Well I managed to get the old staircase out without too much
difficulty by cutting the middle section out - see
I've posted links to a few pictures too. The new staircase arrives
today, and the next part of the fun begins.
The replacement will be a winder staircase, with the winder section at
the bottom, starting from the former understair cupboard entrance in
the rear reception room of the house. I've seen instructions for
assembling staircases, but all of them start with the assembly in a
nice large open space, so the staircase can be asembled sideways and
then moved into position. Unfortunately this won't be possible for me
as an assembled staircase can't be manoeuvred around the corners. As
far as I can see the most difficult part will be assembling the winder
box in situ, since it's at floor level and will be difficult to move.
Does anyone have experience of assembling a winder staircase in an
enclosed stairwell? Any tips welcome!
So looking at:
Is the entrance going to be at the far end need the CU?
What is the layout at the top going to be? (i.e. are the stairs winding
again, or meeting a landing etc?
Yes - looking at that picture it will be from the right. The meter
and CU have now been moved to under the other end of the staircase.
The stairs will meet a landing, which used to be a cupboard off the
front bedroom. The side and rear walls of the cupboard have been
removed and I have constructed a stud wall to form a corridor to the
back bedroom. The local authority building inspector is happy with
everything, the only extra requirements being mains smoke alarms and
escapable upstairs windows because the stairs are now off an inner
room (both of which were already there - I have already moved the
smoke alarm and rewired the upstairs lighting to move the landing
light and light switches as necessary).
I've put an annotated floorplan at http://tinyurl.com/3lo5mlq .
The stairs have now arrived (as a flatpack) - I've positioned the
strings in the stairwell and done a dry run assembly of the winder
section, made some minor modifications to get the strings to fit and
and just need to machine about 25x10mm off a corner of the newel post
to fit in the new entrance to the stairwell (a friend with a router's
coming round tomorrow to help me). Just looking for hints from anyone
who has some experience of putting a winder staircase together.
Well I have built a winder staircase from scratch (rather than a kit):
although in slightly more accessible circumstances. However, the fact
that you will have access to the underside of the stairs via your new
under stair cupboard door makes things much simpler. (if you haven't
done that bit yet - now is the time!)
Some of the specifics will depend on your kit - and which bits are
separate. I am guessing that the string on the back wall of the stairs
(i.e. opposite side to the ground floor entrance) will be one continuous
piece that includes rebates for one triangle and half the kite step at
the bottom. I designed mine such that I fixed the longest string and the
adjacent end wall sections to the walls first, and these carried all the
load for that side of the stairs. Some pre-made kits may also have a
"leg" at the back of the winder (or the string may be designed to sit on
the floor) to make it partly free standing without reliance on the
wall. Then the string suspended from the newels (which in your case
will be fitted to the other wall).
Once all the strings were in place it was just a case of inserting
treads and risers, starting at the bottom and worked up. Each step being
inserted from the back of the strings and retained with glued wedges.
 could not do that on mine since they were over free space and not a
Thanks for the advice, John - your staircase project was on an
entirely different scale from mine!
To show how the layout will work I've put up a picture of the dry run
with the first few treads in place: http://tinyurl.com/63sd9vw . The
long string is in one hockey-stick shaped piece, which will need some
support at the corner. As you will see I've temporarily supported the
corner of the staircase on some bricks and a block of wood to do the
dry run. The staircase manufacturer has supplied some lengths of
25mmx25mm timber in addition to all the obvious parts - I haven't
measured these yet but suspect that at least one of them will be to
support the corner, although I'm not yet sure what the others are
for. The manufacturer has a video on their web site showing the
basics of how to assemble one of their staircases but this doesn't
show a winder assembly.
In the end I think the main fiddly parts will be:
- making any necessary adjustments to the newel post and ensuring the
kite fits squarely (I don't think the stairwell corner is exactly a
right angle. Additionally, I had to make my measurements for the
length of the staircase at first floor level since the original stairs
were in place at the time and have now found that the end wall seems
to lean outwards slightly, making the fit tighter than I expected.
Looks like I've got a few mm of flying freehold over next door!)
- getting the wedges in place under the bottom tread because it's so
close to the floor
- padding out the sides, since only part of the stairwell is plastered
and I've found that the stairwell width also tapers inwards as you go
up as well. I was deliberately conservative and rounded the width of
the staircase down by 1cm, and my dry run shows that I was wise to do
so as there is less than 5mm of play at some points near the top.
My friend's arriving with his router this afternoon, so assembly in
earnest should start later today.
Wish me luck!
I certainly wish you luck. I installed a winder staircase last year
but had two advantages, in that the straight flight was already
assembled, and the ground floor part of my stair well was open to one
side. I did have a few issues with length as there was an end wall.
Had to do some juggling at the top as the stairs had been made with
the going 1 inch too long, and the newel post also needed a couple of
inches sawn off the bottom, for the thing to sit level. Fitting the
winders was just a matter of shoving and cursing to get everything
properly in the slots, then crawling underneath with glued wedges and
a hammer. I also added some 2x2 props under the hockey stick end of
the stringer, and under the treads themselves, fixed with screws. All
seems quite solid now, with only a minor creak. If your stair well
isn't square at the bottom, I think one of your main issues is going
to be getting the winder portion all square, with treads fully and
neatly in the slots on the end stringer and the newel, but I'm sure
cursing will work.
Makes it sound like an airfix kit ;-)
Don't actually think there is much difference apart from the need for
bannisters etc - but those are the easy bits.
You can just screw it to the wall. I fixed mine with a 4" screw through
the string under each step (which was probably overkill - every other
step would be fine). The need for legs etc is more for the aid of the
person making the stairs in free space in a workshop without the benefit
of walls to fix to.
