Inner Workings of a Floating Staircase

Posted on August 30, 2016, by
Floating staircase details

The inner workings of a floating staircase reveal what it takes to be an Empirehouse Glazier: Innovative problem solving, collaborative teamwork, and a little humor on the side.

Empirehouse Glaziers Mike and BillyEmpirehouse Foreman Mike Blumer and Glazier Billy Esnough were busy installing a three-floor floating staircase at the Lindquist & Vennum law firm job site located in the IDS Center downtown Minneapolis. Little did they know that being captured on film would be part of their work day until a member of the Empirehouse team was sent to take some photos. You see, Mike and Billy were installing the inner workings of a floating staircase, and when the staircase is complete, the innovation that makes it float will be hidden from view. This opportunity to capture this phase of the project was too cool to miss!

Mike explained how the process began with Empirehouse Project Manager Joe Veit who arrived on site with the state-of-the-art Total Station measuring device for the floating staircase railing assembly.

Floating staircase details

The steel plate was used as a template for the steel stringer.

Floating staircase details

The steel stringer was welded with studs to hold everything together.

Floating staircase details - underside view

This view taken below the staircase shows how the glass lites are held within the assembly.

Floating staircase details

The glass lites installed that morning.

Unexpected wall forms Plan B

Traveling to the top level reveals a logistics challenge: how to fit a stud welding gun into an eight-inch work space.

Early on the job site, Mike looked ahead and noticed that the top staircase meets a wall with an eight-inch clearance. He knew this would be too tight to fit the stud welding gun needed to install the assembly. With deadlines in place, a Plan B was needed in a hurry. Mike and Billy began to brainstorm with Field Superintendent Dave Johnson to quickly collaborate a new way to accommodate the installation. Using a wire feed welder and customizing the installation process did the trick.

Mike and Billy were asked if troubleshooting on the fly is a rare occurrence. Glancing at each other with a chuckle in their voices, they said that coming up with solutions to problems is the norm. The majority of jobs look good on paper until they get to the job site. Sometimes they brainstorm solutions among the Empirehouse glazing team. Other times they involve the Project Manager and Field Superintendent, and sometimes they bring in the General Contractor, suppliers, and other trades on site. Who ever is needed, the collaboration and teamwork draws from each person’s expertise and knowledge base to bring together a resolution so that the project can proceed on schedule and with the quality outcome the owner expects.

Empirehouse Glaziers Mike and Billy

Packing up the camera, Billy asks, “Are we getting paid for being movie stars?” Mike answers, “Yes, Billy, we are on the clock, you know!”

Finishing touches

The Empirehouse camera returned to the job site to capture these finishing touches.

Completed staircase

The completed floating spiral staircase connects three floors of office space.

Retractable window wall

In addition to the floating spiral staircase, Empirehouse glaziers installed a retractable glass wall that vanishes within the wall when not in use.


Empirehouse is proud to have been the Architectural Glass and Metal Contractor for the Lindquist & Vennum law firm and work with Greiner Construction and Yellow Dog Studios architect.

Our glass and glazing scope of work on this renovation project included installing a three-floor floating spiral staircase with glass railings and a sliding glass wall. The floating spiral staircase is part of an 81,000 square feet office renovation in the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis, MN. The staircase is a central focus which connects the 19-21st floors of this law firm and encourages an environment of conversation and interaction.

Photo Gallery: (Click to enlarge)


Empirehouse is an NACC Certified Glazing ContractorEmpirehouse is a certified NACC Architectural Glass & Metal Contractor for demonstrating consistency, quality and safety excellence. Empirehouse has met the NACC program requirements which have been established by a Certification Board of AG&M contractors, industry experts, and end user stakeholders and formally accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to the globally-recognized ISO/IEC17065:2012 standard.

For your next project requiring architectural glass and metal, trust a Certified NACC Glazing Contractor for quality results. Contact Empirehouse at 763-535-1150 or contact us.


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Photography and written by Jennifer Klitzke, Marketing & Image Coordinator. For more information about Empirehouse, contact jklitzke@empirehouse.com.