Stairway facelist, refinish or replace

sue_ctJuly 29, 2011

I put a white oak floor in 3 years ago, and then hired someone to do an on site finish. It was a big job, lol. Don't want to get into something like that again now. I have torn up half the carpeting on the stairway and stopped. The stairs are a mess. They look like red oak to me. They are prob original to house, built in ~1960. In 1996 (before I bought it), there was a fire and much of the house was rebuilt. I think the stairs predate that. I think replacing the entire staircase would be cost prohibitive. I am willing to paint he risers. There appears to be pain drips, and maybe some water damage to the finish. In addition, there is a chunk out of the edge of one tread, but it looks like it is a molding peice that could be replaced, although matching the wood and finish could be problem. I am looking for 2 things. First, I am getting the house appraised for refinance in a couple of weeks or less. Would a surface sanding with a palm sander and some wax or anything else make them look a little better for a short term quick fix? Next, is hiring someone to do a refinish likely to be worthwhile or should I look into just installing new white oak treads? I was pretty careful cutting the flooring around the curved stair base that it isn't perfect, but I don't think it looks too bad, but that odd cut out in the riser has me fuming. Who and why would they have done such a thing and do you think some putty and paint would be enough to cover it up? I have included photos below. I resized these photos on photobucket but they are showing up for me as huge and sideways. I hope it is my computer and not the way they will show for you! Sometimes they get cached on the computer and the changes don't show up. Well if not, I will delete them and try again!

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First, decide on what you want the stairs to look like when done. What elements will be finished and what will be painted. The missing chunk out of the return is not a big deal;I have replaced missing pieces with stained filler to match and have also replace entire returns sometimes.

Unfortunately, someone ripped off your cove (scotia) molding where the return meets the stringer, but left it under the nosings of the treads. On a stair renovation these get replaced with new. You can purchase curved cove and shoe moldings for the curved tread.

In one picture I see cove molding where the stringer meets the wall surface and in another the molding is gone. I don't understand...what am I missing?

If you want a complete wood staircase, then laminating a matching veneer to the riser of the turn tread would address the damage to that. If you're planning on painting everything but the treads and scotia molding, then the repair is simpler.

I can't advise you on a quick fix. Whatever you do, don't apply a wax to it all.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 10:46AM
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That molding isn't missing it is just the angle of the shot. Its not visible when viewed from above. My plan was to have natural finished oak treads, painted risers, probably white, but I am not sure if I want to keep the stringers natural or paint them because I have not been able to find photos of them natural to see how it looks. The pictures below are my inspiration photos. I have dark cabinets and furniture with light oak floors so I have some leeway. I kind of like the 2nd photo best because it ties in both my light and dark woodwork. I am not convinced I could do a good job painting the spindles so replacing the spindles and hand rail at some point would probably be nice if the rest of the stair work doesn't break the bank. :)

OK, no wax. Would a palm sander hurt anything? I though I could at least try to get off the paint splatter but not sand through to bare wood.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 4:07PM
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I've seen them done that way and they look very nice. Replacing balusters (spindles) is not a big deal, should you decide to go that way some day. You pry off the returns, remove the existing balusters, insert the new, reinstall the returns and you're done. If you decide to paint the balusters, then the only reason to replace them would be that you like a particular turning over what you have now. Painting them is a breeze. A quality foam brush, such as one made by Wooster, can make a paint job look like it was sprayed on.

Install new cove molding and finish to match your treads. Not all that hard to stain the new wood to blend with the old. Because the cove does not get walked on, you can layer on stain until you get the color you're after. Then after it is completely dry, you coat with the product you choose.

You would be surprised how just the addition of a fresh coat of waterborne polyurethane will improve the appearance of worn wood. Working gently with your palm sander is basically what a pro does to screen and recoat a floor. I would rather see you work with Bona Prep and a 3M "maroon" pad to prep the stairs for coating (little chance you'd break through the finish). The Prep will help remove dirt and contaminants and the maroon pad will help scrub away paint spots. Careful use of small tools to pick at the paint sometimes helps also.

Good luck with your stairs.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 5:33PM
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Thank you so much for your help. I will try the products you suggest first and then contact the person who did the finish on my floors to see if they will screen and recoat the treads if I can get them looking good enough. Do you have any recommendation for paint products or varnishes for the risers and stringer? I want something high grade that looks and wears like a professionally done finish.

Sorry to bend your ear again, I do appreciate your help. It seems General Contractors don't like to deal with stairs around here. So I am hoping this turns out to be something I can do.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 12:27AM
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You can get Bona Prep at a floor materials dealer. For a list of dealers that handle the product, go to the Bona USA internet site and type in your zipcode.

As for a finish...Bona Mega waterborne polyurethane is good and will be easy to mixing. You can get that at the same dealer. The big box store stuff is OK, but most professionals won't touch the stuff.

You will want to touch up scratches and bare spots with some stain before coating with Mega. The finish hides you want to get the stairway looking as good as you can before you apply it. Again...foam brushes work great for that also. If you apply the finish...all you do is 'wet' the surface...that will prevent drips. Work from top to bottom and in about and hour you can go back up and apply another thin coat...and another...and so forth.

You can leave a heavier coat on the treads themselves, as you have no problem with drips there. Just make sure the finish doesn't drip over the edge of the treads.

GC's won't touch most floor work and they don't have the patience or time to mess with stairs.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 9:54AM
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