Stairs - They Just Happened All of a Sudden

Hello crazy kids. I can't even describe to you the last nearly-two months. You would have to have lived through it to totally appreciate the insanity of it all.

Back at the end of May (like, seriously?) we completed siding on the last un-sided side of the house along with singling on the back, the re-installation of windows, the installation of an octagonal window, and the painting of much trim work outside. It was all a maximum effort put forth to get the biggest appraisal value possible as part of a refi effort.

Well, I'm happy to report that the appraiser came and the value of the house turned out to be very favorable. But our initial elation turned sour when the underwriter came back and told us they wanted a railing on the stairs before they would close the loan.

Mike, already exhausted from his exterior efforts, was not happy. But rather then put up something half-ass and temporary to satisfy the loan folks, he decided that he wanted to do it up right.

The stairs from the first floor to the second have always caused us issue. They were temporary to begin with, I spilled paint on the treads that could not be cleaned off, every step squeaked - loudly, and to top it all off, we had all the materials to create a railing - the railing, the post, the balusters - everything already purchased years ago and just sitting in the basement.

"We just need to do it," Mike said. "And then it'll be done."
I couldn't argue. The trouble was, it needed to be done in about two weeks... counting the 4th of July holiday. (Which bought us a few extra and much-needed days.)

The day after we heard from the mortgage company, we were ripping off the old stairs. The first step, (ha ha, thus begins the stair-themed puns) was to take off everything so that the treads could be sanded and re-stained and the risers could be painted. (They were previously just clear-coated, which didn't work well for us. They showed scuff marks like crazy and couldn't be cleaned.)

Risers Off

Since we still needed to access the upstairs, the next step needed to be done quickly. (And yes, on a couple of occasions, we just had to plop the treads on just so we could oh-so carefully walk upstairs.) Second Step - trim. Once all the treads were off, Mike and I carefully marked and cut a piece of wood for the wall-side trim. Some tricky cuts and angles there... Tense moments, for sure.

Third Step, eliminate the squeak by building stronger stairs. Mike cut treads out of pine board to underlay the oak ones and caulked/nailed them in.

Pine Underlayment

Mike also cut a hole in the bottom one for our railing post - already in stock - and installed it in place. Walking those stairs without squeak for the first time was amazing... so quiet! The increased height of the pine boards also made for a more natural stepping height, especially at the top of the stairs, where stepping from the old landing to the second floor had previously been an unnaturally larger step.

Step 4: Exterior Trim - more measuring, marking, and cutting. And, while all this building was going on, Mike and I were simultaneously painting and staining treads and risers. Within a couple of days, they were also all ready to be put on... Or at least ready to be tested and tweaked. Most of the risers needed to be trimmed due to the newly decreased, trimmed-out length requirements.

Stairs with Exterior Trim and Treads Back On
Treads and Risers, Painted and Stained, Not Nailed On Yet
Step 5: Paint the trim. It's self explanatory. Trim was painted in the same color as the risers... which, by the way, I somehow screwed up on. I have no clue what color white that is, but it's not the white I thought it was. I thought this was the antique white you see in the wall stripes.

*No, that's not wallpaper, that's paint. Yes, I painted perfect stripes on my hallway. How? Painters tape. Painted one color, let set. Marked plumb points at top and bottom of the wall, taped from point to point with 2" tape for a nice straight line. Put a small piece of tape next to ceiling to floor line of tape to gauge distance. Marked for next piece of tape. And so on and so forth until the whole wall was taped. Then, I painted the next color - two coats. I removed the tape immediately after the second coat, pulling slowly and evenly to prevent drips and marks. Came out beautifully! Most people think it's wall paper.

*Note - I ended up painting after failing horribly at trying to put up wallpaper. That stuff sucks!

Trim Painted
 Once the trim was painted, all the risers and treads were nailed on for good.

Step 6: Fix the landing. Mike cut and stained oak boards for the top landing, further evening out the landing to 2nd floor step height. It feels like a natural step now! (Although for a while it was a little weird... we both kept high stepping like idiots! We were both too used to the old, too-high step.)

Step 7: Install railings. Yes, railings. Just to be safe, in addition to the hallway-side railing, which would die out into the stairway ceiling halfway up, we purchased a cheapo wood rail for the wall-side. No one would be able to say we didn't have a railing on this set of stairs!

Step 8: Install balusters. This was a painstaking process, but didn't take Mike too long once he did a couple of them. Measure, cut, install, repeat - all the way up to the ceiling, where the railing and balusters die out. They look beautiful - and we had plenty in our basement stock to do the job, plus a few extras.

After those were up, the final step was to stain all remaining wood pieces, the two railings and the post. Those were all stained in place. A little stinky for my liking, but at least we could open all the windows and fan it out.


All Railed Out

And it was done in the knick of time! Mike finished on a Sunday. The following day, the appraiser came back out, photographed the improvement, and made his report to the mortgage company.

Of course, we're still waiting to close due to some other technicalities... but luckily, it's not on us. It's all on their side. (Phew) 

Now for a much deserved break from the house - although, the lawn needs to be mowed, weeds need to be whacked.... A break is never really a break.