Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Those Horrible Stairs

I showed the before and after of my carpet to painted wood stairs in the last post. If you like the what-happened-in-between posts like I do then this is the post for you!
Remember I started with the "lovely" indoor/outdoor brown carpet. It wasn't so bad, unless you're "anti-carpet" like I am! Or until you slip and fall down these stairs 12 times and almost rip your arm out of the socket grabbing for the railing. But anyway... Before:
This is obviously wayyyyy before. This was when I saw the house for the first time 
This is when I got scared. I was positive that I was going to find pretty floors under the carpet. Instead I found pretty wood, some kind of mold/carpet fiber texture, ivory, and white paint.
So then I got the paint stripper out. I vowed that I wouldn't touch the stuff after doing my dresser and hating my life!
So, after lots and lots of stripper and scraping (and slipping on the way down the stairs and getting chemical burns all over my legs) I got this:
(those are the moccasins that I put on as part of my hobo outfit during the fire) 

After using paint stripper you should wash the surface with something like TSP Cleaner. After it was washed down I sanded it to death and filled all of the deep holes with "stainable" wood filler.
I say "stainable" because the crap doesn't stain... AT ALL!
Back to my in-progress shots though...
Then I stained. I didn't know prior to research that you should stain every other stair so you can still use the staircase... Duh! (PS. Can you see all of the spindle marks? I wondered if there had been a wall next to the staircase, or what had been there before it was totally open. Now I know! I love old houses!
After several coats of stain it became evident that the runner area of the stairs was staining way darker than the rest. And that the stairs weren't close to the same color as the floors.

I tried all kinds of tricks to even out the stain, but it didn't work. Still, I decided that I would paint the back of the stairs and see if the stairs looked any better without that distraction

That did help a little bit... But they looked too "country" too me, and that's definitely not my style. So I tried to make them a little more my style. I went out and I bought wood. LOTS of wood. Fortunately I had my 4 door car at the time!

Basically I went back over and over again buying different kinds of wood to see what I liked. After doing this I had a better idea of my vision for the whole thing:

The stained wood still looked too junky. I decided I either needed to slap some carpet on the stairs or go spend some more money on wood and paint. But I was terrified of painting over the wood that took days for me to stain. So I did a little practice run with construction paper:

I wasn't sure if the black would make the striped wall look too busy, but I was sold as soon as I saw it! I invested in some deck and porch paint. I usually buy everything in a semi gloss so it's easy to wipe off and clean, but to keep me from sliding down the stairs I bought satin. I felt inspired by the stairs on ABC's Modern Family.

Lovely huh? So after the paint was on I wanted to do the decorative woodwork that I had played with. My mom and I felt up each piece of decorative molding trying to find the thinnest one so the stairs wouldn't be shallower. I landed on crown molding along with the trim that was pictured in my car.
After the trim was installed my daddio shortened those corner things that have a name that I am too lazy to look up. I think they were 10" and I needed them to be 8". Installing the trim with the small side up and these corner things eliminated the need to miter any corners. And since I was begging my dad to do this for free, and he hates mitering corners, this was a great solution! My mom numbered each step, piece of molding, and corner thing. In an old house there are no "standard" dimensions. Each piece had to be customized to the number.

There he is hard at work! He had to cut an inch off of the molding so it would fit under the trim and then he just stuck them all into place with the staple gun! Side note: I'm still furious a month later with the Home Depot man. That's the only hardware store I go to. He cut a sample for me of the molding and was super nice that day. The day I went to buy it I knew I got 2 free cuts per piece. I asked him to cut 40" apart to make it easier on my dad. He wouldn't do it until he knew what I was using the molding for. Once he heard it was for stairs he told me that was a stupid idea, refused to give me more than 1 cut, which he did straight down the middle, and while cutting it told me what a waste of money it was to use it the way I was... Thank you sir. Wait till I print a picture off to wave in front of you to make you feel remorse!

After everything was stapled in I went piece by piece and glued the corner things on with wood glue and taped them into place for a few hours. It's hard to see here, but look at the bottom of the spindles on the corner things. There's a definite gap between that and the molding. There's also some gaps between the molding and the trim that went up first. That was fixed with a little bit of a lot of caulk. After caulking I gave everything a coat of paint so it all matched and the caulk blended.

And there it is! It was one of the longest projects I'e ever taken on, but SO gratifying since it's the first thing you see when you walk in the front door!  Here's the price breakdown (not including the stain and all failed methods I tried before coming to the final look):
-$120  on wood
-$35 on paint (I already had white, this was just for black)
-$10 on Frog Tape
-$0 on caulk (I already had it)Total: $165 for my beautiful Black Painted Stairs!

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