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  • Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

    To all on this forum,

    I have a 14 year old split entry who had pretty much carpet throughout the host, we have replaced most of it already. A good portion with laminate flooring in spare bedrooms, rec and etc...

    We are now looking to move towards the living room and hallway, I have a stair case however that goes directly into the living room. So I have been doing some digging around and although the materials to re-finish the stairs are fairly expensive (new treads, rail, spindles) it does not look overly complex to complete to me. I can see alot of precision being needed for them to turn out but I just need to replace everything as it is now with newer material and remove the carpeted stairs.

    Most material resellers here cringe at the thought of a home owner doing their own stairs and strongly recommended hiring a professional stair carpenter. The labor cost for a 9 step 42 inch wide stair case was around $1500 CAD excluding material. This cost seems to be the norm for all others in that profession, I could take a few days around a long weekend if I knew I could do it.

    Anyone with experience doing stairs and any thoughts if a home owner can do it themselves? I have never personally done finish work of that level, just basic home repair IE: Drywall, decks, outdoor play equipment etc..., figured 3-4 days and potentially a little help from a general carpenter would do it? I work in an office so I don't get to work with my hands daily unfortunately.

  • #2
    Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

    A good stair installation is one of the most difficult finish operations in a house. Without seeing some pictures, it is very difficult to advise you on whether to proceed or not. Can you post some?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

      Pipestone Kid,

      Thanks for your reply, sorry it took so long for me to get back to this post. I finally have some pictures to post here, I have some more as well but I think these two give a good example of what I have now.
      Attached Files

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

        the stair treads will probably not be the hard part, unless you are dealing with a circular staircase. the handrail could be where the real challenges start. try to get a copy of the Nov. 2007 issue of fine homebuilding. pages 46 to 53 deal with installing a wood handrail and touch on topics from basic code to jigs that make the installation easier. as with all carpentry, patience is a must. the best carpenter i knew gave me two tips...measure twice, cut once(surprise, surprise) and, most important, take your time.
        there's a solution to every problem.....you just have to be willing to find it.

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        • #5
          Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

          Srg, Are you going to replace the stairs with wood that will be naturally finished? (not carpeted) If yes, PM me and I will walk you through several options depending on what you want for an end result.
          Jim

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

            Srgallan,
            Looking at your photos and wondering how far you have looked at the project… I had a similar looking staircase; all carpeted even up the wall a bit. I ripped out the carpet and discovered that the treads were pine, rounded over and begging for sanding, stain, and poly. In itself, that was allot of work, but the results were and are worth it. I removed the rails, balusters, and newel. They were stained, I painted them and reinstalled. So, what I did was not a rehab, but a refinishing. Perhaps that is all you need to do too.
            Steve.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

              Thanks for the replies,

              Stevan, I did do some investigation and my treads appear to be spruce already rounded and etc...I did not do a complete carpet removal to examine the entire set but what you suggest is a possiblity that I contemplated. However, I noted that some of the spindles were not properly inserted in the stair tread, if I left it as is I would have to fill in the bottom where the "dowell?" is to make it look solid. Also my end posts are hemlock it seems and am not sure how much continuity that I can get out of everything with oak to make it all appear similar?

              Forgive my spelling, my english grammar is not my strongest point.

              Pipestone Kid, thanks for the offer. I may get in touch with you for some pointers, right now I am waiting for a couple of labor quotes from some stair professionals to see how much. If the cost is reasonable I will proceed with a hired professional. I am looking for a complete wood solution to my carpet due to allergy issues we suspect in my 16 mth old son.

              While on the subject of wood, any opinions on pre-finished vs. unfinished hardwood? I can get Canadian hard maple unfinished at the moment for what I consider a spectacular price.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                Originally posted by srgallan View Post
                Thanks for the replies,

                Stevan, I did do some investigation and my treads appear to be spruce already rounded and etc...I did not do a complete carpet removal to examine the entire set but what you suggest is a possiblity that I contemplated. However, I noted that some of the spindles were not properly inserted in the stair tread, if I left it as is I would have to fill in the bottom where the "dowell?" is to make it look solid. Also my end posts are hemlock it seems and am not sure how much continuity that I can get out of everything with oak to make it all appear similar?

                Forgive my spelling, my english grammar is not my strongest point.

                Pipestone Kid, thanks for the offer. I may get in touch with you for some pointers, right now I am waiting for a couple of labor quotes from some stair professionals to see how much. If the cost is reasonable I will proceed with a hired professional. I am looking for a complete wood solution to my carpet due to allergy issues we suspect in my 16 mth old son.

                While on the subject of wood, any opinions on pre-finished vs. unfinished hardwood? I can get Canadian hard maple unfinished at the moment for what I consider a spectacular price.
                Prefinished vs unfinished--Are you talking about stair material or maybe flooring?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                  Take into consideration if you haven't already your sons allergies during the project and for a short time thereafter until finishes fully cure. Fumes, sawdust, what have you may give him problems too.
                  ---------------
                  Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
                  ---------------
                  “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
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                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                    [quote=srgallan;174965]Thanks for the replies,

                    Stevan, I did do some investigation and my treads appear to be spruce already rounded and etc...I did not do a complete carpet removal to examine the entire set but what you suggest is a possiblity that I contemplated. However, I noted that some of the spindles were not properly inserted in the stair tread, if I left it as is I would have to fill in the bottom where the "dowell?" is to make it look solid. Also my end posts are hemlock it seems and am not sure how much continuity that I can get out of everything with oak to make it all appear similar?

                    Forgive my spelling, my english grammar is not my strongest point.

                    Srgallan, my spindles were and are proud of the tread. Not very pretty, and I won’t try to tell you how it should be fixed because I do not know. I would leave that explanation to an expert stair tradesman. Someday, someday…. I will fill the voids with silicone and paint. Can’t answer your question about species either. Again, I defer to the experts. All I am saying is that refinishing might be an option for you. If I can figure out how to post a pix, I will. Your grammar is just fine.
                    Steve.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                      Pipestone Kid, I guess I was unclear, to add to the stair refinishing I was looking at laying hardwood in living room, hall and master bedroom. The remainder I have already completed in laminate. I have never finished/refinished hardwood flooring, I am told this material needs little to no sanding and is ready to lay down and finish.

                      Bob D., I did take that into consideration and the risk may not outweigh the cost savings or the unfinished materials. I would only have a 4 day window where my wife and son stay at the inlaws per each phase of the project.

                      Stevan, whatever I decide I will post follow up pics when the job is done and perhaps some lessons learned. The stairs probably won't be done for a few months still so I may not post for some time.

                      Thanks to all for your feedback.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                        srg--In your case, I would definitely recommend the prefinished. Unfinished would have to be sanded (not a job for an novice) and several coats of finish. DUSTY!!! With pre, it is nail it down and go. Rent a flooring nailer and have at it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                          Thanks all for the feedback, I hope one day to be knowledgeable enough to contribute in return.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                            Well I finally did some of my floors, I chose unfinished for the master bedroom, I just like the way it looks.

                            To Pipestone Kid, it was much more work than I could of anticipated and I never want to do it again. I am satisfied with the results but definetely pre-finished for the rest of the upstairs.

                            Thanks again for the info, just figured I would post a follow up
                            Attached Files

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Refinishing stairs - can a home owner do it themselves

                              SRG, Nice looking job!! You are right, it is a lot of work.

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