The Story of Two Stories

A year and a half ago I took on the task of building a garage on our property.  I’ve done some carpentry in the past and it had always been a dream of mine to build something like this on my own.

Now, by “on my own” I don’t mean without help!

I called on friends who know what they’re doing when it comes to things like…

               Designing something workable

               Digging around in the dirt

               Starting on a plumb-level-square foundation

               Muscling big beams and trusses into place

             And playing around with electricity

Beyond those minor details, I guess I was able to scratch my head long enough to figure out the top from the bottom and the short from the long, and then nail them all together, until finally – just more than a year later – we had this in our back yard!

A two car, two story garage!



The challenge of creativity for me then became: Besides a ladder, how shall we get up to the second story?

So I started doing some doodling and drafting and crunching some numbers and came up with a solution…STAIRS!  A corner staircase to be precise. 

 Getting to work then, I began by building a frame for the first stair of the landing where the stairs will turn 90 degrees. 

Then I thought I’d be creative… 

You should know, I’m a bit of a wood hoarder.  We live near the salty sea of Semiahmoo Bay and I’m a sucker for a nice piece of drift wood.  One day a few years back I wanted to know how long it would take to walk on the beach from Semiahmoo Bay around Birch Point to Birch Bay.  (If you’re not from this area, search these names on Google Maps to give you some sense of what I’m talking about.) 

I set out at Semiahmoo Park as the tide was waning.  Somewhere along the way, closer to the end than the beginning, I came across this wonderful piece of drift wood…  A log really, I suppose, but a log that looked like it was from an old log cabin. 

Well I can’t just let this beauty lay here and drift away on the ocean waters for years upon ages until it might finally become so saturated with the weight of saltwater that it sinks to unknown depths never to be found by another human soul! 

That was just about as dramatic as I needed to make it to convince myself to heave this bulk of a beam up onto my back and heft it along for the remainder of my beach trek.  I can still remember the looks on the faces of my three kids and my wife as I came into view.   

What is that?
That looks heavy!
You carried that the whole way?
Another piece of driftwood?

Back to the stairs though, I held onto that log for just such a purpose as this:  A strong and stout corner post for the landing!  

I sawed out a groove...

Fit the post into place...

Secured the post to the floor...

And finally bolted the landing to the log.

And, voila...

With the landing well set, I measured out and cut three stringers for the lower length of stairs. 

Then came the kick boards for each stair’s rise. 

Then came the treads for each stair’s run…

My wife and I moved our small family from Portland to Blaine ten and a half years ago.  Our reasons were various and our plans were near certain, but neither our reasons or plans included my working at the local oil refinery. 

That season turned out to be fruitful on multiple levels, one of which was that my heaping pile…I mean inventory of wood grew.  I noticed one day, buried in the underbrush of an overgrown laydown yard near the back of the refinery property, two ten foot long twelve by twelve timbers.  They would have been used originally as cribbing for shipping large machinery. 

It was immediately obvious they were oak and even more obvious they needed to be mine. 

Well I can’t just let these beauties lay here and rot away under the overgrowth out of eye shot for anyone within miles until they might finally become so soggy and saggy that they crumble into the richness of soils never to be found by another human soul! 

Again, that was just about as dramatic as I needed to make it to convince myself to pull the necessary strings and drive those beams out the gate of the refinery and to the mill, where I had them milled down into boards…

…for just such a use as this:  Stair treads!

I cut them down to length and planed them down to thickness and screwed them into place.

Then it was time to turn the corner.  To save length space at the end of the stairs and head room in the trusses, I decided on a three stair swing; each one turned 30 degrees.  In all honesty, the fact that it worked totally surprised me.

 Finally, the home stretch; from corner landing to loft.  

I cut three more stringers and fastened them together at the end, then fastened them into place. 

Again, I screwed the kick boards for each stair’s rise into place and the treads for each stair’s run.

The last piece to the whole creative puzzle was to solid up the trusses I’d have to cut into.  I used a piece of sheeting as a sort of massive gusset to hold all the arms of the truss in place.  And when I cut into it…  The truss didn’t drop even a fraction of an inch.   


Finished at last!  A solid and creative stair case that is equally as useful as it is unique. 


Popular Posts