How to Build a Rolling Library Ladder
Rout oak boards and install specialty hardware to create an elegant addition to any built-in bookcase
You might assume a rolling ladder belongs in a dark-paneled library filled with brass lamps and leather-bound first editions. But such a handsome and useful piece works equally well in a kitchen, to reach high cabinets; in a family room with a towering bookcase; or even in a cheerful reading nook, like the one at right. Hardware kits typically include rollers, wheels, and fasteners for the ladder; you'll buy the track separately and cut it to length. You can, of course, buy the ladder, unassembled, but we built ours from sturdy red oak. Follow along on the next page as This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers walks you through the steps.
Hardware: Custom Service Hardware Rolling Hook Ladder Hardware Kit in Black, about $503; 8-Foot Round Rail in Black, about $95; four Vertical Hook Brackets, about $10 each; Stop Kit with round black finials, about $45; Red Oak Top Rung (spindle), about $14; Custom Service Hardware
SATURDAY Prep the parts (Steps 2–8).
SUNDAY Build and mount the ladder (Steps 9–13).
Cut list for Building a Rolling Library Ladder
Designed to reach an 8½-foot-tall shelf (on a 10-foot-high bookcase) in the climbing position.
1x4 red oak boards for the handrails:
two @ 107 inches
1x5 red oak boards for the treads:
one @ 103¼ inches, cut to seven 14¾-inch lengths
¾-inch red oak spindle:
one @ 15¼ inches
Note: Although the formula from Custom Service Hardware for sizing and angling the handrails is ideal for a track installed 7 feet 7 inches high, the company applies it to ladders of any size. This saves a step of calculating angles but means that shorter ladders will have a shallower pitch and taller ladders a steeper one. The design of the wheels allows them to maintain solid contact with the floor for ladders made with this formula for bookcases as tall as 18 feet.