BUDZ! Behold, I built stairs. What started out as a quick and easy refinishing project turned into one of the hardest most satisfying things I’ve done as a homeowner to date. I honestly thought that I could take the old steps (see below) remove the staples and the construction adhesive, strip the paint and refinish the stairs. However that is not what happened.
Usually before I start a project I spend sometime staring at the project. This is how I make my plan. So I was staring at the stairs (get it? Mad shout outs to my people over at Highly Pun LLC), and I realized that I wanted to add a skirt to the stairs to give them a real nice finished look, thus giving me an excuse to trim them out, which in turn would make them look reminiscent of the main floor stairway in our house. If you’re not familiar, a skirt on a stair is that trim piece that runs up alongside the staircase. Making a stair skirt requires a lot of detail and intricate cuts and if I was going to spend all the time doing that, I might as well just replace the treads, and if I was going to replace the treads, well I better replace those beat up cracked risers too. And I’m sure you can get where I’m going with this.
Since I began designing the basement I was determined to have bits of it that I could use to give a nod to the history of the home. I didn’t just want a brand spanking new basement (well I did) that looked out of place in a 105 year old home. Okay, so I know it does a little, but that’s cause it’s new, but it also doesn’t, and that my friends is because I tried to add some old stuff to it (dur). I wanted to use baseboard trim, hardware and the stairs to incorporate historic elements into the space. So these stairs were important to the big picture, the grand plan, the whole enchilada!!! Get it?
Anyway, let the nightmares begin, because I had them. All night long after discovering this mess. Somehow my dreams lead me to a solution. I figured that I could hoist the stringer back up using 2×4’s as bracing. I notched out a right angle into the underside of the stairs using a jig saw and then wedged the 2×4 into place. I raised the stairs 2.5 inches allowing me to use some heavy duty screws to reattach them to the landing from below. Also, there were a lot of spider webs down there. In addition I added a lot of structural bracing, so that baby should not be going anywhere! I totally had a cocktail and took a nap after accomplishing this heroic feat.
Next step was cutting out the skirt. Typically you would put a skirt on after adding the treads and risers to the stairs, but because our stairs are so old I wanted to be able to easily access the guts if need be. Because of that, I choose to put the skirt on first and then nail on the treads and risers. Sorry to all you woodworker dudes out there who probably can’t deal with me admitting that little fact, I cheated.
I wanted these stairs to be pretty and that required a lot of trim work. There were many, many, many trips out to my garage to visit my sweet saw. I think I logged 20k on my fit bit during the first day. So many cuts, so much detail, so damn time consuming. I was ready for those steps to be done, but the reality was that I wasn’t even close. It took me two days to finish the trim work – granted these are not full days because the husband guy was out of town and I was single mommin’ it, but it took a lot of time. I added a cap to the skirt on both sides, a bit of trim on the underside of the treads and beefed up that newel post.
Then came the staining and painting. ‘Nough said. First I stained, then I painted, then I added a layer of poly to every other step so I wouldn’t trap myself in the basement (still got to do the other stairs this weekend). Lastly I caulked the crap out of those stairs. Now I just got to do a few touch ups and she’ll be good to go.
So I’m checking big things off my basement check list. Next it will be time for replacing that one little last piece of counter top, adding two sets of floating shelves above the cabinets, painting the doors black, and upholstering a seat for the bench under the tv. So. Close.
But . . . do they creak when you step on them? I’m seriously curious. I’d like to repair/replace the main staircase in our house and would consider doing the work myself, but only if I think it’s feasible that all of the work will result in a creak-free staircase.
Hey Kate. If you want perfect stairs then I’d hire a contractor. Everything squeaks a little bit in our old house. The new/old stairs are nearly squeakless, but they’re not perfect.
ah. ma. gah. You are amazing. My mouth is just hanging open, drooling. I took the easy way out on our basement reno…carpet.
Thanks, lady! Carpet looks nice too and is easy – you win!
Wowza, Thats amazing! I dream of doing things like this,but I’m scared of the saw. Did you put in new railing too?
I am also scared of the saw – like irrationally scared of it. Because of that I try and be super safe, but I hate having to go out and saw stuff, especially the little cuts with tiny pieces of wood. I really should watch an in-depth tutorial on miter saw basics someday…
Amazing! Love reading about this and love your process pics – I’m gearing up to paint some stairs and have been trying to figure out an order of operations that won’t leave me trapped. You’re such an inspiration!
Yes, def do every other stair if you don’t want to be trapped. I made the mistake of staining every stair the first round. I had planned on watching some Proj Run in the basement so it wasn’t that big of a deal because it dries pretty fast BUT the cat decided to run up the stairs right after the first coat was applied. I couldn’t go after her because I was trapped. When the stain was finally dry I got to follow of stain all over my house, thankfully she didn’t decide to hop up on any furniture or beds and I cleaned it up with mineral spirits. Still.
Amazing. Enjoy that feeling of accomplishment. You deserve it!!! It looks great.
Thanks, Melissa! I will try ;)
this is truly incrayeeblay and only one child fell down the stairs in the process!
That’s true. I suppose I forgot to mention that failure.
Wow, it looks incredible!
As I skimmed this post I thought, DAMN, it must feel good to be a gangsta. Nice job, lady!
It does feel pretty great ;)
Oh it looks gooooood. I have a decent amount of skill, but not stair building while single parenting skill. In the world of Pinterest, it’s pretty hard to get inspired these days… but I am so, so inspired!
