Here’s to the man who invented stairs
And taught our feet to soar!
He was the first who ever burst
Into a second floor.
– Oliver Herford
A spiraling adventure
Stairs are the most common tree house “accessory” you’ll find. For adult and even some children’s tree houses, they can contain more of the ascetic beauty and splendor than the actually tree house itself. They are the first and last part of the tree house you step across and should be built just as strong as the tree house above. Don’t forget that creativity can be found in anything, even in the practical necessity of getting up and down from your tree house. Also, if you’re looking for something even more simple and rustic, why not opt for just a rope ladder?
Tree house stairs come in all shapes and sizes. Tree house Spiral Stairs Children’s tree houses typically have the simplest design. I have provided a guide in helping you build your own for your kids tree house. Some of the more elaborate designs can be built from wood, steel or even partly glass! Arguably the most fascinating from is the spiral stairwell. Tree houses that have these always get put first in on-line blogs and tree house books. If this is what you’re looking for, this web page may not be too useful for you but I will give you one bit of advise. Always allow the tree room to grow. As you can see from the picture of the right, there is a metal bracket completely surrounding the tree in the middle of the stair. Over time as the tree grows, this will prevent nutrients from getting to the upper part and will eventually kill it if no action is taken. If you’re not sure you wish to tackle adding stairs to your tree house, consider hiring a professional tree house builder to help.
Tree House Stair Tips
One thing I’ve noticed regarding younger kids is that when it comes to steep stairs to a high tree house, the tree house will get used much less often than to a lower tree house or one that has stairs on a more gentle incline. Younger kids love traveling in and out of their tree house and if that process requires an excessive amount of energy, the tree house will be used less often. But if you insist on a high tree house, make sure to split the stairs into two or more sections to prevent long falls in case of an accident.
Building your Own Stairs
If you wish to build your own set of stairs, there any many videos on-line that will guide you step by step through the proper, code compliant process. The way I build them doesn’t adhere to the strict universal stair code but is a much simpler process and works great for most tree houses. You will need some 2x6s and a speed square. Read the instructions below to determine the length and how many 2x6s to get. Usually you only need 3 or 4.
- Measure where the top of the stairs will go to the ground below and multiply by “1.20”. I build my stairs on a 25 degree angle and adding 20 percent will give you the hypotenuse or length of the stair stringer with a bit extra. An uneven slope can cause the stairs to be too long or short. Leaving a little extra on can’t hurt and can simplify be cut off later if need be.
- Place the speed square on the end of one of the 2x6s and mark a line of 65 degrees and cut it off.
- Cut 2 inches off the tip of the 2×6 perpendicular to the last cut you made. This’ll allow you enough thickness to screw the stairs on later.
- Trace the newly cut 2×6 onto the second 2×6 and cut. Now you have two cut stringers. Measure down and mark every 12 inches starting from the top of one stringer. Line the second stringer up exactly with the other and transfer the marks.
- Take your speed square and draw a 25 degree angel at every mark onto both the stringers. The lines should be perpendicular to your first cut of 65 degrees.
- Cut the appropriate amount of treads. I usually make them 20 inches wide which means that combined with the two stringers, the whole stair case will be 23 inches wide.
- Screw the treads into the stringers. The treads will go right under the lines you made on the stringers and will all be 25 degrees off. Make sure to use strong, long screws for this. I recommend at least 3″ R4s.
- Now that the stair is one piece, place against the platform and screw in. The stringers should be flush against the platform joist. If too long, cut off of the stringers from the bottom and try again. If too short, try piling some dirt in the area to build up the grade.