Stop and Stair


Light aluminium ladders are taking over from the heavy, wooden variety as the ladder of choice.

However, a discarded wooden ladder can easily be recycled into a trendy shelving system displaying anything from potted plants to books. You can customise almost any ladder for this purpose, so don’t despair if you lack a wooden one. Follow the Top Team’s simple guidelines and design a talking point this summer.

Shopping List
7-step wooden ladder (2 100 mm)
12 mm shutter board cut to the following measurements:
250 x 285 mm for the top shelf
250 x 320 mm for the 2nd shelf
250 x 360 mm for the 3rd shelf
250 x 395 mm for the 4th shelf
250 x 435 mm for the 5th shelf
250 x 475 mm for the bottom shelf
5 mm pine cover-strips cut to the following measurements:
12 x 250 mm for the shelf sides
2 x 295 mm for the top shelf
2 x 330 mm for the 2nd shelf
2 x 370 mm for the 3rd shelf
2 x 405 mm for the 4th shelf
2 x 445 mm for the 5th shelf
2 x 485 mm for the bottom shelf
Wood filler
Pink wood primer
Acrylic PVA
Panel pins
12 x 30 mm full thread screws


Tape measure, pencil, crack-filler blade, electric screwdriver and 6 mm bit, hammer drill and 4 mm wood drill bit, small hammer, level, no. 11 spanner, handsaw


1: Measure the width of each step of the ladder for the shelving. If you have a 2 100 mm 7-step wooden ladder-like ours, use the measurements in the shopping list above. The depth of all 6 shelves is 250 mm.

2: Using a handsaw cut the shutter board and cover-strips for the shelves to fit each step. Holding the cover-strips in place on the short sides of each shelf, check that they fit snuggly on each step.

3: Using the hammer and panel pins, at tach the cover-strips to each shelf. The fourteen 250 mm lengths will fit flush with the shor t sides of each shelf and the longer lengths will overlap by 5 mm on each end. All the panel strips fit flush against the bottom of the shelf creating a tray with raised edges on the top (fig a).

4: Paint each shelf with pink wood primer and leave to dry before applying two coats of your top colour. We used a soft green, Elysian Fields (colour 30GY62/159) from Dulux.

5: Dismantle the back legs from the front steps of your ladder using the spanner and flat screwdriver. Remove and discard the very top ‘7th step’.

6: Apply wood filler, using crack-filler blades, to the holes left in the ladder.

7: Pre-drill 2 holes per step, being careful to avoid the under step support.

8: Place each shelf in position on the steps and attach using the electric screwdriver and full thread screws from underneath each step through the predrilled holes.

9: Place your ladder in the position where you would like to display your potted plants. Check the position of the ladder when it’s resting against the wall by placing a level on the middle shelf. If it is level then the rest of the shelves should also be level, as the steps are parallel to each other.

The Gardener