Q: I have three Yorkies and would like to make steps for them so that they can get up on my old Victorian bed, which is high off the floor. I have saws, sanders, routers, scroll saws and drills, but I’ve been unable to find any instructions for making these steps. Can you help?
A: When your question popped out of our e-mail, we both got a chuckle. We’re afraid you’ve hit upon a small dagger in the rear of domestic bliss in Kevin’s household.
Kevin’s wife, Heidi, is a dog lover. She can’t pass a stray in the greater Boise, Idaho, area without stopping, checking it out and maybe bringing it home. Right now there are three canines in residence at the Burnett household: Rusty the rat terrier and Amber and Arrow the miniature pinschers (min-pins). The min-pins are “yappy” and can be obnoxious — so much so that Kevin has nicknamed them the velociraptors.
They all sleep on Kevin and Heidi’s bed. Heidi wouldn’t have it any other way, in spite of Kevin’s occasional allergic reaction.
Rusty is getting up in years, so Heidi, wanting to make it easier for him to go night-night, purchased an elevated dog bed that will give him a boost into dreamland. Of course, Rusty was offended and doesn’t use it.
We applaud you for wanting to help out your Yorkies by building some steps for them. The solution is to build a mini-staircase.
It sounds as if you’re tooled up for this project, with the exception of a framing square. This is a right-angled piece of metal used for figuring staircases and roof rafters. It measures between 1 1/2 feet by 2 feet and only costs a few dollars.
Although the principles for building a stair seem complicated, they’re really not. The first step is to draw a plan.
Two critical things you must decide are the total rise and the total run of the stairs. Rise refers to the height of the stairs, and run refers to their length. In your case, the rise is the distance from the floor to the top of the mattress. The run is variable and will depend on the depth of the stair treads.
Since Yorkies are little guys, we’d suggest each stair rise 6 inches or less and each tread measure 12 inches. Of course you can adjust the height of the risers, but realize that a decrease in the height of individual risers will increase the total run and perhaps the number of steps.
The number of stairs is determined by dividing the total rise by the height of an individual riser. If your bed measures 3 feet from the floor to the top of the mattress, that will mean five 6-inch steps and a total run of 5 feet. The last step will be from the top of the stair onto the bed.
Stairs are made up of treads and risers that are nailed to “stringers” (the large pieces cut in a stair pattern). Cut stringers out of a piece of 5/8-inch plywood using a framing square by measuring the riser height at 6 inches and the tread at 12 inches. We suggest a staircase 18 to 24 inches wide, so two stringers should do the job. A single sheet of 5/8-inch plywood should be all you need.
Cut out the stringers first. Then cut the risers, and glue and nail them to the stringers. Once the risers are in place, cut the treads and glue and nail them to the stringers. A couple of nails through the back of each riser into the tread will provide some stability.
A little overhang on the treads is OK provided it’s consistent from stair to stair. We also suggest that you nail a strip of plywood between the stringers to increase lateral stability.
Finally, you’ll need to attach a couple of 2-by-2-inch posts to the top of the staircase so that it sits level on the floor. Play with this one. Stability is the goal. You’ll probably find you’ll need to run pieces of lumber from the base of the posts to the bottom of the staircase and install some diagonal bracing on the posts themselves.
Finish the project however you choose, but some indoor-outdoor carpeting glued to the tread might be ideal traction for Yorkie paws.