Stairs To the Lower Level
If you read the pages on the
horrible man cave, you have already seen
one picture of the stairs leading down to the lower
level. They were carpeted with the beige
carpeting we used in the main and upper levels of
the home. Over the years, the dogs pulled off
the carpeting on the bottom three stairs and chewed
on the wood underneath. We did not put
carpeting back on, even though we had the scraps to
do it, because they would have just eaten it up
|For years the ugly wood stairs remained.
I had also peeled some of the paint off the walls
because it was that thick from the previous owners.
I planned to paint the walls after peeling the
paint. This also stayed "as is" for years.
The other thing I did not like about these stairs
was the 2" moulding along the stairs. It was a
pain to dust all along the little edges.
With the dust storms in El Paso and the dogs
going up and down the stairs, they were dirty all the time.
The wrought iron banister that had been on the right
side of the stairs was removed so I could place the
wallpaper on the wall. I tried to put it back on
with the 4" screws that mounted it but could not.
I hated the bloody thing anyways. It included a gate
that went across the third stair. When you used
these stairs, there was nothing to really hold onto
with the gate in the way.
I had already had a few step mishaps which are just
wonderful for a arthritic back.
Again when looking for options to fixing these
stairs, I was presented on the web with a multitude
of solutions. Some expensive, some, not so
much. Re-carpeting was not an option because I wanted
a hard surface to step on. I also wanted the
stairs to be easy to clean. The dogs
constantly track grass and dirt up the stairs.
Replacing the wood with hardwood was an option but
this could be costly and I did not relish the
thought of a complete demolition of the stairs.
When I removed the old carpeting, I discovered that
the wood on the stairs was ugly, but it was sound.
So I went to work removing the carpeting tack strips
and all of the nails. The option I chose was
pre-made stair treads.
box hardware store did carry some stair treads but
they never carried the sizes I needed or
enough stock, so I went online to purchase
company I ordered from was
carried the same treads Lowe's did but they
had the five 36" and three 48" treads I
needed. They offered a variety of wood
choices but I stuck with the more popular
unfinished red oak.
Replacement Stair Tread without returned
I just ordered the plain treads
with only the bullnose moulding. I did not need any moulding
on the sides because all of the treads would be
encased. For the risers, I decided to make my
The above photo shows the dry
fitting of the 48" treads on two of the stairs. I was also
experimenting with the risers. To create the risers,
I purchased some 1/4" plywood and another box of the
same vinyl tiles that I had used on the floors.
I cut the plywood to fit each riser individually and
cut and stuck the tiles on the wood.
At this point in my projects I stopped to consider a
wood cutting tool. The moulding I had cut for the
man cave was all cut by hand with a hand saw,
including the mitered cuts around the window without
any kind of miter guide, believe it or not. I
did have an old Black & Decker jigsaw I bought back
in the 70's that still works but my hands no longer
work that well. I needed something stable that
could handle big jobs. Something tough...a
R-E-A-L man tool. No girlie stuff for me anymore.
So I bought a table saw.
Bosch 4100-09 10" Worksite Table Saw with Gravity-Rise™ Wheeled Stand
at Lowe's. The table extends a little
for the wider jobs. The stand lets me move
it around the garage and rolls out of the
way when I am cleaning. It does have
a hole you can slip a hose on for a shop-vac,
which eliminates some of the dust.
I was a little scared to use it at first
after I put it all together. I was afraid of
loosing a limb. I tried it out on some
old doors I needed to get rid of. When
I got the hang of it, I was ready to
continue my stair project. Yea, boy-eee a real
toy! And I love it!
Bosch 4100-09 10" Worksite Table Saw with Gravity-Rise™ Wheeled Stand
could place the treads on the stairs,
I needed to build something to place a stair
rail on for the last three stairs. I
wanted to be able to go A-L-L the way down
the stairs holding one rail.
I built a continuation
of the wall with plywood and placed a scrap
piece of moulding along the top of it. The
wood was mounted to the wall and to the
actual stairs. The stair rail and
skirt would help secure the wood even more.
I also started working
on the stair skirts since I wanted to replace the
old 2" moulding. The stair skirts would
allow for easier cleaning and would just
I had two options for the stair skirts.
Install them first, then put on the stair
treads and risers OR install the treads and
risers first and then make the stair skirts
placing them on top of the stairs.
the skirts on top of the treads would hold
them on to the stairs more securely but then
I had to be able to cut the skirts to fit around
the bullnose molding on the stairs. I am not
skilled enough to make these cuts nor do I
own a router. So the skirts were made
first and put in place.
