Sippican Cottage

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It Was Already There So I Used It

We’ve already waxed philosophical about the stairs to the laundry room. Wrote lyric poems to risers and treads. Sang the praisesĀ  of sturdy handrails. But there was another set of stairs appurtenant to the laundry too. The stairs to the carhole. Ugh.

I’ve re-posted a picture of these stairs for your enjoyment. I can assure you that no matter how bad they look in the photo, in real life they were much, much worse than they look. If you walked on them, they swayed like a car salesman at midnight at a Christmas party. In a sane world, you’d just avoid them completely. If you’re new around here, I don’t live in a sane world, or even in the same time zone as one.

In the winter, these stairs are the only practical way to get into the carhole. The snow outside makes it impossible to go around and open the carhole doors to get in. Back when we were still burning firewood for all our heat, we’d stack eight cords outside in the summer to dry. Then we’d bring them into the carhole sometime around Halloween. Every day, we’d have to descend and ascend these stairs, carrying five gallon buckets filled with firewood. We used to look at the weather report in the morning, and figger how many buckets of wood we needed to get through the day. When it was really cold, and the wood furnace was really rocking, we’d have to feed it every two hours. That was twelve buckets of wood. For the life of me, I can’t understand how we did it, going up and down those stairs, carrying all that wood. I must have survived, because I’m typing this, but I’m not sure about the kids. I’ll be right back. I’m going to count them to make sure.

They’re not speaking to me yet. It’s been years since we burned firewood, but they hold grudges, I guess. I can’t say I blame them. But we have the correct number of them, so let’s move on.

We’re back to fuzzy pictures. Sorry. But as you can sort of see, the stairs were accessed through a barbarous hatch. To further make the trek up and down the stairs more amusing, when you reached the top step, your nose was touching a brick wall. As you can (almost) see in the photo, we demolished those stairs. I think I did it with a dirty look, but I might have used a hammer and a pry bar as well.

The opening was too short for a run of stairs, so they were pretty steep. I didn’t want to change the floor framing to make the stairs less steep. Too much heavy work, and expense. Besides, they’re not everyday stairs, so ripping the house apart to fix them wasn’t worth the effort. When you buy an old house to fix, you have to adjust your thinking to your new circumstances. Whenever you see half-finished renovations in houses for sale, you’re looking at people who don’t pick their battles properly. They think the way to renovate a whole house is to spread whatever money you have thinly over the whole thing. That’s a recipe for a real estate auction. Doing things sequentially when you’re sure you have the dough and the time is a smarter move. Just remember to do the most important things first. You know, like removing the house numbers so debt collectors can’t find you.

So the stairs would still be a short, steep run, but much sturdier. I did extend the floor framing at the brick wall to leave a foot or two more space at the top of the stairs. I pushed the other end further into the carhole, to keep from making the run of stairs even shorter and steeper. I have to duck going down, but not up. I don’t mind.

First, you have to cut stringers. They’re tricky little things if the stairs are in the fancy portions of your house. You have to gauge the height of the first and last riser cuts to accommodate finish flooring. This stair is easy, because there’s no flooring in the carhole, and only a thin sliver at the laundry room level. I see from the pitchas that we must have fixed these stairs in the summer, because we aren’t wearing our mukluks and wolverine furs yet:

I have no idea where we were working to end up with this picture. The spare heir is carrying the stringer down the driveway to the carhole. He’s smiling, which also confuses me. Oh well, we cut it somewhere.

As you can see from this pitcha, the stairs are plenty steep. We’ll build the whole thing out of framing lumber. We’ll install hanger brackets at the top to affix it to the floor framing.

A flight of stairs made from beefy lumber is sturdy, but it’s smart to put some form of brace about halfway up to stiffen it up. It’s not quite so bouncy in the middle of the run. Besides, the post was already there, so I used it. It was already there, so I used it is kinda the theme of the house, I guess.

[To be continued]

Day: November 14, 2023

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