Introduction: Foam Dog Stairs

This is Mischa, my 13 year old, cancer-survivor, Maltese. She's in one of her favorite spots, sleeping on the couch, but her joints ache and she can't get up and down her typical doggie stair anymore. They're too steep and narrow for her, so I decided to make her custom steps.

She's very small, so I made the rise on my steps just 4", which is low enough for her to walk up without jumping. I made the run (depth) a full 12" which is enough for her to get all the way up one step before she has to climb the next one, even when she's facing directly up the stairs. Finally, I'm making the stairs 24" wide which gives her enough room to turn sideways and lay down. Since I'm using foam sheets as my material, the same stuff the couch cushions are made of, each step is basically a doggie bed. And yes, I've caught her sleeping on the final stairs.

Step 1: The Material

This is a dense upholstery foam sheet, 4" thick by 24" wide by 72" long. I found them on Amazon for $43 each. I need a total rise of 12", or three steps, so I'll be cutting out:

  • Top step: 12" x 24"
  • Middle step: 24" x 24"
  • Bottom step: 36" x 24"

That divides a single sheet nicely into three parts, which I can just stack to make my stairs.

Step 2: The Tools... Well, Tool.

Yes, that's just an electric carving knife. I'd hesitated for a long time before starting this project because I wasn't sure how I was going to cut the foam cleanly; I thought I'd need to compress it with a straight-edge and use a very sharp utility knife. I didn't want to purchase a specialized foam-cutting tool, since I only needed to make three straight cuts.

I found a DIY foam-cutting router-like device demonstrated on YouTube, and it was just a table with one of these carving knives mounted underneath with the blade poking up through a hole. So I decided to try it freehand, and it cuts really well! Nice clean cuts, no burning, no bits of foam everywhere, and it's easy to get a fairly straight line.

Step 3: The Layout

I just measured out 12", 24", and 36" from one edge, and drew lines using a sharpie. Can't get simpler than that.

Step 4: Cut and Stacked

You can see that my cuts are about as straight as my layout lines were. Let's just say they've got that handmade "character". I planned to cover them, so I wasn't too concerned.

I had also planned to glue them together, using some spray adhesive. I decided not to; spraying the stuff inside my apartment, without great ventilation, seemed like a bad idea. It turns out that the foam sticks to itself really well too, so mostly the steps don't move around once stacked. Your results with a bigger dog may vary, though.

Step 5: Covered (loosely) and In-place

I bought some fabric to use to make a cover, but that'll be a future project. For now I've just draped the fabric over the steps and tucked it in. This has been working well enough, but a fitted and sewn cover will definitely be better.

I've also shown the old stairs, for comparison. The difference is huge, and those little steps cost as much on sale as as the foam sheet. Their regular price is $60.

Step 6: Happy Dog

Finally, here's Mischa trying out her new stairs. She's much happier, now that she can get to and from her favorite spot on the couch!