Tiny House Stairs: How To Build Them And Clever Design Ideas With Photos

Tiny House Stairs and How To Build ThemMany people don’t like the idea of climbing a ladder in their tiny house, so building in a set of tiny house stairs is an option that has become more and more popular over the years. Some are even looking to save space by using stairs with storage to make it easier to get up to their tiny house loft.

When I started my build, the idea of stairs in my tiny house never crossed my mind, but with the built-in storage under a set of stairs, this is a really smart option. Like many things, if I had to do it all over again, I might too have built some tiny house stairs with storage.

Why You Should Consider Tiny House Stairs

Why You Should Consider Tiny House Stairs

Take it from me, a guy who has lived in his tiny house for almost 8 years now, climbing a ladder each night and coming down each morning can wear on you. When my ladder is set up to get into my loft, I can’t move between the living room and the kitchen, which means I have to set it up and take it down each time I want to use it. The point is, a set of stairs in my tiny house would be really nice!

When people first started building tiny houses, the houses were much smaller. At the time, the largest tiny home I saw was 150 square feet, built on an 18-foot trailer. These days people are going bigger, usually building off of a 24-foot trailer, or even all the way up to 30+ foot trailers.

If you’re going to build a tiny house on a 20-foot trailer or smaller, you’re most likely going to need to use a ladder because tiny house stairs take up a lot of room. For most people, a set of stairs is a great idea when you have more room in the larger trailer sizes. You’ll need enough run in your stairs to get up to your loft and just enough width to still have a usable living space next to it.

Tiny House Stairs Vs A Loft Ladder

Tiny House Stairs Vs A Loft Ladder

Choosing to go with stairs over a ladder is a big design decision and one that’s not easily fixed in a tiny house. While there are some really great benefits to having stairs, there are also some draw backs. Here are some pros and cons spelled out.

TINY HOUSE STAIRS

PROS

  • Easy to get up into your loft
  • Lots of storage below stairs
  • Allows for bed to be lofted, saving space
  • Adds a visual element to the house
  • No ladder to get in the way

CONS

  • Additional costs in lumber and hardware
  • More complex of a build
  • Takes up a sizeable chunk of space
  • Can’t use space above stairs
  • More complex building process

TINY HOUSE LADDER

PROS

  • Takes up the least amount of space
  • Pretty simple construction
  • Lowest cost method
  • Can be used on multiple lofts
  • Can be stowed away

CONS

  • Harder to get up in the loft
  • Blocks ground floor
  • No built-in storage
  • More risk of falling
  • Requires woodworking skill

 

How To Build Tiny House Stairs For Your Loft

How To Build Tiny House Stairs For Your Loft

The easiest way to approach building stairs for your tiny house is to think of it as a series of boxes that are stacked together to form your stairs. I find this approach to be the simplest for DIYers because trying to figure out all the rise and run calculations of traditional stairs is complicated.

The other benefit of this approach is that using a series of boxes allows you to have the structure ideal for maximizing storage space. Traditional stairs have stringers that block you from fully using the space under the stairs, but using my stacked box method, you can use all the available space. It’s also easy to install shelves or drawers and apply cabinet doors to the front of these, because essentially what you’re creating is a beefed up version of a cabinet carcass.

Finally, this method is great because you have some flexibility in the future, as you could potentially unscrew the boxes from each other and rearrange them to better suit your needs. Now let’s talk about how to actually build these.

Calculate The Dimensions Of A Tiny House Staircase

Calculate The Dimensions Of A Tiny House Staircase

There are a few critical dimensions to your staircase: width, rise and run. The width of the stairs is the dimension across the stair tread. The rise is how much your stairs will gain vertically over the run of the stairs. The total stair run is the longest dimension of the stairs, from the first step to the top of your loft.

Since you’re going to use the box method, I’d suggest taking the total stair run and divide it by how big your steps are going to be. You’ll have to play with the numbers here because you want something large enough to fit your foot comfortably as you walk up and is practical for your storage needs. I’d suggest starting with boxes 12 inches wide on the outside.

Calculating Number Of Steps

Calculating Number Of Steps

The easiest way is to take the total stair run and divide it by how wide you want your boxes to be. Keep in mind you want your stairs big enough to fit your foot and the steps up to be manageable. Ideally each step will be the same height so you don’t trip on varying heights of steps.

Example:

TINY HOUSE STAIRS MEASUREMENT EXAMPLE

MEASUREMENTS

  • Total stair run: 10 feet (120 inches)
  • Total stair height: 7 feet (84 inches)
  • Typical stair step height: 7”

FORMULA

84 inches / 7 inches = 12 steps @ 7” tall

120 inches / 12 steps = 10 inches per stair step run

Layout Your Tiny House Stairs Storage

Layout Your Tiny House Stairs Storage

Because we’re going to use a collection of wooden boxes to actually build the stairs, let’s first start with roughing out the general composition of these boxes, then play with the location.

You might want to make a comprehensive list of what is going to go into your stair storage. Things like your wardrobe, cleaning supplies, pantry, book cases, a place to file important documents, office supplies, etc. Start with your tallest item and your largest item, as you’re going to want to make sure you accommodate these first. You can get a good idea of how I approached this when I designed my tiny house closet.

Once you know what you need to store, mock up the storage boxes with simple graph paper, maybe even cut them out so you can play with different configurations. Think about how often you’re going to use the items, putting things you use everyday in the most easily accessible spots, while lesser used items should be stored down low or up above eye level.