In which case you can hack plaster of one edge of the end wall to not
only give you a bit more length to play with, but also correct the out
of square corner.
The first riser may be tricky. If needs be, cut the wedges a little
shorter so that you can insert them from the side rather than needing to
tap them in from below floor level. Use a pry bar to nudge them tight
once in their rebates since you won't be able to hit them directly. Once
the bottom riser is in, the first tread ought to be ok since those
wedges will be going in horizontally.
Yup pack it out where required. You can make it all fit visually when
Depending on how yours have been made, you may find that you need to
trim the edges of the routed slots in the newel for the risers to fit.
Usually they are routed slots as for the treads, but because the corner
risers meet the newel at an angle the slot axis can be wrong.
Certainly an impressive project, John (I was thinking it made mine
look more like an Airfix kit :-)
Anyway, started on the assembly this afternoon, and have almost
resolved the fiddly bits. My friend made his own winder staircase
some time ago and recommended fixing it to the wall with 16mm
Rawlbolts - so we've got 4 of these on the long string and 3 on the
shorter one. I've left them loosely fixed for now as I'm still
shoving things around and cursing! We fixed the right angled corner
together using 2 x 75mm screws, and for now I've still got the corner
supported on bricks. Looked more closely at the mystery pieces of
wood in the kit - they actually taper so must be the wedges for the
winders. There are also two dowels for fixing the LH string to the
I have packed around the corner area to get a good right angle and can
now get all treads to fit comfortably except the first winder, which
currently sits about 10mm too far forward on the left (in the newel
post) if it's mounted correctly in the RH string. I think my
stairwell is slightly trapezoidal and at some point not quite long
enough for the staircase (the top of the stairs rests on a joist which
I would prefer not to hack into). It's also possible that the kite is
a tiny bit too wide somewhere (or the slot in the newel post for it
not deep enough) as I can set the newel post so that the kite is
tightly fixed but the two winders are loose.
Because the bottom of the stairs is in the former under stair cupboard
which wasn't plastered I unfortunately don't have much leeway if any
dimension is too large, and a building regs compliant staircase only
fits with, according to my calculations, 6mm to spare, so I knew this
would be tight (I thought I had 6mm from the finished wall, but it
looks like the wall leans out by about 15mm, so have lost that!).
Thanks to everyone for the advice - onwards and (hopefully) upwards,
with more cursing :)
I had the advantage of being able to cheat a little. I made each tread
and riser as I went, and so could fiddle slightly if I needed to. I was
also able to arrange for the first step to be pretty much over the
existing landing by creating a slightly anamorphic kite to shift the
lower winder more over to the side than it normally would be. This gave
a tad more headroom under the stairs (which in my case was where the
original stairs were)
Well it wasn't as bad as I expected :)
After much bashing (and cursing) I concluded that the best action was
to take about 10mm off the leading inner edge of the kite, and after
that the winder box went together well. I suspect that in free space
the staircase would have gone together OK, but something was
constraining it at the bottom and I didn't have much leeway to move it
around. All I then had to do was to cut the first three risers to
size, and the winder box was completed in about 2 hours. The rest of
the staircase went together easily, and I was packing and tightening
the rawlbolts to get the right width as I went up. Here are a few
pictures of the end result, including one showing the fixing technique
All that remains to do is glue the triangular wedges to the back of
the treads (I'll leave the staircase to bed in first) and fit the top
tread into the floor of the landing. Then a load of making good!
Thanks, John - and Richard for your advice too. I knew this staircase
would be tight and a couple of centimetres of extra width to the house
would have made it much easier to fit (conversely, I guess if the
house had been a couple of centimetres narrower I'd have had to replan
the staircase altogether, probably with the first step projecting
slightly into the back reception room - but the staircase looks much
better without this, of course). Anyway, it shows that DIY
measurement and online ordering can work, and I was impressed by the
quality of the delivered kit.
Just a few more tweaks to finish off - I'll need to check with the
building regs people whether I can get away with a straight handrail
on the inside of the stairwell or have to make a profiled handrail on
the outside like John's (if anyone has experience of this, please let
me know - I suspect the latter will be required, but might be able to
persuade them that a straight handrail overlapping the newel post
technically overlaps all treads except the bottom one!). The house is
an investment property so I'm renovating on a fairly tight budget. I
expect to narrow the finished entrance to the stairwell so that the
newel post will be concealed as seen from the back reception room.
After the staircase the next jobs will be to complete the studwork
upstairs to add a new cupboard on the opposite side of the house from
the old one, then finish levelling the kitchen/bathroom floor.
That'll keep me busy!
I think you probably can. They will be more interested in it being the
right height above the centreline of the stairs.
Having attempted to bend a pigs ear handrail the once, next time it
will be done in segments!
 It was an attempt to replicate the elegant curves you often see in
victorian places on handrails by stairs. I thought of attempting steam
bending but wan not convinced I would be able to control the direction
of bend properly with the awkward shape of the pigs ear handrail. So in
the end I did it by slicing up the handrail end on a table saw to make
laminations, with cuts at a kerf's spacing. I then repeated the same on
some ordinary softwood to create a bunch of thin laths that could
replace the missing wood in the hand rail. Glued it all up, stuck the
laths into the handrail and bent the whole thing and clamped to a
former. Once it was dry it was then a case of planing away the excess
lath sticking out. Not too difficult on the outside of the curve - but
harder on the inside. finished off with plenty of filler a lick from a
power file. Looked ok in the end - but possibly not worth the effort.
(you will note I did not do the same for the last section going round
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.