Before and After photos!

tinanJune 17, 2012

I posted a while ago asking for advice of what to do with carpeted stairs when putting luxury vinyl plank in. I thought about trying the plank on the stairs, but it would have involved a lot of lengthwise cutting (planks are 6" wide) and require a lot of trim and moulding which - when added to the cost of the planks themselves - would have cost more for the staircase than the whole 1500 sq ft townhouse that I did in this flooring.

So I decided to use MDF risers that came primed and paint those and pine treads with bullnose - and stain those. Pine may not be ideal because it will dent and scratch but I can live with that, it will look appropriately old and well worn. Or if it gets bad I can put a sisal runner down.

Anyhow, it was a lot of work but I am very pleased with how the project came out! Here are the photos:

BEFORE (Previous owner)


Carpet, tack strips, staples and glue-carpet pad residue removed. Later plywood overhang was cut off with jigsaw.

New flooring in upstairs and new trim on floor edge


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Wow, great job! Lots of hard work really paid off!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Gorgeous! Congrats on a great job!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:00PM
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It came out beautiful!! Great look, so much better than PO!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:04PM
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Tina, are you living in my townhome I sold 4 years ago in San Diego? LOL It's identical!! I always wanted to do the stairs in wood since I had it on the floors of the first and second levels~~i'm familar with that expense!

It looks fantastic! ;o)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:10PM
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New flooring is great, and the stairs look very nice!

What will the hand rail be like?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:10PM
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That is beautiful~ What a nice job!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:12PM
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I'm not sure if we will put in a handrail - we never use them... but if we do it will probably be wood and perhaps just paint to match wall (BM Mascarpone). The ugly metal thing was given away on craigslist. I wanted to replace the balustrade upstairs but it was too expensive so just painted the existing metal one and put it back in.

This is all being done an a budget - the stair materials cost $240 total which was more than I'd wanted to spend but there were no acceptable solutions for less. I do not want any carpet in the house, I hate it!

I found that the chestnut flooring was impossible to match with stain so I just went for contrast. The stain came out way darker than I expected actually, but it matches our dark expresso furniture so somehow it seems to tie in.

I will have lots more before/afters of the rest of the townhouse soon for those interested!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:15PM
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patty_cakes no we are in the San Francisco bay area, but I bet they built lots of similar townhomes all over California in the 80's!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:23PM
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It looks great!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:24PM
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Huge improvement! I know you must be doing the happy dance. In my last house, I removed the hand rail because it was an 80's oak contemporary thing that I detested. When I sold the house, not having a hand rail was an item on the inspection report because I guess they are required by code. Luckily, the buyers weren't interested in having a hand rail there either so the item was my delight.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:31PM
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Beautiful. I love the darker wood.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:41PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Such a lot of work, but well worth looks beautiful.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 10:07PM
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What a great job--it looks terrific!!!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 10:28PM
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Huge difference, looks terrific. I also noticed the lack of a hand rail only because years ago I was carrying a box down stairs as you have and lost my footing on the second step. I tried to stop my fall but couldn't and went allll the way down. I will never go upstairs without one again, probably why it's required as code. It does look better without one but maybe it you put one on the left side it wouldn't be seen, and painting it the wall color would help. And please share other before and afters.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 10:47PM
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natesgram, sorry to hear about your fall! I am not really sure though if a handrail would have helped a fall like that - I feel pretty safe with the closed staircase walls on both sides could be used to stabilize if falling. I'll definitely consider the safety aspect though.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 11:55PM
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Wonderful result, tinan! It looks so polished and professional, WOW!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 12:13AM
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beautiful work, but I *totally* vote for a handrail. seriously. It won't mess up the greatness of the stairs themselves.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 12:48AM
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You completely transformed the place! I love those budget improvements that make a huge difference.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 1:15AM
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Clipping this one as I, too, have ugly carpet going up the stairs. Can you tell me the name of the luxury vinyl plank you used?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 6:41AM
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What a wonderful transformation!
I love the contrast - looks perfect.
Tinan, would you mind sharing where you bought your risers and treads?
I need to do the same thing in my house.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 7:42AM
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Sorry... a couple more questions

What kind of primer and paint did you use?
Also, did you put a protective coat of some kind on the stairs?
Thanks again - you have no idea how excited I am about this project.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 8:01AM
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Wow! My hat is off to you for all of your hard work.

