Do you think 3.5 years is long enough to be still using our roughly-built construction stairs in This Green House?
I was saving the job for a slow winter season indoors, and its number came up this month! There will always be finishing jobs to do here (“Wo/man who finish house die.” – ancient proverb, and I’m not ready to die yet.)
We scored 13 old clear fir treads from Craigslist for $10 each. New 5/4″ treads have to be custom-made, and cost about $80. New treads are perfect. We don’t want perfect.
No, I’d rather spend a hundred hours to find and fix up these old beauties, just as we did for our upstairs staircase, interior doors, floors, cast iron bathtub, glass block wall, bathroom vanity, wrought-iron garden fence, pirate plank bar… well, you get the idea. There is a certain quality about old stuff (not-to-mention their cheapness), and an excitement from the thrill of the hunt, as well as the knowledge that the history of parts of other traditional old homes lives on in our home.
Our first task was to improve the level of the treads. We learned (too late to fix) that our other staircase wasn’t built level, which contributes to the squeaks we hear when we’re trying to sneak quietly up or down at night. We removed the stringers, added 1/2″ and 1/4″ at the bottom, with glue and nails, and then re-installed them.
The treads weren’t quite wide enough for our staircase, so we painstakingly built stair trim along the perimeter. D and I used fir 1×10, and drew a template onto cardboard and then 1/2″ scrap plywood, to make sure each piece fit, before cutting it. Painted it three coats of white semi-gloss, found the studs, and nailed the trim on.
Next: doctoring the beaten-up treads. There were lots of holes to be filled, dark, uneven stain to be planed/sanded flat, ripped-off corners to be patched, stair-nosing that had to be moved to the other edge (custom-cutting the nosing shape), whole fir strips added on to make them the same width. All but three of them still weren’t long enough, so I added 3/8″ along most ends. No tread was like any other, so I used some astoundingly creative and labour-intensive techniques to fix them up. I’ll spare you the details, but here’s a photo to give you a taste:
For the finish, I wanted a kind of beachy feel, light and airy, because I didn’t want a dark descent into the basement. Partly to conceal the screw holes, and partly to camouflage the end repairs, I painted a 1″ strip of dark navy blue to make a line all the way down.
D and I installed all the stair treads with “green” glue/sound-dampening and screws, in the hopes that we would have no squeaks. Then, the screw heads were capped with matching grain fir wood plugs and sanded off before finishing. So far, no squeaks!
I have a quantity of milk paint that I wanted to try on the treads to give them a white-washed look. But when I tried a sample of the two whites I have, they turned kind of a greenish colour that was not bright and fresh-looking.
After a few days to dry thoroughly, I applied three coats of the same commercial Bona finish (2 part epoxy) that we have on our floors and upper staircase. It requires a 7-day curing time before it can be walked on. We have to go outside to get to the basement this week.
I’m very happy with the look. The memory of how much work went into this month-long stair-building is already fading.
Meanwhile, I’m working on the risers in the studio. I’m having so much fun with them, and will do the big “reveal” in my next post!
I’m sharing this wordy, pictury post with these fun link parties:
Little Red House’s Mosaic Monday, Creating My Way to Success’s A Round Tuit, Cozy Little House’s Tweak-It-Tuesday, Creative Cain Cabin’s Budget Decorating Party, Savvy Southern Style’s Wow Us Wednesday, Timewashed’s Blissful Whites, Coastal Charm’s Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Elizabeth & Co, DIY by Design’s Winter Blues Wednesday, Green Eggs and Goats, The Brambleberry Cottage’s Time Travel Thursday