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  • Writer's pictureEric

Stair Transformation

carpetted stairs

Complete stairs project

The Project

The original stairs to the second floor were carpeted with a traditional long natural oak polyurethaned handrail and second handrail with spindles. The steps taken to transform this away from carpet and with a color scheme that matched the rest of the home are as follows:

  • Remove the handrail(s) and spindles

  • Patch, sand, paint the walls

  • Remove the carpet, staples, carpet tack strips if any

  • Paint the white stair edge trim

  • Trim the stair treads flush with each step

  • Purchase stair treads and risers and finish to desired color or finish

  • Cut treads and risers and test fit

  • Attach all treads and risers

  • Reattach handrails

The Prep

If you have never removed carpet before....make sure you have bandaids on hand and go slow. Carpets are held in place with very sharp tack boards typically, even on stairs. Grab a hold of any piece of carpet here with some pliers and give it a yank. For stairs, you will find this could be one long piece of carpet or many little pieces wrapped over each step. Underneath, you will find the dreaded tack boards, staples, nails, etc. Get them all removed....carefully. You will then find that the boards overhang each step as shown here. Since we are adding new treads and new risers, we want the trim off the overhangs. We didn't touch the newel post or short handrail but just painted it black. These posts are typically attached quite well into the stair framing. Don't touch them if you don't have to. We did have to remove and will replace the spindles.

Remember, you have a great chance to paint...the walls, the ceiling, the railings, the wood trim before you move on to attaching your new steps. Here we painted the walls, painted our oak handrail black and reattached it, painted our lower handrail and we are trimming flush all the steps.

The Stair Parts

We purchased oak stair treads and riser panels. The riser panels were already finished in white for us and just need to be trimmed to fit. For the oak stairs, we are finishing them using oil based semi-gloss polyurethane to match the hardwood floors we have installed. Oil based turns oak a nice rich red shade. Water based would leave them whiter and not bring out the redness.

What's the process to get a showroom finish? Patience!

  • Brush on poly and let dry

  • 220 grit light hand sanding

  • Vacuum off dust

  • Second coat of poly and let dry

  • 220 grit light hand sanding

  • Vacuum off dust

  • Third coat of poly and let dry

  • 1500 grit wet hand sand, just dip the sandpaper in water and be gentle

  • Towel dry and it should be like glass

The Install

Stair treads should have an overhang between 3/4" to 1 1/4". You may have to trim the stairs to the desired overhang since all homes have variations in the framing. You must have a consistent tread size, overhang and riser height otherwise it can be awkward and dangerous when climbing the stairs.

How did we install these?

  • Starting at the top, caulk gun out some dollops of liquid nails onto the stair

  • Place the tread onto the stair and push it back against the stair

  • Shoot a few 2" brad nails into the tread to hold it

  • Caulk gun a few dollops of liquid nails on the stair riser face

  • Place the riser against the stair (the white pieces shown here)

  • Our white riser sits on top of the tread to lock it in

  • Shoot a few 2" brad nails into the riser.

  • Move down the stairs.

  • Stay off it for a few hours....

  • Come back and caulk any gaps between the white riser and side boards

  • Putty over any brad nails in the oak treads...the brads should not be too visible at all

  • Add carpet runner or treads if desired or leave natural

Additional Steps

Depending on your situation, there might be additional steps needed. Here are a few that we had to do.

Oak trim bullnose boards to mesh with new second floor flooring.

scroll saw trim
Scroll saw trimming to fit around the stair moulding

New spindles installed into new wood steps.

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