We moved into our new cabana about a month prior and had yet to take full advantage of the loft because we didn’t have any stairs. We had considered several funky stair designs with notched logs and spiral things, but in the end just wanted to have nice wooden stairs finished in a reasonable amount of time. We decided to use dimensional Guanacaste with 2 x 6” x 12’ sides and 1.5 x 12” steps.
We purchased the wood, a local hardwood called Guanacaste, for the stairs and also the kitchen counters and island at the end of October, the end of the rainy season. They told us it would take 10 days to dry and you could feel the wood was full of water and extremely heavy. A month later, after being stored in the bodega and flipped and restacked regularly to prevent warping, mildew and termites, the wood was lighter but still not dry. In fact, more than a month later when I drilled into the first piece of wood, a little geyser of water shot out. In the future I would allow 2 months of drying, ideally in a hot storage room with fans blowing on the wood.
Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) is a tree in the Fabaceae family (Mimosoideae subfamily) that includes the legumes and nitrogen-fixing plants like peas and beans. It grows in pastures in Central America especially where livestock have spread its seeds and also makes up second-growth forests that have arisen from old pasture. These habits make it a good choice for timber because it is not an old growth forest species and there is plenty of pasture habitat for it to grow in Nicaragua. In addition, it is regulated in Nicaragua and sawmills (asserias) must have special permission to mill and sell it. Thus, we headed to the big old mill in Chinandega where the Don presides over a huge city block piece of land filled with shady trees and giant logs lying about ready for the saw.
Back at home I had been trying to figure out how to build straight stairs around round eucalyptus posts and not-exactly-square framing (which was starting to warp a bit as the wood dried (note to selves: buy and dry the construction lumber sooner next time)). I wanted to keep them against the wall to save space in the house and not make them too steep. After much head-scratching, I decided I would thread the 2×6” Guanacaste timbers that make the side runners of the stairs between the eucalyptus posts and the pine siding- there was a nearly 2” gap already at the beam and I would have to notch the vertical posts to make a space. We decided the angle of the stairs based on where the octagonal window was on that wall (we didn’t want to block the window) and actually had originally decided the placement of that window so that the stairs would have the right angle, so everything was planned, more or less, from the start. Once I decided on a strategy it took about 3 days to get 9 step stairs done.
Once the stairs were in, we moved all the surfboards from the loft to the storage bodega and then the bed up to the loft which opened up the downstairs for a living area and kitchen counters…the next project!