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Building a House - Consideration of the Staircases

BUILDING A HOUSE - CONSIDERATION OF THE STAIRCASES.

It was time to give the details required for the execution of the staircases. Eugene had told Paul to prepare these details; but Paul, as may be imagined, had not been very successful in accomplishing his task, and had only furnished an imbroglio perfectly unintelligible to others as well as to himself, notwithstanding the summary hints given by the architect in chief.

"Come,"said Eugene,"we must apply ourselves to this work together. Branchu and the carpenter are asking for details.

"Let us take first the principal stairs, and mark their walls (Fig. 39). For the height of the ground floor we have z 5 feet, including the thickness of the flooring; and the steps ought not to be more than 6 inches high, each of them : we must therefore reckon thirty steps from the level of the ground floor to the level of the first floor. In breadth or in tread - the term used by builders - a step ought to be from io inches to a foot, to give an easy ascent. Thirty steps therefore require an extension of from 25 to 3o feet. I think I told you this before, when we drew the plan of the ground floor. If we take the middle of the space reserved for the steps, on our plan, we find exactly 3o feet; marking therefore the steps on this middle line, and giving them inches tread, we can get two landing-places in the angles at A, A'. We will make these steps wind so as to avoid sharp angles near the newel. The first step will be at B, the last at C. At D, under the stairs, we will make the partition, which will allow us to form the water-closet at A'. Since at the landing-place, A, we have ascended eighteen steps (each 6 inches in height), we shall have 8 feet 6 inches under the ceiling, which is more than sufficient. We will light it by a window, E. The two windows, F, will light the staircase and follow the level of the steps, as the elevation shows. For nothing is more ridiculous than to cut across windows by the steps of a staircase; and although this is done con stantly, it is one of the absurdities which a builder ought to avoid. From the servants' passage, G, the water-closet will be entered by the door H.

"Let us now draw the elevation, or rather the vertical projection of these stairs. This is how we proceed : we draw the walls in elevation, then divide the height to be ascended into as many parts as there are to be steps, as I do at I. Projecting these divisions horizontally on the elevation, and the ends of the stairs vertically with the walls and the newel, indicated on the plan, we get, by the meeting of these two projections, the section of the stairs along the walls and against the newel.

"There we have it; the last step is then at K, on the level of the floor of the first story. To reach the second story, we have 13 feet 3 inches to ascend from one floor to the next. Giving 6g inches to each step, we get twenty-six steps, minus a fraction which is not worth counting. We shall therefore preserve in plan the draw ing of the first revolution, starting from the step, L, which gives thirteen steps to the point M. From this point we will draw the thirteen remaining steps to com plete the number twenty-six, as I have marked on the supplementary plan at N. Then for the elevation we will proceed as above. We shall thus get the general section from v to x for the two stories. The drawing being com pleted, the next question is of what material the steps are to be made. Contained between walls and a newel, which is a wall itself, we can, if we think well, make them each of a single block of stone. However, that is scarcely prac ticable in this neighbourhood, because we should have diffi culty in procuring hard, compact, fine stone, suitable for this object. We will therefore content ourselves with making the first step only of stone, and the others of wood, cover ing them with good oak board; and to avoid inserting them in the walls, we will provide a projecting-string in stone, forming a bracketing along the walls and the newel, to receive their ends, as shown here (Fig. 40). We will FIG. 40 lath these steps on the underside where they are to be left in the rough, and plane them only on the face, or riser, A. That they may be firm in their place, we will fasten them with stays, B, which will be covered by the boards forming the tread, and will be fixed into the holes, C.

"As regards the servants' winding staircase, we will make it of hard stone, each step carrying a portion of the newel, as sketched here (Fig. 41).

"Now try to put these instructions in a regular form, that you may be able to give the details readily to the mason and carpenter." With considerable labour Paul succeeded in making a tolerably complete drawing from the indica tions furnished by his cousin : but the latter was obliged often to help him; for his clerk was not an expert in elementary descriptive geometry, and these projections presented difficulties at every turn. Paul got into confusion with his lines, took one point for another, and would many a time have abandoned com passes, square, and drawing-pen in despair, if Eugene had not been at hand to set him right again.

steps, inches, walls, step and floor