The skirts were made
with 3/4" pine. I created the template for
the skirts first with pieces of paper taped
against the wall with the edge against the
tread or riser until I finished both sides.
I then traced the edge of the paper onto a
large piece of cardboard I had from a large
box and cut it out to resemble what the
skirt would eventually look like in wood.
I then took the large cardboard template
back to the stairs to make sure it fit
properly and did some tweaking. I then
traced the cardboard template onto the wood
and then cut it with the table saw.
I saved the scrap triangles I
ended up with, which came in handy for another
project later. Sorry I don't have any photos of the
different stages of making the stair skirts.
Quarter round moulding was used on the top of the
skirts to give it a nice rounded look. They were
painted, nailed in place, caulked, and painted.
For the piece of wood encasing the bottom three
stairs, I bought some spray orange peel texture to
match the texture on the drywall and painted it the
same color as the wall. On the other side, I added the same beadboard
wallpaper I used in the room on the lower level.
I painted the stair treads with
four clear coats of oil based polyurethane after
cutting them to fit. No stain. This took about 2
weeks as I let the paint dry between coats. I waited
another week before placing the treads on.
The treads and risers were glued on with Liquid
Nails starting with the bottom riser and tread.
I did not not use nails on the treads but did use it
on the risers using finishing nails hammered right
through the tile and wood. The bullnose
moulding on the tread hid the nails at the top of
the riser. I know you are supposed to nail the treads also, but I did not want to mar the
wood. I decided to take a wait and see
approach. If the treads started to loosen I
would then nail them. Almost two years later,
the treads are still holding solid. I guess I
used enough Liquid Nails.
I still needed a stair handrail to replace the old
wrought iron handrail that did not go as far as the
last three stairs. Since I needed a custom
length of 9', I went online to find one made out of
red oak to match the treads.
stair handrail, I went with a different
StairWarehouse. This company
offers many different styles of rails in a
variety of wood species. You order by the
I selected this style of handrail because I
wanted to be able to grab the whole rail
firmly with my smaller hands.
I also ordered three wall brackets in an oil rubbed
bronze finish. I only had three studs to work with
which is why there are only three brackets. The
handrail was painted with clear polyurethane and
mounted on the wall. And yes, in case anyone
is wondering, the handrail height is up to local building
The final piece I needed
for the stairs was a piece of moulding along
the top riser and main floor landing. The
main floor landing now has laminate flooring on
The moulding used on the end of the stair
tread was not available locally nor was it
available from the online store I bought the
stair treads from. They did not sell the
moulding separately. It was suggested that I
buy another stair tread and cut off the
moulding. Which just seemed silly to me when
all I needed was the moulding.
So again I went searching online for
the moulding. It took a while but I found
a company that had it in the exact
dimensions I needed.
Kinzel Wood Products, LLC had the
moulding I was looking for in the wood
species I needed. Like the handrail,
you order by the foot. So I ordered 4 feet.
I cut it to size and painted it with the
I also had to cut a small piece of scrap
laminate where it was missing. Both laminate
and moulding were glued in place.
The completed stairs are pictured on the
Moulding was added to the wall corners on
the left and the right. I placed a
quarter round painted with clear
polyurethane on the floor by the first
riser. A decorative molding was placed on
the front of the added stair piece.
It took a few days for the dogs to get used
to the stairs and yes, their toenails did
eventually put scratches in them. But as far
as I can tell, the scratches are in the
polyurethane and not the wood.
I also had an arthritic
dog at the time who was having trouble with
her hind legs on the smooth surface.
Her legs would slip when she went up the
So I decided to look for some non-slip
carpet treads that I could use on the stairs
to help her out and protect the finish from
anymore claw scratches.
Our Shar-Pei Apollo going down the new
the perfect carpet stair treads from a
Not only are the treads non-skid, they are
washable. I bought 2 sets of four.
Do they work?
You betcha! They stay put most of the
time. The trick is to keep the surface free
from dust underneath them. The area
rugs they have, also stay put.
Do they really
wash in the washing machine without falling
apart? Yes they do. I have washed them
in the washing machine about 20 times now.
Still going strong. In fact, I bought
another two sets when they went on sale to
have, when these eventually fall apart.
(Sigh, nothing lasts forever.)
Did it help my
dog who was having difficulty with the
steps? Yes it did. She now climbed the stair
as easily (if not better) than when the
carpeting was on the stairs.
Cleaning the stairs is now a breeze and only takes
about 10 minutes. I move the carpet, use a
small whisk broom to get off the dirt. Wipe treads
clean with a damp microfiber cloth, cleaning the
stair skirts and dog slobber off the walls at the
But how do I lock the dogs
downstairs now? Ahh...See my stair door...