How to Build a Steel Ladder

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Steel ladders for lofts and silos use similar construction methods.
Steel ladders for lofts and silos use similar construction methods. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Loft apartments with industrial or post-industrial architecture are usually decorated in a modern or contemporary style, incorporating long, straight lines softened with a few house plants, splashes of bright color and some natural fabrics. Many of these apartments have steel ladders to loft bedrooms instead of traditional stairways. Other places that might require custom-built steel ladders include silos, haylofts, water towers, watchtowers, high-rise apartment buildings and factories.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • 2-inch-square, 1/8-inch thick tube-steel
  • Wrap-around eye protection
  • Ear protection
  • NIOSH-approved respirator
  • Abrasive cutoff wheel
  • Right angle grinder
  • 24-grit grinding wheel
  • Fine steel wool
  • Welding helmet, welding gloves and full leathers
  • 110 gasless MIG welder
  • 4 steel butt caps, 2-inch square by 1/8-inch thick
  • 4 pieces 1/8-inch-thick plate steel, 2- by 4-inches long
  • Soapstone marker
  • Drill press, 3/8-inch high-speed steel bit

Measure the distance from the lower loft to the upper loft to determine your ladder height. Don eye and ear protection and a NIOSH-approved respirator.

Cut two pieces of 2-inch-square, 1/8-inch thick tube-steel to the length you need, using an abrasive cutoff wheel on a right-angle grinder. These pieces will make the sides of your ladder.

Cut one piece of 14-inch-long, 2-inch-square, 1/8-inch thick tube-steel for every foot of ladder height, except the final one, to make rungs. Cut seven rungs for an 8-foot ladder, for example.

Clean burrs off each end of each ladder side and each rung using a 24-grit grinding wheel on your right-angle grinder. Wipe the ends of each piece clean using fine steel wool.

Lay the rungs between the sides. Check each end of each rung with a carpenter's square to ensure that it meets each side of the ladder at a 90-degree angle.

Don your welding helmet, gloves and full leathers. Weld each rung to each side of the ladder. Push a butt cap into each end of each side of the ladder and weld it in place.

Cut four 8-inch-long pieces of 2-inch square tube steel and four 1/8-inch thick pieces of 2-by-4-inch plate steel to make your ladder mounts. Remove any burrs with a 24-grit grinding wheel and clean the ground areas with fine steel wool.

Mark the four points where the top and bottom rungs of the ladder meet the sides. Draw lines across the sides, even with those points, to create four squares.

Lay the ladder flat so that you are facing one long side. Stand the 8-inch-long pieces of tube steel on end on the squares you drew on each side-piece of the ladder. Position them so that they are flush with each side of the ladder and even with the top and bottom rungs, pointing toward the ceiling. Weld all four pieces of tube steel in place.

Stack the four pieces of plate steel so that all edges and corners are flush. Secure them in the work rest of your drill press. Mark the intersection of the center point of one of the 2-inch ends and a point 1 inch from that same end. Drill a 3/8-inch hole through all four pieces.

Position each piece of plate steel so that the solid end is flush on the end of each piece of 8-inch tube steel, and the end with the hole sticks out to the right on the right side of the ladder, and so that it sticks out to the left on the left side. Weld each piece of plate steel to the tube steel.

Run an 80-grit flapper wheel on a right-angle grinder over the entire ladder, followed by a wire wheel, to give it a brushed finish.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you do not already know how to weld, take a minimum semester-long welding course at your local community college before attempting this project. All the welds in this project are fillet welds. Fillet welds are used to join two pieces of steel at a 90-degree angle to one another.

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