Building an Irish Dance Practice Stage…

…by someone who sits on his butt in front of a computer most days.

I can be handy. I have done handy stuff, but lately I have focused more on easier projects like light fixtures, ceiling fans, adding door locks and dimmer switches, replacing toilets and their parts, putting prefab shelves together, etc… I have done bigger projects, remodeled a kitchen (with help), built an entire wall of shelving in a garage, and some others, but it has been a while. Anyway, I figured this dance floor thing should be a no brainer. I was mostly right, but kinda wrong.

Below I am going to tell you how I put TGC’s (the girl child) practice stage together, and some DOs and DON’Ts along the way. It may not be the way you would do it, and if that is the case, please write a blog post and I will put a link out to it. You can also Google the steps. There are various ways to do it. I however, went my own route.

I have put in whatever I could to make it helpful, especially for someone who doesn’t do this kind of thing all the time (or at all). I also tried to put in some tips that I discovered along the way, once again designed for the DIY novice. It may sound over simplified, but if you are not a DIYer, this may not be second nature. I am also trying to have you go to [insert your favorite hardware store here] once for this project, not 3 times like I did.

Please consider this Irish Dance Practice Stage Building For Dummies, and here goes.

The Project

Create an 8′ x 12′ practice stage suitable for a teenage Irish dancer.

finFloor

The Tools

  • Power drill with screwdriver bits, and a drill bit with a slightly smaller diameter than your wood screws
  • Circular saw, or some other 2×4 cutting device
  • Hammer
  • Small sledgehammer – one handed (not necessary but really handy)
  • Measuring tape, at least 12′
  • Extension cord
  • T-square (or some right angle tool)
  • Paint roller
  • Paint tray(s)
  • Pencil

The Materials

materials

In SW Ohio dollars, no taxes added. Your mileage may vary. And remember, if you are a military veteran, like me, Lowes gives 10% off on everything all the time. Full price amounts shown below.

Qty. Item Cost Ext. Cost
3 4′ x 8′ sheets 19/32 cat rated sheeting (plywood) $16.97 $50.91
12 2″ x 4″ x 96″ select studs $2.62 $31.44
2 32 oz cans of chalkboard paint $9.98 $19.96
24 3″ x 6″ mending plates $1.10 $26.40
2 boxes 8×2 50 count wood screws $4.97 $9.94
1 1.88″ x 35yd roll Gorilla tape $8.98 $8.98
Total $147.63

The Steps

Prepping the Frame

You will need to cut all 12 2x4s to prep them for the frame. For my stage assembly, I laid the 2x4s out on their wide side, which made the stage a little shorter, and provided a bit more support area under the plywood.

  • Cut *7 inches off 9 of the 2x4s, leaving 9 @ 89 inches
  • Cut 3 of the 2x4s in half, leaving 6 @ 48 inches

If you have help, you may want to have them start putting the first coat of paint on the plywood. If you do not have help, you may want to roll a coat on before you start assembling frames. If you are working where you are painting, CUT THE WOOD AND CLEANUP BEFORE you start to paint.

painting

*For you true DIY novices, please note that a 2×4 is really 3.5 x 1.5 inches. Cutting 7 inches off will leave just enough to use a support piece at either end, resulting in an 8′ long frame, perfect for the 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood. (yes they are actually 4′ x 8′)

Assemble the Frame Sections

framePlatesYou will be making 3 frame sections and will do this step 3 times. I tried to be smart and create just two sections, but it was more work in the long run. See Don’ts section at the end of this article.

platesNote: If you are using mending plates for attaching the 2x4s together, it is best to work on a cement floor. Carpeted areas will work, but it is not recommended.

For this step you will need 3 of the 89″ 2x4s, 2 of the 48″ 2x4s and 6 of the 3″ x 6″ mending plates. Layout the frame as shown in the image to the left. The Red Xs indicate the position of the mending plates. Lay the 2x4s out so that the wide side is to the floor.

Square up one of the corners and using the sledgehammer, start pounding a mending plate into one of the 2x4s, working your way across the join to the other 2×4. You should be able to bang the plate into the 2x4s so that it is nearly flat. A hammer will work, but I found the sledge MUCH more effective.

plateRepeat this step for the other 5 joins on this section of frame and then repeat this entire step 2 more time until all 3 frame sections are complete. When they are complete, move the frames to where you will do the final assembly on the stage. (I did the prep work in the garage and then moved it all to the basement for assembly).

Note: You can use other methods to make the joins. This was recommended to me, made sense, and worked pretty well, and the plates are not too expensive.

DO NOT get ahead of yourself and attach the plywood. 1, it is probably not dry and needs a second coat of paint anyway, and B, you will need to attach the frames to each other before adding the plywood.

Add a second coat of paint to the plywood if you haven’t already. Shouldn’t be more than an hour or two between coats.

Assemble the Frame

completeFrameLay the 3 frame sections out next to each other as in the image to the left.

Note: Make sure you have it as close to the final destination as possible, because it will be harder to move after the next few steps.

Add 6 more mending plates to attach the frame sections together, in the locations marked by the green Xs. Keep in mind that you will be screwing the plywood on to these frames at about 1′ intervals, so try to space the mending plates so they are not in the way of the screws.

Go check the paint, is the second coat dry? If so, bring the plywood to the final build area.

