How to Build Free Standing Wooden Steps


You ever look at the top cabinet and think something like “it sure would be nice to be able to reach that easier”. Or maybe you have a lifted truck and your spouse can’t climb in to save their life. 

Consider these and other similar circumstances. Times like these make it convenient to have a set of free standing wooden steps available. You can build them to order for a specific use or you can build them to be versatile and mobile as well. 

Making your own set of free standing wooden steps is really a pretty simple process. We’ve put together a quick guide to walk you through the process from start to finish so you can build the steps you need in no time! 


Let’s get started

Tools & Other Supplies

Before we get started, you’re going to need to plan the tools and supplies you might need for this project. If you don’t have the right supplies available, you may need to make a quick run to the store. 

We recommend a bow saw for cutting the wood for the steps. If you need to acquire one, check out these bow saw reviews to point you in the right direction. Here are some other tools you might need as well. 

  • Hammer
  • Nails (16d is a great size)
  • Pencil
  • Framing square
  • Tape measure
  • Wood

The wood that you need will depend on the measurement of your stairs. We do certainly recommend 2 x’s or 4 x’s for a thick, sturdy step. We also recommend that you try to get some that are straight and free of cracks as well. 

If you really want to take your project to the next level, you might want to grab a circular saw, board bender, string line, or jigsaw. None of these are required but they could potentially be helpful if you have them on hand or need an excuse to purchase them. 

Now, let’s go through the process step-by-step. 

  1. Measurements

If you’re just looking to have portable steps, you can look for some standard measurement options. You will want something wide enough for safety but small enough to store away as needed. 

If you have a specific purpose in mind, you will use that opening or area in order to measure and calculate the size of steps that you need. First, we need to figure out how many steps are needed overall. 

Follow these steps:

  • Measure from the ground to the location of the top of the stairs
  • Divide this number by 7. Why 7? It’s an average number for normal stair steps. For example, if your height is 49 inches, you would divide 49 by 7 to determine how many steps you need. The answer in this example is 7. 
  • Plan stringers, legs, and handrails as needed. 
    • Stringers add stability while legs add a layer over the top of the step and are what might leave an overhang on each step. 
  1. Plan Your Layout

Alright, you know how many steps you need so it’s time to get a general idea of a layout in your head to work with. Your steps are going to need a frame. You will use your framing square for this part of the process. 

In this step, it might be helpful to have another set of hands. One person can hold the square while markings are made. This just alleviates room for error and makes there less likely to be something marked or measured incorrectly. 

Set your framing square to have 7 inches on one side and 10.5 inches on the other side. 10.5 inches is the average for depth measurement. Once you’ve set the framing square, keep the 7-inch side on the left. Stay to the left on your wood as far as possible. 

Mark the wood every 7 inches. This will mark your step sizes and the top step. Then, alternate the 7-inch side and the 10.5-inch side for markings across the wood until you mark the appropriate number of steps. 

We also recommend a 2 x 6 plank at the top and bottom to act as a brace for the steps. You will need to mark these as well. 

  1. Time to Cut

Ok – you’ve made all of your measurements so it’s time to start cutting out those steps that you marked. Do not cut extra, do not go past the measurements. You may not quite get it out but it is very important you don’t go past that measurement if you use something besides a hand saw or bow saw initially. This is a common mistake with circular saws. 

Once you cut your steps go ahead and cut the planks and stringers as well. 

  1. Assemble the Steps

Ok, now it’s time to take those steps you worked so hard to measure, calculate, and cut and put them all together! Start by positioning the header and footer planks on the outside stringers. Once you have these in position with the stringers, go ahead and nail them together. You can turn the parts upside down for nailing just be sure to be gentle on the pieces. 

Flip the steps back over and layout the strings and steps. Place a minimum of 3 nails into each stringer. Then, attach the legs, which is what will bring everything together and provide the necessary stability. 

  1. Finish Up

There may be some necessary finishing touches after you’ve made it this far. One you’ve assembled your steps, take a good look at them overall, and see if you notice any weak areas or something that might cause concern for the structure of the stairs. 

We recommend attaching braces on the back wall of the stairs. This is just an added step for stability. If this is a stair case or to be used for a step stool, you may want to also consider adding handrails. 


When you prepare efficiently, building a set of free standing wooden steps is a simple process to get the job done. Be sure you have the right tools and follow the processes and stability recommendations to ensure your steps won’t let you down!