A local builder asked me to take a look at the stair design for a house he was framing. He wanted something beyond the conservative straight-run stairs the plans called for. Looking at the available rectangular space - an area about 7 feet wide by 10 feet long - it occurred to me that an elliptical stair might be a good solution.

I had framed a number of radius stairs using a method presented in JLC years ago (see "Framing a Radius Stair," 2/93), in which pony walls fan out along the curve of the stair to support the treads. I knew if I could cut out the elliptical stair pattern in plan view that this approach would work well: It's straightforward and strong,...

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