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Old 01-30-2015, 04:28 PM
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Walker Walker is offline
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Location: Cave Creek AZ
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Default Need advice building circular stairway

I need to build a circular stairway starting next week. I have never actually built one, as there were several companies doing them that always underbid what I could do. Well, they are all apparently out of business and now I need to do one for a regular customer.
It is nothing exciting, just a standard build. 5' diameter, 12'2" tall, 15 treads and a landing. It looks like a 30 degree spread between treads that are 9.082" apart. I have found I can buy all the components for what it would cost to build them on my own, though I think I could do a nicer job of it. They also have the precurved steel handrail.
Any tricks of the trade? I am considering building it onsite, versus building it int he shop, hauling it, and then trying to stand it up, but I would like to hear any words of wisdom before I commit to it.

Chief slag chipper and floor sweeper, Ironwood Artistic
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Old 01-30-2015, 10:03 PM
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LKeithR LKeithR is offline there a prize?
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Langley, B.C.
Posts: 5,154

When you say it's only 60" in dia. I assume it's to be built around a single pipe column--won't be open in the middle. If this is the case the treads should be pretty straight forward.

I assume they're be pie-shaped with the large end to the outside. Nine inches of rise per step is on the high side for "normal" steps but not out of line for a spiral. Thirty degrees of advance for each tread means you're going to turn through 450 deg. in 146". I'd watch/check the headroom to make sure you have enough. Also think about your orientation--where you want to enter and exit the stairs. It's nice to have it come out "square" to something--you can fudge the increment for each step a bit to get things lined up. A quick CAD drawing will quickly tell you what you need to know.

I've always found that the railings were more hassle than the treads themselves--if you've got pre-rolled parts you should be ahead of the game. As for assembly, I hate field work so I'll go out of my way to build something as complete as possible in the shop and ship/assemble on site. At the very least I'd pre-fit everything in the shop and do the final on site. Good luck and show us some pics...

Measure twice and cut once...or...wait, was that the other way around?
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Old 01-30-2015, 11:07 PM
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toprecycler toprecycler is offline
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Location: Petoskey, Michigan
Posts: 4,410

Rolling the handrail can be fun. You have a nice roll if I remember right. The trick that works for me is to have the stairs welded on the pipe. We build our stairs horizontal on two stands and this allows you to turn the stairs as needed, but sometimes hard to see if something is off. But if you level the tube, then all the spindles can be set by level too, I would only put on the spindle on at the end of the steps until you get the handrail rolled and put on. Sometimes easier to line up the rest of the spindles. When rolling the handrail pipe, I will cut the pipe in half so I am only working with 10.5' pieces or smaller and I will drill a 9/16" or so hole about 1/2" in from the end. I then put a 12-18" piece of 1/2" hr round and use this as a lever to put about a half turn rotation on the pipe as it goes through the roller. As the end gets close to the roll I can remove the 1/2" piece so the pipe can go completely through the roll. I also will put a grind mark or notice where the seam is in order to make sure it goes back into the roll the same way to further roll it to final dimension. I usually have to roll it about 3-4 step on my shop made roller. I will try to post pictures of it when I locate them. This gets me in the ballpark usually for the corkscrew the hand rails needs. However, this can be a trial and error process. Might need a little more rotation or a little less depending on the spiral. I have found out that if you over spiral it, it is quicker to just roll another piece than try to unroll the over rolled piece. (As long as the person ordering the stock realizes that sometimes stock is cheaper than labor if fixing a mistake sometimes and will order another piece). After you weld all the treads on, sometimes the center pipe will corkscrew a little due to the welds bending the pipe. I will then take the torch and heat a half dollar size spot opposite each tread to help heat straighten the center pipe. Hopefully this makes somewhat sense. I do know that it will look great once you are done though. Oh ya, have lots of help if you build in one piece and you have to corkscrew it in a small door to install it. That is a lot of fun! Brian
Other thoughts, what is the finish. Will this be hard to do if built in the field? Is the house finished, or being built now, do you don't have to worry about damage to the house by welding/ grinding work?

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"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." John Wooden
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Old 01-31-2015, 11:49 AM
duckman903 duckman903 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Winchendon MA
Posts: 230

Don't know if it was legal, but we bought a commercial spiral stair for our shop and the railing was a piece of 1 1/2" black plastic pipe, started at the bottom and screwed it to the uprights as we went up at the top we just cut off the excess tube. That was 18 years ago and it's still being used.
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Old 01-31-2015, 04:02 PM
kbs2244 kbs2244 is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Way North Illinois
Posts: 1,650

There is just enough solid geometry involved in spiral stairs to call in the experienced.
IMO the ease of mind is worth the cost.
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