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Steel and Wood Staircase

Kevin’s two favourite materials are steel and wood, so it was no surprise to me when he decided to make a steel and wood staircase for our container house project. We’re about half way there, and we have been using it! It is turning out so beautiful, I can’t help but admire it every time I go up or down stairs.

Kevin has made five staircases including the one we are discussing, so he has a pretty good idea of what it takes to build one. Out of the five, he worked on the design for four of them.To be honest, it’s not something I’d lightly consider doing. The first two he made were solid wood (using Rosewood for the first, and Meranti for the second). He has also made two steel staircases. But this staircase combines both materials, which is really awesome.

Sanding and varnishing the underside of the steel and wood staircase treads
Sanding and varnishing the underside of the treads

In order to post this article, I’ve had to do a bit of homework on “parts of a staircase”. Here’s a useful diagram.

The Science Behind Stairs

Scientists have worked out the best design for staircases. However, I’m sure you’ve had to use a badly designed staircase at some stage of your life and probably already know that it has to be right to be comfortable to use. If the rise between each step is too high or too low, it makes it tiring to use. There’s a point it becomes more of a ladder than a staircase, if the steps themselves are too narrow. If they are too wide, it takes a bit more work to coordinate your gait to coincide with the staircase.

But it doesn’t have to be exact. There’s a bit of leeway in what makes a comfortable staircase.

wood and steel staircase halfway
Half the treads are in!

Making the Steel and Wood Staircase

When it comes to safety though, most of the focus is on the railing. So, when you see our photos in this post, you’ll note that there’s still a lot to be done on the balusters. The railing is there, but it would still be too easy for someone to slip under the rail and fall. But that’s for another day.

Fitting steel hand rail to staircase
Fitting the handrails

To make the carriage (see what fancy jargon I’m learning!), Kevin welded together several lengths of rectangular tubing to make an extremely strong steel “laminate”. To that he has bolted the treads. The treads are pink beech and blackwood; much stronger wood than pine. The combination is beautiful! (You can have a look at our sample tread here).

We’ve completed two layers of varnish on the treads, but there are another four layers of varnish to go before that will be completed.

We also have a decision on how to finish the steel. Are we going to paint it black? Or, are we going to varnish the metal so that we can see the grind marks and welding points? Varnish will truly emphasise the industrial nature of this house, so we are very torn.

What do you think so far? Do you like our steel and wood staircase?

Sanding and polishing the staircase wooden treads
Sanding and polishing the wooden treads

11 thoughts on “Steel and Wood Staircase

  1. You two are amazing. You will have the most unique home when done. It’s looking so good. Congratulations!

    1. That’s for sure! And thank you 🙂

  2. What a lovely, and unique, addition to your home! Well done!

    1. Thank you. It is indeed making a difference to our every day life.

  3. Perfect choice for the space. Love it! I know what you mean about bad stairs- we nicknamed my parents stairs in their house- the stairs of death. It’s actually a real worry, i kinda think a fall is inevitable. Just hope no one breaks anything!

    1. Oh no, about the Stairs of Death! It’s more of a worry as people get older. I hope your parents take care to be mindful when they use them.

  4. Very impressive. There’s clearly a lot of planning and careful measurement involved, and it must be extremely nitpicky work – but the staircase looks great! I vote for painting the steel to cover the joins.

    1. Lots of measuring and making sure everyone is level, for sure! Bit worth the effort ☺️

  5. I love it!

    1. Yay! Thank you!

  6. Looks very cool! I‘d go for clear varnish.

What do you think? Let us know!