Under our main stairs is a small set of stairs into an unused crawlspace. The space under the stairs is good storage, and we keep many things in there, including our dog food, because we can close the door and keep the pets out. One of our cats has decided that she really would like to spend more time exploring the forbidden basement, and has determined that when the humans are barely awake they often are not as quick at stopping her. So first thing in the morning, when we go to get the dog food, she is there waiting to sneak by and down the stairs. It takes a lot of bribery to get her back up before we leave for work, and we don’t want her using the sandy floor down there as a litter box all day.
The solution? A trap door over the stairs. Something that we can leave closed, but open easily when we need down there, or even just when we need access to the stuff at the far end of the under stairs storage. It does not need to take a human’s weight, but it should take a cat or two, and probably a large dog. Also, the shape of the hole is weird and narrow, so we cannot add a lot to the edges of this opening, and we have to work around the quirks. Nothing to it!
For this project I picked up some pine tongue and groove panels, just 6 inch wide. This would make up the main part of the door itself. I picked up some large hinges to support it, and some 1×4 strapping to add structure to the door and support around the edges where appropriate.
I cut each pine panel for the exact length of the spot needed and loosly attached it to the next piece. This let me test out the shape and make changes until I had what I needed. Nothing was permanently attached at this point. I held the parts together using strapping across the bottom of it, and some screws. This didn’t need to take much weight, just stay in one place.
For the hinges I used a bit of strapping to get them away from the wall a small amount, making their movement easier. Then I closed the door and dropped them in place. This allowed me to find the right position for them quickly. They are on backwards, as it worked better. A few screws later and they are not going anywhere.
The last few details included some stops on the far side of the door to make sure it stopped at the right place. A rope loop through the door with a knot as a pull handle worked great. Finally I put a hook and loop latch on the wall beside the hinges so that I could hold it open.
We then let the cats out of the room they had been locked in while we worked on this project and watched them try out the new floor/door. Our trouble maker was glad to try getting in there, and very disappointed to find her access blocked. I think it worked. Since then she has mostly forgotten that this was a place she wanted to go.
This has really made it simple for us to use this space, we don’t have to fight with our animals to keep them out anymore, and if we need stuff that is hard to reach, we just close the main door and open this once we are sure it’s clear.