How to Build DIY Dog Stairs
Big dogs, small dogs, young dogs, old dogs—every dog can benefit from a set of DIY dog stairs. But when a dog becomes arthritic and actions like jumping on the bed and couch become more difficult, dog stairs become a must. This set of DIY dog stairs will make it easier and safer for your best friend to do the things they deserve. Additionally, this design is easily modifiable and can be tailored to any size dog.
What Are Dog Stairs?
Dog stairs are standalone stairs that can be moved for use with furniture like couches or beds to allow dogs to more easily access them.
Before You Begin
This set of DIY dog stairs is designed to utilize one 2-foot by 4-foot sheet of plywood for the sides. While the size and number of the steps can be modified to accommodate dogs big and small, the total height of the stairs will be limited. This means if you plan to make taller stairs to reach a very tall bed, you may need to spring for a full 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of plywood and slightly alter the design.
To ensure the safety of your pup, these stairs have been designed to be stable and able to support the weight of even the heaviest dogs. Skimping on the bracing, the fasteners, or any other components or steps in the build process may compromise the strength and stability of the stairs and result in injury to your dog.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Tape measure
- Circular saw
- Jigsaw or handsaw
- Speed square
- Brad nailer or hammer and brad nails
- Drill bits
- Countersink bit
- Orbital sander
- Painting or staining supplies
- 1 2-foot x 4-foot x 3/4-inch sanded plywood
- 1 2x4 x 8-foot pine board
- 1 1x10 x 8-foot pine board
- 3-1/2-inch wood screws
- Wood glue
- 120-grit sandpaper
- Stainable wood filler or paintable caulk
- Paint or stain
- Spray-on clear coat (optional)
- Scrap boards
- Protective feet
- Clear tread strips (optional)
How to Build DIY Dog Stairs
Follow along to build your own set of DIY dog stairs. These steps are intended to create a 2-foot-high set of stairs with three steps, but the size and amount of stairs can easily be adjusted to accommodate dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Cut the Plywood
Use a circular saw to cut the plywood into two 2-foot by 2-foot squares. Place the plywood on a work surface and support it with a scrap board to protect the work surface while cutting.
Draw the Stair Layout
On one side of the plywood, use a tape measure and pencil to mark lines at 8 inches and 16 inches. Turn the plywood to the next side and repeat.
Use a speed square to mark downward from each line until a stair shape is visible. Mark the smaller side of the lines with an 'X' to indicate that as the side to be removed.
Don't worry about repeating this process on the second piece of plywood, as you can simply trace the first set of stairs once cut.
Cut Out the Stairs
With the plywood securely clamped to a work surface, use a jigsaw to cut out the stairs. If you don't have a jigsaw, use a circular saw to make the majority of each cut, then follow up near the corners with a handsaw.
Trace the stairs on the second piece of plywood and cut out the shape.
Cut the Braces
Hidden 2x4 braces will give the stairs most of their strength. To make the braces, cut a 2x4 into four boards measuring one to two feet long. Determine their length by your desired width for the stairs, ensuring each board is the exact same length.
Attach the Back Brace
The braces will be attached using two equally spaced screws at each end. Pre-drill the screw holes using a countersink bit to help hide the screw heads at the end.
For the first brace, position the board vertically at the back of the stairs, against the bottom. Pre-drill the holes using a countersink bit—ensuring the holes fall in the middle of the 2x4—then glue each end of the board and securely fasten the board between the sides using 3-1/2-inch wood screws. Wipe away excess wood glue.
The placement of the braces and the screws is the most crucial part to ensuring the strength of the stairs. Pay close attention to screw placement to ensure the screws have a strong hold.
Attach the Stair Braces
The three remaining braces will be positioned beneath each stair tread. You can either position the brace toward the edge, making it visible from the front, or slide it black slightly to hide it beneath the stair tread.
Follow the same pre-drilling and fastening process as the prior step.
Cut the Stair Treads
Measure the assembled width of the frame to determine the length of each stair tread. If you desire for the treads to hang slightly over the ends, factor that in as well. Keep in mind, if your treads are two feet long, you may need a 1x10 that's longer than 8 feet to account for the sawblade's width and achieve this look.
Attach the Stair Treads
Spread wood glue on each of the three horizontal stair braces. Slide the treads into place, ensuring they are even from side to side, then fasten them with a brad nailer. The nails may seem small, but the combination of the wood glue and brad nails is more than enough to hold the treads in place.
Sand All the Surfaces
Use an orbital sander fitted with 120-grit sandpaper to sand all surfaces and rough edges of the dog stairs.
Fill the Nail and Screw Heads
If you're planning to stain the stairs, use stainable wood filler to fill all nail and screw heads. Once dry, sand them smooth.
If you're planning to paint the stairs, simply use wood filler or paintable caulk to fill the holes.
Stain or Paint the Dog Stairs
Finish the dog stairs with either stain or paint to improve the aesthetic and protect them for years of use. If you go the route of staining, following up with a spray-on clear coat will help protect the stairs even further.
Add Protective Feet
Fasten four protective feet to the bottom of the stairs to protect your floors. Use the included hardware and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Add Clear Tread Strips (Optional)
If you're worried about your dog slipping on the stairs, add clear tread strips or tread tape to each stair.
When to Replace DIY Dog Stairs
If you have reason to believe the stairs are not strong enough to support your dog or they have worn over time making them ineffective or unsafe for use, it may be time to replace components or rebuild the stairs. If properly built and finished with paint or stain and clear coat, it's unlikely that your stairs will not last for as long as you should need them.