6 fir
9' - 1x4.5 Brazilian Cherry wood flooring
2- short lengths 2x2
11 - heavy duty iron handrail brackets
pile of screws
Pile of bolts & nuts
Simpson Strong Tie joist hanger
2- IKEA shelf brackets (to help stabilize the bottom, since I couldn't fasten anything directly to the floor)
few scraps of spongy grip shelf liner
primer & paint and/or stain
Step 2: Measure, Mark & Cut
-Measure and mark notch where ladder will rest against loft. Top mark should be parallel to the first two (as pictured). Cut.
-On the side of the first step, mark 6" from the bottom and every 16" for a total of 5 steps. Repeat on the other side, with the first mark at 14", bringing the total to 10 marked steps (You could actually fit an 11th step in there without issue, should you decide you prefer an additional 8" boost at the top. I had an 11th, but took it off because it seemed awkward on my first few climbs.)
Tip: If you have other stairs accessible, go climb a few times to establish your lead off foot, or at least mentally climb some steps before deciding on which side the first should be. I think you'll find you have a natural first step foot. Let it be your guide.
-Run the cherry through the table saw twice, removing the tongue the first pass and groove the second (I used flooring, remember).
-From the tongueless/grooveless cherry, cut 9 1/2" lengths for the treads (10-11).
-Bevel the front of each tread at 22 degrees.
-Bevel the 2x2 short at 45 degrees, then cut two 7 1/2" lengths. These pieces will be fastened to both the 2x6 and the loft ledge at the vertical notch point in order to both bolster/square the joint and to create a smoother visual transition between wall and ladder.
Step 3: Predrill, Paint, and Fasten
-Situate the two shelf brackets at the very bottom edges of the 2x6 (where it will meet the floor) mark and pre-drill the 2x6 to accommodate those fasteners.
-Give the 2x6 a quick sanding to remove rough spots.
-Prime and paint the 2x6 (just don't fill in all your predrilled holes) as well as the two 7 1/2" lengths of beveled 2x2
Note: this bit of finish work could have been done later, but it's just so much easier to paint before the hardware gets in the way.
-When the paint is dry, fasten the 10 rail brackets and the two shelf brackets to the 2x6
-Mark and pre-drill through the face of all treads (with your countersink bit) where they will be bolted to the rail brackets (the beveled edge of each tread will share the same plane as the front face of the 2x6 when fastened, so a straight edge along the face can act as a tread placement guide).
-Fasten the treads
Step 4: Strong Tie Finish
Screw the 2x2 shorts to the 2x6, then to the loft face.
Screw the Strong Tie to the ladder, then to the loft.
Put some spongy/grippy shelf liner on the bottom of the ladder (2x6 and shelf brackets) to help protect the flooring below.
Touch up the paint where necessary and add any final touches like tread tape or hand holds.