Assembling a winder staircase in a confined space

Well I managed to get the old staircase out without too much difficulty by cutting the middle section out - see http://groups.google.com/group/uk.d-i-y/browse_thread/thread/092ddbd1612b845f?hl=en #. 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!
David.
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On 05/05/2011 08:48, Dave N wrote:

http://groups.google.com/group/uk.d-i-y/browse_thread/thread/092ddbd1612b845f?hl=en #.
So looking at:
http://www.asbl70.dsl.pipex.com/davidneale/Renovation/Pic%20019.jpg
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?
--
Cheers,

John.

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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.

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On 05/05/2011 23:04, Dave N wrote:

Well I have built a winder staircase from scratch (rather than a kit):
http://www.internode.co.uk/loft/stairs.htm
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[1]. 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.
[1] could not do that on mine since they were over free space and not a floor.
--
Cheers,

John.

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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!
David.
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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.
Good luck!
cheers Richard
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On 06/05/2011 09:38, Dave N wrote:

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 you plaster.

Have fun!
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.
--
Cheers,

John.

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wrote:

<Snip>>
<Snip>>
Nice Work John.
Baz
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On 06/05/2011 14:21, Baz wrote:

Thanks ;-)
I quite enjoyed building those.
--
Cheers,

John.

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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 newel post.
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 :)
David.
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On 06/05/2011 22:25, Dave N wrote:

Yup that should do it nicely ;-)

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)

Yup. Do us some photos when done ;-)
--
Cheers,

John.

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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 I used: http://tinyurl.com/6g9fzec http://tinyurl.com/5vaq24c http://tinyurl.com/63o3uuq http://tinyurl.com/67cjf9m
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!
Many thanks!
David.
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On 07/05/2011 16:53, Dave N wrote:

Quite satisfying when it all goes together I found ;-)

Nice job!

--
Cheers,

John.

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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!
David.
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On 08/05/2011 09:47, Dave N wrote:

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[1] a pigs ear handrail the once, next time it will be done in segments!

[1] 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 the winder!)
--
Cheers,

John.

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If I end up making a handrail for the outside of the staircase I think I'll do it the easy way - join, sculpt, fill and paint!
Many thanks!
David.
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