Rustic Wooden Ladder DIY

One of the most asked about projects in my home is my rustic ladder. Everyone loves it. I know ladders are a popular décor item so that may be why. Since everyone seems to like them so much I made a few this week for our yard sale. I checked online to get an idea of what to sell them for and was shocked to see Pottery Barn has one that looks exactly like my small ladders for $249! Their 8′ ladder is $429. Seriously, take a look here. The wood needed for this project cost me $11.28 for the  4′ ladder and $18.78 for the 8′ ladder. I’m telling ya, DIY is the way to go.

Supply List:

Wooden Dowels 48″ (2 for the 4′ ladder and 3 for the 8′ ladder)

2×4 lumber 96″ (not treated)

wood glue

paint or stain

optional- polycrylic or polyurethane

Tools used:

Miter Saw

Drill with Woodboring Spade Drill Bit

Nail gun (you can use screws, just remember to pre-drill)

Alright, now that you have your supplies time to cut your wood. For the 4′ ladder, cut your 2×4 lumber in half. You won’t need to make any cuts for the 8′ ladder because your lumber is already 8′. Cut all your dowels in half.


Mark where you want your dowels to go. For the 4′ ladder, I divided by 5, then rounded to the nearest .5″ to give me 4 equal parts/marks for my dowels. Do the same for the 8′ ladder except you’ll divide by 7 for your 6 dowels. I decided I only wanted 5 dowels on the larger ladder so I divided by 6. You get the gist, right? You will probably have a little more space on one end, but that’s ok. It’s not perfect, but it will give you even spacing between your dowels.

Once you have your marks, it’s time to drill. You can buy woodboring spades individually or as a set. Make sure your dowel and spade are the same size. I bought the .875″ dowels, so I needed a 7/8 spade. You can make it easier for yourself and stick to .5″ sizes.


Drill at least .5″ into your 2×4, but not more than 1″.


Do the same for the other 2×4. I keep them side by side to ensure I’ll have even holes on both sides of my ladder.

Once you’ve got your holes drilled, clean out the debris and pour in a good helping of wood glue in the holes of one of the 2x4s. Stick your dowels in. Press them in really well. If you see glue spilling out, that’s ok. You can clean up later. Put some wood glue on the other end of the dowels and enlist some help to carefully set the other 2×4 on top. This part can be a little frustrating because you need all the dowels to go in at the same time. That’s why you need help 😉


Once everything is glued, I like to add some finishing nails for extra support. Remember though, this ladder is for décor, not working husbands or rambunctious children 🙂

Let your ladder sit for a day so the wood can dry before you paint or stain. Here are mine waiting in the backyard for me to beautify them.


Once your glue is dry, give it a good sanding to remove any burs and get ready for your paint or stain. There will also be stamps and sticker residue on your wood so be sure to get that off. After sanding, wipe it down with a clean, damp cloth really well to remove any wood dust.


I like to stain mine because it looks more rustic to me. I used Dark Walnut stain and sealed with Polyurethane. **Remember, Polycrylic for Paint and Polyurethane for Stain**

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Use a clean rag to apply stain. Be sure to use good latex gloves when you stain because it will stain your fingers.

When staining, you want to apply it in the direction of the grain. Put your stain on, wait about 5 minutes, then wipe off any stain that the wood has not absorbed. Do not let standing stain dry. It will be sticky and gross. Let your stain dry for 24 hrs.


You don’t have to add polyurethane, but it will protect your stain and give a nice finish. Use a foam brush to apply thin coats(at least 2) of polyurethane. Wait at least 4 hours between coats and make sure you lightly sand with a fine grit sand paper(220+) between each coat. Wait at least 24 hours before using your ladder.

Here’s the one in my bedroom I use for my scarves. You can use it for blankets, table linens, you name it!

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Happy DIYing everyone!

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