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Design and Fabrication of Ladder and Railings for Loft Space

Apr 26, 2023 | Innovation Engineering

D&K live in Shoreline, WA and added onto their home to create more space for their family and business. The new addition was an office that took advantage of the southern sunlight with high ceilings and a loft. The loft needed a railing for safety so I designed it in Solidworks CAD and worked with Greg to build a traditional welded railing out of square steel tubing.

D&K then hired Greg and I to build a ladder to access the loft. D&K requested a “ships ladder” to access the loft. A “ships ladder” is steep, and does not take up much floor space. It’s more complicated than a ladder because, to meet building code, it requires handrails.

After reviewing the building codes, I made a model in SolidWorks CAD, and reviewed it with D&K. With an agreed upon design, we were able to go shopping for materials. D&K wanted wood treads, so we first built frames out of angle iron to hold the wood, like a picture frame to hold each tread.

Tack welds are temporary welds.  They allow the structure to be aligned.   With everything square, we then permanently welded the frames onto the side rails.

Next the handrails needed to be fabricated.  Using an Evolution Chop Saw, designed to cut steel the cuts were clean and accurate.   We started with tack welds and once the left rail looked good, we made a mirror image for the right rail.  We then slotted the side rails to accept the handrails making measurements and double checking every cut before every tack weld.  With the tack welds the entire ladder was aligned, and full welds were made.   The structure was leaned against the wall, and everything measured fine.   The next step was to clean the metal to accept the red steel primer paint.   To see if D&K had a sense of humor, we texted them and let them know that their red ladder looked great!  They promptly replied they requested satin black paint, and we let them know the red was just the primer!  With two coats of black satin paint, we let the staircase dry for a day, and then loaded it on my van.

Installation went well and a couple of hours later the ladder was being used to access the loft space.  The wood treads requested by D&K were a high quality, knot-free vertical grain (VG) fir, which was very nice to work with.  A quarter round edge made them look nice. The wood treads were stained and then dropped into the metal frame for a unique and beautiful look. 

The final hurdle was the Inspector visit.  It went smoothly, and the certificate of occupancy was given. D&K could move in to and enjoy their new office and living space.

Overall, it was a fun project, with clear requests, and it came together quite smoothly.   If you need a staircase or other metalwork needs, let me know and I would be happy to brainstorm the solution with you.