We moved into our 1921 home in 2008 and although it is a beautiful character home with many wonderful features including coffered ceilings, original built-in cabinets, a fireplace, French doors and a double staircase to the basement, there were definitely a few less than attractive features. Slowly, but surely, we have chipped away at the projects a little bit at a time. The great thing about having a handy husband is that he can pretty much do it all – electrical, plumbing, carpentry, sod, small engine repairs, etc. The downside is that “Mr. Fix-it” also has a full-time job and understandably does not want to spend every moment of his free time doing projects for me (I mean us).
When we first moved into this house, the staircase and entire second floor were covered in a disgusting brown carpet from the 70’s. We knew from the previous owners that there was not hardwood beneath, despite the age of the house. Evidently, there was a fire that gutted most of the second floor, thus none of the finishes upstairs are original. One of our first projects upon taking possession of the house was to remove the carpet. We had previously lived in a house (long story for anther time) that had OSB floors on the second story. We both loved the look and they were a perfect choice for the pocketbook as well. We bought, laid, sanded and urethaned for under $700. We loved the finished OSB look upstairs, but the staircase itself was a mess. The wooden stairs beneath the carpet were in very poor shape. The wood that was used was extremely rough and our attempts to paint and urethane did little to hide the imperfections.
I’ve hated the staircase from the moment we moved in and always had this vision in my head. It has taken us a very long time to attack this beast because we both knew it was not only a huge undertaking, but quite possibly beyond our capabilities. In December, we remodelled the upstairs landing, so that the kids would have a place to hangout with their friends. We don’t have a finished basement (yet) and with only the one family/living room, there really wasn’t a place for the kids and their friends (without us breathing down their necks). We both desired to have our home be an inviting spot for all the teenagers. Sure enough with the upstairs space finished, our kids began to invite their friends over on a regular basis and before long, they didn’t even need an invitation, but knew they were always welcome and were expected to come in and make themselves at home. Back to the reno…the staircase itself is actually very narrow and when we went to move the sofa upstairs (after finishing the landing) we could not make it work. With very little forethought, we smashed down the rail and jumped into this project. I distinctly remember my conflicting feelings…Oh no! What have we done! …verses Hooray! I’m finally getting new stairs!
Before: Painted Staircase
I searched for before pictures, but having hated the stairs, there really aren’t any that truly depict how bad they were. I have a few shots from 2013 after fresh paint and a coat of urethane, but most were taken post demo in December 2018. Demo involved using the “sawzall” to remove the rail and cut off the overhang/nose of the stairs. Otherwise, the black painted/chipped treads and yellow risers demonstrate quite accurately what they were like.
Part of my vision for the stairs involved upcycling old oak. Our home is old and I really didn’t want to purchase a stair kit or even have brand new stairs installed. I wanted hardwood, but also desired to have something authentically aged and with a story of its own. And so it began…I spent several months scouring Kijiji in search of wood that would meet the size requirements for the treads. The trickiest part was finding wood suitable for the bottom three steps which were oversized and oddly shaped because of a turn in the staircase. I ended up with a mishmash of antique oak from a combination of dining room tables, desks, a church pew and junk piles. In addition to the hardwood stair treads, I wanted painted risers that would match the custom stair skirting, batten moldings and chair rail. I knew the look I wanted, but it would take lots of fine finishing work to pull it all together. Keep in mind….my husband is not a carpenter by trade!
Once we had the wood collected, we had to muster up the courage to start. It was scary to embark on such a daunting project, but the reality was that our stairs had been barely usable for over 6 months and the job just had to get done. I stripped and sanded the antique pieces. Tim cut the collected wood into treads and then proceeded to stain and urethane. We purchased 1/4″ hardboard to cover the rough risers that previously existed on the old stairs. Tim measured and cut the skirts, batten boards, moldings and chair rails and within 2 weeks, the project was completed. I was in charge of painting and of course, that took many hours of work as well, but none of it would have been possible without Tim’s skills and commitment to getting the job done.
I honestly can’t brag enough about my husband right now! First and foremost, he gave up his entire 2 weeks of vacation to get this project done. He dove in despite his reservations, and his workmanship was the best he’s ever done! I couldn’t be happier with the finished product. We decided to put the handrail on the inner wall as opposed to adding one on the open side (for now at least). The staircase is so narrow that leaving it open just looks so lovely. We have already tossed around some ideas for the outer rail, but for now we are just going to enjoy the beautiful open feel of the narrow space. So proud of my man!!
BEFORE & AFTER:
Check-out the video to see the full before and after reveal!