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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

I am working on building my first ladder. It is a small ladder for access to a crawl space. My material is all douglas fir 2x. My stringers are 2x8 and my treads are 2x6. I ripped a bevel into my 2x6 treads to match the pitch of the ladder. I am preparing to attach the treads to the housing I routed in my stringer and a very experienced cabinet maker is encouraging me to use angled dowels (+ epoxy) rather than screws (+ glue). I have some very high quality GRK RSS Structural Screws (5/16" x 4") which have a shear strength of 2900 lbs. I know this debate is a long-standing one but I just can't wrap my head around why an angled dowel (with epoxy of course) would be a stronger connection than 2 of these GRK structural screws. Part of my hesitation probably lies in my lack of experience in drilling the angled holes for the dowels but I'm curious to learn more. I do think the dowels would be much more aesthetically pleasing but I do think when people talk about the inferiority of screws they don't always take into account some of the modern high-quality structural screws that are now readily available. It's as though people think screws and they immediately think you are using drywall screws.

Anyhow, there are so many knowledgeable pros here I figured I would ask.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.
 

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No doubt the GRK's will be stronger...but you also need to consider width of the ladder and if there will be any side-side sway. Glue might also be problematic if the crawl space is exposed to the elements (humidity, etc). Also keep in mind that you're screwing into end-grain...be even more careful if the wood is pressure treated and still wet.

If you're using the ladder in a visibly pleasing space you might consider better wood but I''m thinking that's not the case.

Assuming that is true, I would also include a stretcher from stringer to stringer to pull them together (like attic stairs have). 1/4" threaded rod should do.

You might want to describe the environment around the ladder and more of it's specs...you might get better or different ideas...

Good luck and welcome to the Forum...
 

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under stress endgrain fastening is a lost cause before you even get started...

how I'd do it...
mortise the steps into the stringers about 3/8''....
L/R strings connected together w/ all thread centered under the stair....
fender washers, lock nut, cap nut assembly on the outside of the stringers ..
cap nut acts a a jamb nut and to protect you from bleeding...
the stair bottom grooved to receive the all thread is an option...
the block between the all thread and step bottom increases the step's capacity and controls under load flex/sag...

this method allows you to keep the stairs ''tight'' for they will loosen over time......

.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
These are all helpful suggestions. Thanks. The crawlspace is fairly well-insulated and should be dry (high desert climate). I do agree that the endgrain does pose a problem. The ladder is only 63" long with 5 treads and the side-to-side sway issue should be limited since it will be placed in a trap door opening. I have attached a crude annotated drawing of the trap door/ladder location.
 

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Stick's suggestions are excellent. A 2x construction will be very heavy if you are going to have to lift it out of the way, so 1x construction in a decent hard wood is probably a much better choice. What you are describing is more of a stair way than a ladder. Using lighter, higher quality, kiln-dried material will make it easier to fold the ladder up into the ceiling, a desirable quality for a space you may want to reach only occasionally.

You can buy commercially made folding, retractable ladders built just for this purpose. You cut out the ceiling between stringers to create the space, screw or bold the ladder assembly into the sides of the stringers and you're done. Unless you are carrying 100 lb items up and into the crawl space, one of these should do the trick. Or, at least study one and duplicate it.

Notice the metal plates connecting the 3 sections of the ladder. Each allows the next section down to fold up onto the higher section. This gives you a stak of three sections that fit into the recess. The run from about $350 to about $450 at Lowes. They are made of better quality wood and include trim to make it look nice.

Part of the price is for the liability involved with any ladder. If someone climbs a Werner ladder, for example, Werner faces the lawsuit. Who will face the music if someone slips on your ladder, or it separates and collapses on someone? With ladders, liability is a consideration. For example, what about if you have a person come in to replace the attic fan, or add or repair wiring, or handle a gas or water pipe leak, or movers coming in to clear out the stuff up there?

At least go and check out the commercial models.
 

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I had some steel risers for front step in one place I lived in. It used 2 x 6 for treads which were screwed to the risers with number 8 screws. The screws kept shearing off. The vibration when walking on them work-hardened the metal of the screws and made them brittle. You are using a much larger shank screw and it will see less traffic but it`s something to keep in mind. I try to avoid using screws for framing now because of that experience. Walls move so there is a chance the screws may shear off one day whereas a nail never will.

My favorite nail is a phosphorus coated box nail. Even in end grain once they seize up they can be extremely hard to pull out. And if you add risers to the steps, even narrow ones that just go a couple of inches below the treads that will help prevent any side to side movement that would tend to loosen the fasteners. Otherwise I would add a couple of threaded rods as already suggested.
 

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My first thought was, stepladder. Would be useful many other ways as well.
 
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Stick's suggestions are excellent. A 2x construction will be very heavy if you are going to have to lift it out of the way, so 1x construction in a decent hard wood is probably a much better choice. What you are describing is more of a stair way than a ladder. Using lighter, higher quality, kiln-dried material will make it easier to fold the ladder up into the ceiling, a desirable quality for a space you may want to reach only occasionally.

