In the world of DIY, it is the step-by-steps that detail a solution to a problem or project. In my case, it was the steps themselves that posed the greatest dilemma.
When I purchased my house, there were a number of fixes I wanted to make, among them refreshing a dated bathroom and removing the carpeting that covered the stairs and second-floor landing.
By using a screwdriver to loosen a corner of carpeting in the hallway, I started to tug at the material. Within minutes I realized that the carpeting had not been installed the conventional way, with padding and carpet tack. It had been glued directly to the oak flooring below.
Removing the carpeting became a bigger challenge than I anticipated, calling into service paint scrapers, putty knives, and straight edge razors to cut, pry, and separate the rug from the floor. Despite the fact that the floors had residual adhesive stuck to the boards, I expected that a good professional sanding would restore them to their original beauty.
The uglier truth was revealed when I managed to tear away the carpeting adhered to the stairs. Clearly the carpeting (like the paneling) was an easy way for the prior owners to conceal a problem rather than remedy it.
The wood finishers that I hired to restore my oak floors said there was really nothing that could be done for the stairs. Sanding them would be useless, since the bullnose edges of the treads (the top, flat boards) were worn bare, “tread bare,” and the risers (the vertical, horizontal boards) were in no better shape.
Their recommendation was to rebuild the stairs, a costly prospect I was eager to avoid. There had to be a less expensive and construction-free alternative.
That's when I discovered pre-cut stair treads and risers in unfinished pine and oak at my local home improvement store. I started wondering if we could just add new treads and risers over the old. The stairway, despite its visible wear, was solid and secure. And while the boards would raise the height of the first step by an inch and shorten the rise for the top step by the same amount, it would have no other altering effects other than considerable cost savings.
That's exactly what the woodworkers were able to do. They squared off the bullnose edges of the original steps and installed new pine risers and treads directly over the old. I chose pine over oak because I planned to paint the stairs eventually.
It was far less expensive than a total demolition and rebuild ($9.97 per 48' x 11-12/” board), and, as you can see by the finished project, well worth the 14 steps it took to complete.
Now, since I brandished the previous owner for disguising problems rather than resolving them, is this a case of “the pot calling the kettle black?” Let the next owners weigh in on that one!
For more on flooring, consider:
How To: Install a Herringbone Wood Floor
Green Homes: Flooring
Choosing the Right Floor Covering