The tops of your boxes are also going to make up the actual steps, so ensure that the dimensions are going to be the proper width for your stair step run and rise. The other boxes that make up the lower parts of the stairs, those not part of the actual step, can be any size, but ideally still standardized boxes so they all fit together.

What I suggest is to come up with a few standard form factors so your steps are modular and can be moved around into different configurations and still fit together into a form factor that gives you the right overall dimensions. Realize that the top steps can only be as wide as a step, but your lower boxes could be double or triple width because they don’t make up the steps, they just support them.

deign your tiny house stair modules

creating tiny house stair modules

Building Your Boxes

Building Boxes for tiny house stairs

Because these boxes are going to be load bearing, we want to make sure they’re very strong. If you’re not skilled at woodworking, simple boxes will do the job. I’d use at least ½-inch thick plywood with a decently smooth finish, even if you’re going to paint it. For my cabinets, I chose a Baltic Birch Plywood that was about $50 a sheet.

The easiest joint to use on your boxes is a standard butt joint — just lay one end onto the other. Use high-quality screws to fasten, but also glue each joint with wood glue. Wood glue will actually hold stronger than the screws will, so don’t skip gluing each joint.

Determine the dimension of the sides of your boxes and cut your lumber to its finished dimensions, and keep in mind your butt joints. You’ll want to account for the material that will be laid on its edge and subtract that material thickness.

Assemble your sides into the box frame, gluing and screwing as you go. Make sure you check that the box is squared up and then attach the bottom (or back) of the box. You’ll want the bottom edge of the sides to rest on the bottom’s wood. Pre-drill your holes, screw and glue.

Tools For Building Boxes


STEP 1

Measure height, length and depth (width of stair treads) where the staircase will fit. The rise and tread width will vary depending on how tall the entire staircase is. Determine size, shape and the placement of individual boxes and how they fit into the overall staircase layout.

measuring size of staircase

STEP 2

Measure and cut the top, bottom and sides of each box.

Construction Tip: Sides should support top board.

right and wrong way to build boxes

step box construction

STEP 3

Glue and screw top, bottom and sides together using simple butt joint. Be sure to double-check that all corners are perfectly square and flush.

glue and screw boxes together

STEP 4

After the glue has dried, cut and attached back to each box with screws.

attach back to boxes

STEP 5

Assemble individual boxes into staircase configuration. Tie boxes together with 1-1/2″ wood screws.  Then, attach entire staircase assembly to wall with longer 3″ screws. Make sure to hit the wall studs so that entire stairs are securely anchored in place.

assemble boxes into stairs and screw together

A nice touch to make your boxes feel a lot nicer and look polished is to use a 1/8-inch round over bit in a hand router. This will round out the edges with the smallest radius so the edge is more comfortable to the touch and helps give it a more finished look. Round over bits should come with a bearing on the end so it can easily be run over the edge for a nice consistent trim.

Clever Stair Storage Ideas

Clever Stair Storage Ideas

Here is are some pretty clever ways to build your stairs with lots of storage for your tiny house.

curved stairs in a tiny houseKeep it simple with curved stairs, a large wardrobe and a few baskets
box storage under stair treadsMake your stairs into drawers! Use this often-wasted space for storage
built in storage for stairsPull-out storage built into tiny house stairs
pantry under stairsPull-out pantry to grab food while you cook
use steep steps to save floor spaceUse steep steps to save space up to your loft
keep space big inside underneath stairsKeep inside space big and open for lots of storage
use color on stair drawersAdd a pop of color with your cabinet faces. Notice the shoe storage?
use minimalistic design for tiny house stairsKeep it minimalistic with a basic plywood for those on a budget
removable stair treadsHave removeable treads for deep storage options
hatch on stair landingTake advantage of awkward spaces with a stair landing hatch
narrow part of stairs for shoe storageUse the narrow part of the stairs for extra shoe storage
pull out shelves on tiny house stairsMake it easy to get at things in the very back with pull out shelves
alternating stair treadsGot a narrow space? Use alternating tread stairs to save space
alternating stiar treads to loftFor smaller tiny houses, use alternating tread to get up to the loft
modified ladder doubles as storage spaceA modified ladder with a shallower angle doubles as storage space
using a loft ladder instead of stairs to save spaceConsider just using a loft ladder instead of stairs to save more space
incorporate a bench seat into your stepsIncorporate a bench seat into your steps as multi-function furniture
using found items to build a stair caseStack found items that add up to a staircase and double as storage
Build in a desk along with your storage for an under-stair officeBuild in a desk along with your storage for an under-stair office
Build in a filing cabinet, stool and desktop under your stairsBuild in a filing cabinet, stool and desktop under your stairs
open shelf storage under your tiny house stairsOpt for open shelf storage under your tiny house stairs
Add kitchen storage under tiny house stairsAdd kitchen storage for cooking and more
Use a mix of drawers, doors and other elements in stair designUse a mix of drawers, doors and other elements
Put kitchen underneath stairs to save roomPut your kitchen underneath your stairs to save more room

Your Turn!

  • What makes you want a tiny house staircase over a ladder?
  • What tiny house stair storage are you drawn to?
2 Comments
  1. I don’t plan to have a sleeping loft, but I still want a staircase! Is that weird? But the storage is so cute, and I always imagine the stairs as extra seating for guests.

  2. How come no one ever considers a circular staircase? The metal type, with railings, that goes around a center pole? I have seen it once in a THOW, and it worked great!

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