Woah, thanks Kari. Yeah, I tried to get my cuts done during the day in the two hour window I have while the kids are both out of the house, and then after they went to bed at night I did most of my assembly. If Jeff had been around it probably would’ve taken me a lot longer, but since my nights were free it was no prob.
holy crap – you should be MAJORLY proud of yourself. Hope you’re feeling better these days…
Thanks, Sally and I am most of the time. I still know that I’m not out of the woods, but I’m still trying to be really mindful of doing all the good things I can to make my body and mind happy.
Holy balls, you’re insane! You just totally made that happen nbd. DAMN. I seriously need to get over my fear of saws, I see that now.
I’m scared of saws too! I just picture my fingers getting chopped off every time I start using them. I guess that makes me cautious but def not confident when it comes to them. I’d like to learn how handle a miter saw like a pro. Jeff got me a my first miter saw for Christmas last year and I’ve used it so much this year – which I’m glad for – but yeah, still scared of it.
These look absolutely fabulous! I am so impressed that you did all of that work on your own. What a huge project! I think I would have given up halfway through and lived with half-finished stairs for five years before I got over the trauma of doing all that cutting with the saw. Not only are your stairs finished, and gorgeous!, you’re also a huge inspiration to me to tackle difficult projects myself.
Hey Annmarie! The thing about stairs is that you can’t give up half way through – unless you just want to take a ladder ride in between levels. It’s kind of a do or die thing so I had to follow through!
Yes, I feel more and more confident everytime I tackle a big project. One of my first DIY home repair projects was replacing loose tile in our upstairs bath and I was so scared of doing it the right way. I think as I learn more about how houses are built and how to fix them through trial and error, there isn’t always an exact right way and every project (especially in old homes) will be handled differently. Every time I tackle a bigger and bigger project I feel so empowered. I think we all have the ability, it just takes the time to work up to those big skills.
beautiful! i love all the before and after pictures. great post.
Thanks so much, Blair!
Love how the stairs turned out! What type of paint did you use for your risers? I replaced the main stair case in my house and painting the risers is the last part of the project I have to go – would love it if my stairs end up looking this good!
Hey Sam, Thanks! Okay, so the stairs are painted in a Behr Satin finish – the color is All White (a Farrow and Ball color). I don’t love this paint – it doesn’t settle nicely and it shows a lot of brush strokes even when I try and be meticulous about my sanding and painting. Once I can swallow paying up for a really nice can of paint I will probably go for the actual Farrow and Ball All White and repaint them. All of the other trim and kitchen cabinets in my home were painted in the All White, and when I ran out of the good stuff I subbed it for the not-as-great stuff. Big regret.
Thanks so much! Let you know how it goes!
Wow! I am so impressed with your work…very professional and meaty! I love the banister and was wondering how you attached it the newel post. you rock!
Hey Deb, Thanks! The banister was attached by the basement fixer guys – they had to have a banister to have it pass inspection. It definitely seems like there would be some funny angles you’d have to cut. Angles always stump me.
Damn, girl! You are AMAZING!
Scoops. You’re a boss. This is the real deal.
Just like Bruce! Thanks!
So impressive! And they look amazing!
That is brilliant Scoops! Please, take this next weekend off. Just relax.
Ha! Thanks and I’ll try ;) I’m actually pretty good at not doing anything on the weekends.
Your stairs look gorgeous! I absolutely love them, and would love to give it a ‘go’ on our 1950’s version going down into our basement in Mpls. This is a project that I am hoping to tackle with my Dad. We’ve both read your post and are excited to try it – but have a few questions:
We are interested to understand the materials used for the treads and skirts. Did you make the treads or buy treads and cut to size? How did you make the skirts? Did you use trim to cover the space between tread
and skirt? Or caulk?
Thank you so much for the inspiration! You rock.
Oh, good questions. I guess I didn’t get too much into detail on that in the post, there was just so much other stuff to talk about ;)
I used these pre-made pine treads with a bullnose and then cut them down to size. You can check them out here. For the risers I used pine 8’x8″x1″ that I also chopped down to fit – link is here. The skirt was tricky! I used a 10′ x 12″x1″ board that I cut to fit around the stringers. You could also cut them to fit around the tread and riser once you have those in place, but doing it to the stringer seemed much easier and I could cover any flaws with the tread and riser (make sense?) – here’s the tutorial I used. I used some long 3″ nails to attach the treads and the risers, 6 per tread and 3 per riser and there are barely any squeaks – these are easily the least squeaky stairs in my house.
I used some trim between the bullnose and the riser to beef up the treads – link is here. There was no trim used between the tread/risers and the skirt. Everything fit pretty well together but I did finish it off with a thin bead of caulk around everything which I applied after staining and before the final coat of white paint.
I added a cap molding to the skirt to finish it off and fit the style of the rest of the baseboard in my house – similar to this link here.
Lots of info, hope that helps and sorry I didn’t cover it in the post.
Thank you so much! This is very helpful. I appreciate it!
Thanks for the comment Nicole. In the grand scehme of things I think you can do much worse than peanuts, so no big worries. For me they tend to cause digestion issues. Plus, we’ve got a little one at home and with the crazy peanut allergies some people have our thought is to consume it very lightly for a while in case there is some outside chance the baby has an allergy. obviously thats more about the Misses than me, but I’m there in spirit. Unfortunately the really good nuts, like macadamia nuts and almonds (and almond butter) for that matter are pricey.