Adding the Plywood

Dry fit all three pieces of plywood onto your frame. If you followed the measurements, and if I explained it correctly, each sheet should cover one of the frame sections nearly perfectly, and all three should cover the entire frame with no overlap or exposed frame. If you are satisfied with the dry fit, remove two of the pieces of plywood.

Lay your first sheet of plywood paint side up ;) , onto the frame. I noticed that my frame was not exactly square due to some of the shortcuts that I took (fixed for this post). If your plywood did not fit perfectly, start laying the first sheet of plywood on the most visible section of the stage, leaving any ‘errors’ for the least visible section.

measureDry fit the plywood onto the frame. Take your tape measure and extend the tape 12′, lock it, and lay it along one long side of the plywood. Use this to quickly drill pilot holes every 1′ with the small drill bit. Just laying the tape out keeps you from having to measure and mark the board itself. Drill the pilot hole through the plywood and into the 2×4 beneath. Repeat every foot on both sides, up the middle, and along both shorter ends. Be careful to avoid the mending plates along the long end that butts up to another section of stage, but the plates should still be visible since you are only working a sheet of plywood at a time, so this should be easy.

screwsWhen you have all the pilot holes drilled, use your drill to add a 2″ screw to each hole. Try to sink the screw far enough in where it is at least flush with the plywood, or maybe even sunk a bit into the wood, so as not to cause a trip hazard for your dancer.

Repeat for the other two pieces of plywood. For the edges that butt up against each other, you don’t need the tape measure, you can use the screws you just added to the previous piece as a guide for where to put the pilot holes. You will need it for the other three sides, but you saved a little time there.

Once all the screws are in, cover each line of screws with a layer of the Gorilla tape. I also covered the edges of the plywood which not only gives it a cleaner look, it also helps keep down any splintering. See the first picture above for the finished project.

dosdonts

Although the stage came out pretty well, there are some things I would have done differently now that it is complete, and some things I would have done the same. Below is a list of Dos, Donts and Considerations for when you build your stage.

DO

  • DO assemble all the frames on a hard surface if you are using the mending plates. It provides a better support surface when you are pounding in the plates and does not give like the carpet (in my case) did.
  • DO use premium wood screws. I used an OK screw, but some of the heads striped as I was putting them in. This is going to make it really difficult  if I have to take the stage apart.
  • DO check the plywood and 2x4s for quality. Buy the plywood as smooth as possible, and the 2x4s as straight as possible. Both of these issues caused extra work for me.
  • DO keep band aids handy.

DO NOT

  • wrongFrameDO NOT take a shortcut and just use 3 2x4s under the plywood like in the picture to the right. In my head, it would have been fine, but when I dry fit it, the ends of the plywood between the supports was weaker and could have been a hazard.
  • DO NOT try to take shortcut thinking you can create one big frame section (replacing 2 of the sections in the steps above) with 8′ 2x4s on the ends instead of 2 smaller frame sections with 4′ supports on either end. I thought of doing that, realized there was no way I could build it and get the completed section (finished size 8′ x 8′) down to the basement. So, I carried the parts down to the basement and started adding on to the 8′ x 4′ section I had already built and moved down. This is when I realized trying to assemble on carpet was not the best idea, but by then I was already to far along to do it the right way (I listed the right way above).
  • DO NOT work barefoot, because inevitably you will be working in your carpeted basement, thinking all is well, trying to get the mending plates attached, and you will step on the bag of mending plates. Those are some pointy little demons. (See the band aids note in DOs). I won’t mention the fact that stepping on the bag of plates made me spin around, loose my balance, and step on the bag with the other foot. I wish I was kidding. Please just wear shoes.

CONSIDER

  • Replacing 4 of the 2x4s with 2 2x8s instead, and using those in place of the 2x4s where the frame sections butt together. This would provide a more sturdy final stage, less cuts, less mending plates, etc… You will have to do your own math on putting that together.
  • Alternatives to the mending plates. I was looking for something that was nearly flush when installed. Mending plates worked well in that regard, but were more difficult to install than another bracket alternatives would be. I acted to quick. I should have researched a bit more.
  • Consider alternates to the chalkboard paint. It is OK, but after a week, it has taken quite a beating. It is not slick, which is good, and maybe additional coats is the answer. Refer back to the research line above.
  • Other surface coatings. Some other stage building blogs suggest using shower pan liner as the topper. You can get shower pan liner at [insert your favorite hardware store here] in 5 foot wide rolls for $8 a foot. Quick math says that would add nearly $200 to the cost of the stage I built. There are probably other options.

Tell Me How Yours Goes

The stage is solid and TGC loves it, so my work here is done, but I am not vain enough to think mine is the perfect way to build a dance stage. I do think other people will find this post, so I want to offer as much info as possible. If you have suggestions on how to make this better, please add them below. I may have to do this again.  ;)

 

 

2 Comments

Heather Pearl

I’m about to build a stage with your directions. Do you have any updated tips on doing so? I have the pan liner to go over the top. somehow I thought that was all I needed, but it is over cement…so not enough give.

Reply
What The Feis

Sorry Heather, other than what is in the comments, I really do not have any additional tips. Our stage is on carpet and padding, and has the 2x4s underneath, and it has been pretty good for my dancer. Sorry I don’t have more, and good luck with the build!

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