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Convertible Pet Stairs

  • June 22, 2015

Miniature Schauzers are people too. Or at least they think they are.

I knew that I needed to come up with some pet stairs when I noticed something uncharacteristic of my mom's 12 year old Mini Schnauzer. The dog that once had no trouble leaping up onto my parents bed, had started to require assistance to take her place up there. (If you have witnessed an older dog back up with hesitance and lack of confidence in their eyes, you know how heartbreaking this milestone of old age is for a dog owner to see.) The other side of this situation, is my mom's current stage in recovery from back surgery, and her inability to continue lifting her dog. I needed to build something.

When coming up with this design, I had to consider this particular dog. She is advanced in age, has achy joints, and an old foreleg break at the joint that affects her ability to handle normal stairs easily. A few small jumps would be ideal. That meant she would need a couple platforms, instead of several small steps. Even a ramp would put added pressure on the forelegs as she descended.

I also had to consider the space in my parents bedroom. When my mom's back is fully healed, she may feel like moving it out of the way which means this project needed to be stored under the bed.

Finally, one last detail: her 4 grandkids. (Boys that climb things.) The level of sturdiness I wanted to achieve called for thicker plywood, but this project could be built with a more lightweight selection.

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  1. Project Steps

    1. Step: 1

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      Step 1: I decided to build these two platform steps by sandwiching two sheets of plywood between a frame. (I wanted the entire top surface of the step to be completely smooth and without any type of seam or border around the edge.) The dimensions for the bottom step ended up being 16” x 32” x 9”. The dimensions for the top step are exactly half the width of the bottom, 16” x 16” x 9”. This tutorial shows how the bottom step came together. The top step is assembled the same way. Cut list for bottom step (2) 1/2” plywood: 16” x 32” (4) 1x2” boards: 31.5” (4) 1x2” boards: 13.5” (4) 1x1” boards: 8” Various pieces of 1/4” plywood, 8” in length. They will be attached on the sides, vertically. Cut list for top step (2) 1/2” plywood: 16” x 32” (4) 1x2” boards: 15.5” (4) 1x2” boards: 13.5” (4) 1x1” boards: 8” Various pieces of 1/4” plywood, 8” in length. They will be attached on the sides, vertically. Begin by laying out frame to make a rectangle, with a 1x1” standing up in each corner. (See image) Use the nail gun to secure the corners to the 1x1’s.

    2. Step: 2

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      Step 2: After the corners are nailed, flip it over and secured one of the 16 x 32” sheets of plywood to the frame. (Like a little coffee table.)

    3. Step: 3

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      Step 3: Make sure there is a 1/4 inch lip on every side. This will allow for the 1/4” plywood scraps to be inlaid vertically on all sides, keeping all the edges flush.

    4. Step: 4

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      Step 4: Next, attach the 4 remaining 1x2’s to the bottom of the legs, nailing them to the 1x1 in each corner. After flipping it over again, (see image) attach the other plywood sheet, making sure there is a 1/4” lip on every side.

    5. Step: 5

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      Step 5: Before installing any kind of handle, attach some 1/4” plywood sections to the face.

    6. Step: 6

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      Step 6: I highly recommend installing handles that can be secured from the front. Instead, I chose to do it the hard way and use handles that needed to be secured from the inside of the step.

    7. Step: 7

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      Step 7: Next, assemble top step up to this point as well. Pay attention to handle placement, as the top step will be flipped upside down when it is unfolded.

    8. Step: 8

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      Step 8: Here is a photo of how the steps will line up, once the hinge is installed. (The continuous hinge will be installed along the outside (right) edge, where the steps meet.) It’s helpful to line them up like this when you’re measuring for handle placement, keeping in mind the direction you want your steps to ascend. (right, or left) This will depend on what side of the bed the steps will be used on.

    9. Step: 9

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      Step 9: Once the handles are secured, attach the rest of the 1/4” plywood pieces to the sides and back. (If desired, leave the back open for hidden storage.)

    10. Step: 10

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      Step 10: After priming, sanding, and painting, the final step was to install the 12" continuous hinge. I determined placement of the hinge, by how visible it would be while in use as steps. (I would rather have the hinge be more visible while in storage under the bed.) To install it, I flipped over the top step so it was laying upside down (in storage position). Then, I lined up the edges of the steps, and carefully marked the hinge holes. I spent an embarrassing amount of time on marking/drilling the holes, thanks to an unfortunate experience with this type of hinge a long time ago. Long story short, I highly recommend using a drill bit made for installing hinges. And that's it. However, I'm sure I'll need to come up with something for traction to line the top surface of the steps, as slick surfaces are a whole other problem for scrambling dog movements. But at the end of the day our senior Mini Schnauzer can return to her rightful place atop my parents bed, where she will continue to keep watch, and bark at every little sound.

Comments (6)

  • What a brilliant idea to make it fit under the bed when not in use! I love this!

    By karen_atlanta

  • Here's one more improvement that could be made here.... construct it so that drawers fit into the open end. It then becomes under-bed storage, too. In the section that flips, make it so that the drawer could be used in either position.

    By CaptainComet

  • Great idea M.A.S. Might I add one more suggestion, for those who own shorter dogs like Mini Dachshunds considering running a router along the top edge so they don't scrape their bellies on the way up. As for issues with traction, possibly something like this,

    By marco551

  • Marco, Thanks for the feedback. I cut up a rubber no slip kitchen mat, it seemed to do the trick.

    By My Altered State

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