The stone and steel staircase


Jerry Sanders of Sanco Design asked me to look at a job for him.  What he needed was some ideas for a staircase that would allow his client access to the park like area below the pool.  The pool was built on an engineered hill designed to hold the pool and decking area.



My question was about his hill supporting pipe posts in concrete footers six feet deep.  He assured me that the hill wouldn’t have a problem with that.  I suggested a steel and stone staircase.  He introduced me to the client and a couple of weeks later we started building the staircase.

The first thing we had to do was install the pipe posts.  Sanco Design provided the laborers and we used my Little Beaver Hydraulic Auger. We dug twelve inch holes six feet deep.  Then we installed four inch O.D. schedule forty galvanized pipe posts.





Once all the posts were set then it was time to weld in the track that would hold the stones in place.  It was challenging.




Once the steel frame was installed we started installing the pieces of stone.  Each one of these rocks weighed between three hundred twenty pounds and a little over four hundred.

The stones were delivered by Pearson Stone to the street out front of the house.  Then we had to get them down to the staircase area.


dsc03024dsc03025dsc03028It didn’t always go as planned.


Then the fun part started.  We had to start at the bottom and then work up using the framework as a conveyor.


dsc03038dsc03040Again, everything didn’t always go as planned.

A stone was placed on top of the one below it.  Once it was leveled off it was drilled from below through the steel framework.  Then an anchor was installed into the stone and it was bolted to the framework.  Then the next stone was moved into place the process was repeated.



With the stones in place I started working on a handrail.  The first thing I needed was some posts that could be welded to the framework supporting the stones.


That isn’t as complicated as it seems.  I made a simple jig and then added elbow juice.  I was able to bend up as many as I needed and then some.


I used a pipe cheater bar to help me bend the inch and a quarter eleven gauge hammered tubing from King Metals in Dallas.


dsc03128If you look at where the posts meet the stone you can see how I used the bend to reach back under so I could weld the post to the framework.

One of the neat things about the stairs is their irregular pattern as they go up curving in and out with the shape of the hill.  This neat thing made creating a handrail a little more challenging.

What I ended up doing is starting the handrail (1 x 2 inch hammered eleven gauge tubing from King Metals) at a point.  Then I would slice the rail repeatedly in a sequence with a portaband band saw to form a curve.  The outside of the cut was the outside of the curve.  Some of these curves were compound, bending in or out while bending up or down.

I would make a curve and then I would weld it in.  Then I would begin the next bend.  I did this every curve or change in the top rail.  I would rough grind with a standard grinding disc.  I would follow that with a sixty grit flap sanding disc to polish out the surface without removing all the metal.



Once everything was clean and ready for paint we put down a coat of Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer.  I followed that with a coat of a green enamel that could be best described as olive drab, military green.

What happened was I had waited at the paint store for the help to wait on a pretty young thing that was playing to the audience something fierce.  I asked for a color chart and she pointed out what she thought was the ugliest green she had ever seen.  I ordered two gallons of it.

After the final coat had set for a week or so I went back with my wife and we sprayed on Rustoleum flat black from cans.  Then we would immediately wipe it off.  What was left was character, personality you might say.



If you’ve ever wondered how a zero edge or infinity edge pool works here’s how.  When the pumps are on the water flows over the edge so if you are in the pool looking out it looks like forever.  On the other side of the ledge is a catch basin that pumps the water back into the pool.


This job was special for me for a couple of reasons.  I loved the challenge and it was great to have Jerry and the client behind me a hundred and ten percent through the whole thing.

I was also one of those jobs where everyday when you left you could measure progress.  I think that’s important for everyone.  We all need to feel our presence made a difference that day.  I’m lucky in that job gave me that and more.

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  • Karen Richards Group

    Very cool idea!

  • Warren Ivie

    As the owners of the house, we cannot praise Harvey high enough. He is an artist, a craftsman, a wonderful person. Thank you. Kay and Warren Ivie

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