Right now I'm building the stairs up to the smaller door while my DW finishes painting the windows. The weather is really helping out right now - only intermittent rain, with the weekends being sunny and in the high 60's.
At my DW's request I put a small landing outside the door, rather than just have the steps run right up to it. I have to admit that this was a good design decision, and probably less of a trip hazard when coming out the door.
I set two posts about 2' into the ground and built a little 3'x3' deck out of 2x4's. Here is my method for doing this:
- Dig the holes
- Build and attach the little deck to the shed - hold up the free end with a board and clamp.
- Set the posts in the holes and make sure you can get level and plumb.
- Attach the posts to the deck.
- Put a small amount of gravel in the holes to hold the post positions, but allow a bit of adjustment
- Tap the posts into fine position with a hammer.
- Fill the holes 1/2 full with gravel and tamp it solid.
- Fill the rest of the holes with dry concrete, add water and mix in the hole.
Cutting the stair supports (stringers) was easier than I thought it would be. In a timely fashion, Fine Homebuilding has an article in the current issue on the best practices for building deck stairs. I used a speed square to lay the steps out, giving them 8" rise and 12" run. Once I made one stringer, I used it as the template for the other side.
To align the stairs, I put a 16d at the top of each stringer, located at the center of the post. This makes a pivot point for adjusting the height at the bottom. I also then nailed the temporary cross piece, so I could lift the stairs up to set the blocks, then set them down to check level and square.
I could have made the stringers one step longer, then buried the ends into the dirt, with a small footing underneath. I think at some point this would rot, so I made the bottom step out of cinder block, filled with concrete. I will put a small piece of asphalt shingle under these to keep the wood off of the wet concrete surface. Little details like this only take a few minutes, but help prevent repairs in the long term.
The steps will be attached to the rebar in the blocks. My plan is to put one of the retaining walls across the front of these blocks, so the steps are integrated into the beds.
I used two 1/4" lag bolts at each corner of the small deck. They are 6" long and go in at an angle through the metal corner braces as shown. I believe this method provides way more strength than is actually required.
I need to travel on Saturday afternoon, and I am hoping to get the decking on before I take off.