Building a custom winder staircase

Custom winder stairs for odd spaces in Fairbanks, Alaska

This custom set of winder stairs built in Fairbanks, Alaska occupies a 4 foot wide space starting at 95 inches.


Building winder stairs requires a good plan and can be approached using many methods.


Expert stair builder, James Pagel, making the treads from birch plywood. James likes to use 2X4’s with a 3/4″ CDX top as the rough stair in the winder. I usually build what is essentially a cabinet base that is entirely plywood.


Stringers above and below.IMG_0154

Fitting these stairs was not as easy as easy as it looks. The walls around the stairs were neither plumb or square as is the case in many older homes.  For this reason I suggest making jigs for each tread if you are building your own staircase. You will not usually have a right triangle when building winder stairs.  Cutting scalene triangles for stair treads is very challenging but is also the mark of an excellent carpenter.


I love the way winders look when they are located a few steps up in staircase. It has the effect of making the stairs look mountainous (I’m not kidding).


The inside corners are really stunning up close and so precipitous.  Don’t walk here.


And from the top looking down.

Related articles:

Building an oak staircase



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We are locally owned, licensed, bonded, insured Fairbanks, Alaska remodeler and general contractor.


About Mike Knoche

Straight Ahead Construction is a licensed, bonded, and insured general contractor, construction company based in Fairbanks, Alaska. View all posts by Mike Knoche

6 responses to “Building a custom winder staircase

  • mimiswardrobe

    Very good looking! I know building stairs isn’t easy, because the person who built the stairs in our house made them wrong. The step is 1″ too short (in other words, not deep enough), and more people have slipped trying to come down them. I warn everyone to turn slightly sideways so their feet fit the steps better. It’s a good thing the builder at least put the handrail in really well because we’ve hung onto it a lot to keep from slipping farther!

    • Mike Knoche

      They were in the house when you bought it?

      • mimiswardrobe

        Yep! We didn’t realize the problem until we planned to finish out the attic upstairs, and I measured them. I was pretty proud of myself because my contractor said, “Oh, I can fix that. I’ll just nail a second riser on the front of every step and put a deeper step on.” I said, “Um, when you extend the first step and then extend the one above it, aren’t you just ending up with the same measurement you had before?” He thought a second and agreed with me! Really, he’s fabulous, I think he was just in the mode of “I can fix anything.” He usually can, but short of ripping out the whole staircase, he can’t fix this. Don’t ask me how the stairs passed inspection, but we live in rural Georgia, so that may explain it.

  • Doug

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