Our Stair Transformation

Well these steps have been a long journey.  I started them,  we got overwhelmed by them.  They sat  in a state of disaster for well over a year.  We restarted them, then we started trying to get pregnant and I had to stop working on them because of how toxic the chemicals are, and Paul worked so hard to get them done.  Think, freeing cold February and we have the house open, fans on and I am sequestered in a room all day long.  I became OK with it because as our bedroom became my safe haven, and I was actually pregnant and the exhaustion hit I pretty much came home and stayed in bed.

So here is what we started with.  All Berber carpet.  It was nasty, and held onto all of the dirt, and kitty litter and was a beast to try and clean, aka they never were.  

Of course under the carpet we had original hardwoods!  That were painted...  At first I thought I would try using a chemical stripper, but the paint was so heavy I ended up with a gloppy mess.  Below I have done my best to outline what did work really well for us.  I have seen some people blog how to refinish your steps in a weekend!  Ha, I can't lie, if your stairs are coated in paint like ours were be prepared for this taking some time,  BUT this was completely worth it. 

1. We took this as an opportunity to take off the bottom step, and first board on the landing sand them down outside, re-position and secure them.  That was when we decided that sanding was the way of the future.

2.  Moving up the steps we took a paint scraper like this one, and took off as much paint as we could.   So much of it just chipped away.  We had already tested our paint, and we knew it wasn't lead paint, so this was a job I could continue to do while pregnant. 

3. What we could not scrape off, we came in with 60 grit sandpaper and went to town with the orbital sander.  I then went in with 120 grit, and ended with 220.  We are doing the treads and risers on the steps, but we planned on painting the risers.  At this point there were still plenty of dings in the wood that paint had settled into so we came in with a toothbrush and paint stripper and removed some of the paint.  In our final product we actually left some of the paint in places. We knew these were not going to look brand new, so we ran with the fact that these are 91 year old wood steps that have been well worn. 

4.  We did the treads of all of the steps going up, making sure to go every other as we put the poly on so we could still go up and down.  We also made sure the cat learned which to avoid.  We left our wood as is, we did not stain them but if you are staining yours same ideas applies making sure you do every other step.  We applied 3 coats of  this poly in satin.  What was nice is that the re-coat time was 6-8 hours so we could get more than one coat on in a day.  

Quick Pin to help you remember what order to do your stairs in!

5.  After all of the tops were done we taped off the treads, and primed and painted the risers.  All of the trim in our house is Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec 500 in base 1, no tint, semi-gloss.  It is just pure white, and the finish after it cures is amazing.  

6.  We then moved onto the caulk debate.  Paul wanted to just run a bead of caulk and be good, I was insisting we needed to tape and caulk.  In the end my idea won, after he tried his was and saw the light.  Caulk is such a nice finishing touch, the edges just look so much crisper.  I think it is the step that makes your job look far more polished. 

So here is a good before and after! 

Other than doing the stairs, in between the two photos we painted the walls, painted the trim, and installed a new handrail.  We need to finish the hall upstairs leading into the baby's room and into our new room.  I now have a VOC filtering respirator which is super sexy to wear, so I can get started on finishing the work upstairs.  Once our new room upstairs is done we are going to have new carpet put in up there as well as new carpet in the living room.  Ah I will feel so much better about this little boy playing on new carpet.