DIY Wood Stairs

Dec 28, 2012

I've always loved the look of wood stairs, but heard the installation is very expensive and it's a DIY project not to be taken lightly. However, after ordering new laminate flooring for our upstairs I knew we had to find a way to make it happen. After getting a quote for $2000, I turned to my husband and said,"You're doing the stairs!" To make matters worse, the stairs have to be done before the new upstairs flooring is installed since it rests on top of the first stair riser. Wonderful. My husband and I pulled back the carpet to see what we had to work with and it wasn't pretty, but I was determined to find a shortcut.

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My initial plan was to just put a new wood tread (the step) on top of the existing one and then a new riser (the board facing you) in front of the existing one, essentially covering up the existing wood with new wood. I knew it was too simple because other people would have done this before. The problem is the tread sticks out 3/4" in front of the riser causing a lip. I couldn't cover the riser because of it. I was beyond deflated. After playing with the wood though, I realized I could cut shims to fit behind the new riser so it would stick out far enough at the bottom to be flush with the lip, and give me a board to nail into. It worked!

The riser was also a little taller than the tread. Rather than trim the entire riser board (because our trimming skills aren't the best), we used shims under the treads to make them flush. These two boards sitting on top of the step are our "shims."  Sorry, I couldn't get a picture of the shim behind the riser, but it is essentially in the same position as the carpet tack strip.

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Here it is! Technically, the riser is supposed to sit on top of the tread/step. We initially did that, but found it to be awkward. Since the new riser is taking up more space on the tread due to the shim behind it, the width of the tread was too narrow. It looks and feels better this way. It might not be perfect, but most people wouldn't notice it wasn't the right way to build a staircase.

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We used 5" boards on the landing since that's the width of the rest of the flooring in the house. I also copied the pattern the downstairs flooring was laid in as much as possible.

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How do you get perfect corners for weird edges? Place a board alond the edge of the wall.

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And draw a line of where to cut. My husband wanted to share that. I still can't quite wrap my head around it, lol. An engineer, I am not!

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The view from the top of the stairs.

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It took about two days to build. We My husband just finished caulking. That means I will be spending my weekend painting. Yay. Not.

If you've been waiting for the pretty pictures of my staircase, I hope to have some for you next week. Here are some of my inspiration pics until then.

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17 comments:

  1. Visiting from your link at Thrifty Decor Chick. What a great job! I want to do my currently carpeted stairs...nice to be forwarned of what could be under the carpet. :) Looking forward to seeing the finished product!

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    1. I just finished my master bedroom today! The stairs are next!

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  2. I've been wanting to tackle this on our basement stairs, but it sounds so scary! Maybe it won't be so bad after all, when we finally get around to doing it. Great job!

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    1. The DIY videos and tutorials scared me, too. I thought we'd try it and if it didn't work out we'd hire someone. I knew there was an easier way, and there was!

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  3. I'm following you now so I can see the finished product! Your house is gorgeous!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you found your way here!

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  4. Beautiful! Makes me want to go starting ripping the carpeting off my stairs right now! Can't wait to see the finished project. Popping over from TDC!

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    1. That's what we did! Right before Christmas we just started yanking out the carpet. I thought we'd figure it out once I could look at what I was working with and thank goodness we figured it out. I knew there had to be an easier way than starting from scratch. The stain is what's giving me problems, but I'll get it figured out!

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  5. Beautiful! I was wondering what kind of wood you used? Are you painting both the risers and threads? Or do u plan on staining the treads? Looking great--can't wait to see the finished project!!

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    1. Thank you. I used pine treads and risers. My initial plan was to paint the risers white and the treads a glossy black. I decided to try and stain a sample to see what it would look like, but the color is very hard to match to the existing floors, which requires mixing stains. It's also blotchy in some areas. I'm starting to think the oak riser would have been easier to stain and more durable in the long run. The pine is holding up surprisingly well though. In the beginning, I thought I needed to finish the floors asap so I could get a runner on them to protect the wood. It's been fine though, even with three little boys and a puppy.

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  6. Wow! That looks amazing!

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  7. Hi Jennifer,
    I just found your blog from StoneGable blog! Our stairs are almost exactly like yours. I am so glad to find your post on how you did yours. Thanks, Sherilan

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  8. Jennifer,
    Very inspiring post!! I want to do this to my staircase too, when the money is available :o).
    Here is a link on refinishing a staircase that I plan to follow when I do mine:

    http://extremehowto.com/remodel-with-prefinished-stair-treads/

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  9. There are a variety of styles of staircases such as spiral, metal, wooden, U and double L and more besides, but there are only three main categories. This article identifies the main categories and the legal requirements surrounding the measurements for their construction. Thestaircompanyuk.co.uk


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