You can buy commercially made folding, retractable ladders built just for this purpose. You cut out the ceiling between stringers to create the space, screw or bold the ladder assembly into the sides of the stringers and you're done. Unless you are carrying 100 lb items up and into the crawl space, one of these should do the trick. Or, at least study one and duplicate it.

Notice the metal plates connecting the 3 sections of the ladder. Each allows the next section down to fold up onto the higher section. This gives you a stak of three sections that fit into the recess. The run from about $350 to about $450 at Lowes. They are made of better quality wood and include trim to make it look nice.

Part of the price is for the liability involved with any ladder. If someone climbs a Werner ladder, for example, Werner faces the lawsuit. Who will face the music if someone slips on your ladder, or it separates and collapses on someone? With ladders, liability is a consideration. For example, what about if you have a person come in to replace the attic fan, or add or repair wiring, or handle a gas or water pipe leak, or movers coming in to clear out the stuff up there?

At least go and check out the commercial models.
I think he is doing a crawl space, Tom.

Herb
 

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At 63'' an aluminum ladder is not a bad idea ! The fold down steps for a higher elevation are in my opinion not very solid. I have one for access to the attic from my garage and because of my weight I can't use it, but one day maybe, I have lost 50 lbs already !!!.
The screws he mentioned should do the trick and the BC Fir is fine also. The threaded rods are a good idea. If there is any humidity in the crawl space, simply make the stringer 1 1/2'' shorter and put a piece of treated wood under the end grain.
 

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For a 63” ladder I will just use 1”x1” blocks on each end of a step which I will glue/nail to the risers and nail each step to the blocks. Regular nails will be fine, no stretcher rod required
 

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For a 63” ladder I will just use 1”x1” blocks on each end of a step which I will glue/nail to the risers and nail each step to the blocks. Regular nails will be fine, no stretcher rod required
In the words of Russell Peters "Somebody's gonna get hurt..." :surprise:
 

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Everything you have done so far is right and you can simply screw things together and call it a day. Since you are using 2x material you could use lag bolts but it sounds like the ones you have are strong enough. you could nail a cleat under each tread and you'll be extra safe with the screws but it isn't really necessary. Glue or any other adhesive would be a waste of time. It would hold the ladder side together but would do nothing for the downward pressure that will be put on it. A simpler method would have been to nail 2x4 rungs to a set of 2x4 rails. As Joat suggested a step ladder might be the way to go. How often do you have to get up to a crawl space? When you do you either have to get a ladder to get up to the crawl space to get the ladder you built (which is going to be cumbersome trying to get it out through the opening) or you have to get the ladder you built ( which is going to be heavy) and bring it to the opening. In either case, you have to get a ladder so why not a step ladder unless, of course, this is a permanent set of stairs.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Nice work bryansong. Here is some of my progress... I cut about a 5/16" housing into my stringers. I definitely agree with the folks who said my ladder is going to be heavy. It will most likely stay in my crawlspace. For folks who misunderstood, my apologies. A crawlspace is typically underneath the first floor and not an attic space. I think the heft and robustness of the assembly will help ensure it doesn't fall apart.

I am getting ready to assemble it. My treads (dry) fit pretty tight into the slots so with glue and two 5/16" GRK RSS screws (with pilot holes) on each side of each tread, I think it should be ok.

Here are a couple pictures. I cleaned up the housings with a chisel to square them off rather than spending 40 bucks on a 3/8" roundover bit to roundover the treads. I'm broke!
 

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Nice job JB, looks good and I think you’ll be happy with it. I’m sorry you’re broke.
I worked on my project again today and am pretty sore. I’ll be glad to finish it and get it installed at my son’s house. Here’s an updated picture. I’ve just got to do some sanding then get some help installing it. Luckily I have a son and 2 son’s-in-law so I’ll get them together.
 

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It will most likely stay in my crawlspace.
Yeah, I know what a crawlspace is. Usually they are entered thru a hole in the foundation, closed by a door; and they are low enough so you have to crawl, hence the name, anything tall enough to stand in is a basement. I'm not understanding - is it going to remain standing? Do you have a trapdoor in the floor, or what? My greatgrandparents cut a hold in their kitchen floor after the house was built, made a trapdoor, and dug out a small basement - dirt floor and walls, sort of an inside root cellar.
 

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Theo; technically you're (probably) right, but it's also a 'zoning' issue. A crawl space doesn't count as 'floor space' as calculated for the footprint of a building. If a residential zoning permits a FSR of .5 (Floor Space Ratio) then not including the underfloor area makes a huge difference on what the rest of the building covers.
We have a crawl space that allows me to standup straight but only between the joists (I'm 6'). Otherwise I have to stoop over. Also, the b******* who poured the concrete (protecting the vapour barrier) didn't even float it! It's so rough that you can't kneel on it.
Our access is as you suggested, through access panels in walls, not down through the floor above; but that's only possible here because of the split level floor plan
 
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