I, too, vote for a handrail. I think if you paint it to match the wall, it will be totally unnoticeable. I am a klutz, so I always use a handrail on stairs, even if I just have my hand lightly over it - a lesson I learned when I fell down the school stairs in the 4th grade!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 11:05AM
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Thank you all for the kind words! I have done all the work by myself except for hiring an electrician to install the 2 new light fixtures and an outlet in the kitchen. My husband has been too busy with work to spend any time on it, and he's not really interested in this kind of work whereas I sort of enjoy it! This is our second home, our first being a brand new condo that needed no work. So this is my first attempt at home improvement.

The floors are Lowes Surface Source Natural Chestnut Vinyl Plank. It is about 80 cents per square foot and very easy to install - the biggest challenge is measuring and calculating to get a smooth install through the house rather than treating each room separately. Also I did one bathroom and cutting around the toilet was not fun. However the whole 1500 sq ft townhouse cost under $1000 in flooring. There is virtually no waste, only some edging areas cut too small to use were thrown away. Also there is no dust and noise - you simply score the planks with a sharp knife (keep fresh blades) and snap it through for a clean cut.

So far I am very pleased with it. Every person who has visited is surprised it is not real wood or at least very expensive laminate - including the HVAC guy and plumber I had out for quotes on the water heater and furnace (which also need replacing). Since it is vinyl is is super easy care - cat pukes of a hairball, it beads up and wipes right off. It's quiet too, I was concerned if I did laminate myself on the uneven subfloor I would get creaking and popping. This stuff floats over the subfloor and it conforms to the shape with no noises. It's warm and softer underfoot than tile. The neutral color goes with everything. More pictures below of the floor - I am planning to take some "after" pictures this weekend and make a dramatic photo album of the before and after shots :)

No it's not as gorgeous as the Shaw engineered walnut we had in our last condo but it is about 1/10 the price after install and it is so much easier to take care of. The Shaw floor dented and scratched so easily, and could not tolerate any moisture at all. AN escaped ice cube melted in a corner and damaged that floor! I love real hardwood but that was not an option here, so this is easy care and good looking enough for me - at this time for this home.

For the stairs, the risers and treads I bought at Lowes and had them cut to the width of the steps for me (I only have a small cheap jigsaw). The risers are MDF ($7 each) and came primed already, I painted them with BM "Ben" eggshell paint (which also contains primer) in color Mascarpone left over from the walls. I painted and stained outside a few weeks ago rather than trying to paint and stain in place, party so we would not have to avoid the stairs for a day and also because I could just spread them out on a dropcloth and slap paint/stain on. Of course the day after, it rained in CA in June - which never happens - and 2 of the treads were ruined because I didn't stain the bottom and water ran underneath and was soaked up by the bare wood/warped them. So I had to buy 2 more.

The treads are pine bullnose treads ($10 each - was going to get MDF but decided to spring for wood of some kind) stained with Minwax polyurethane/stain "one step" (I applied 2 coats) in Mission Oak color. I also signed up for a Lowes card to get 10% discount on the materials which helped bring down the price.

So if you want to do your carpeted stairs:
1. pull the carpet, pry off all those tack strips and get a razor scraper (get a nice sharp one) to remove glue and crud stuck to the wood. Pull out staples and nails or hammer down flat. You want to make sure the new treads will lie flat.
2. Measure the stairs all the way up (ours were not even) and choose the narrowest width to get the wood cut to. Convince reluctant Lowes employee that their "free cutting" sign in the lumber department does apply to these!
3. Draw on the steps where the overhang is - measure underneath overhand and then measure on the top and mark it. Again these were not even on our stairs! Then cut on the line with a jigsaw. I broke 2 blades doing this and made my arms very sore, if you can get access to a better saw than mine it will make this easier mine is the $25 model. I set up the vacuum cleaner with hose near the saw to suck up most of the wood dust. I used a hand jaw to cut the last 1/2" near the wall where my jigsaw wouldn't go. You have to cut the overhang flat flush with the edge of the riser so the new risers will lay flat i front of the old ones.
4. Put on the risers - I used a liberal application of construction grade wood glue and then tacked in place with 4 finishing nails. I touched up the paint where the nails were afterwards. The bottom one I had to make cutouts for the baseboard.
5. Put on the treads - again lots of wood glue (the super strong type) and then 4 finishing nails per tread. I wouldn't use screws in pine as it may split, and the heads are obvious.
I also placed all the risers and treads loose on the stairs first to sure all the pieces fit before proceeding!

Here are some more pics:

BEFORE (carpet was only 8 months old but apparently was never vacuumed or cleaned.)

office/second bedroom before

ugly sheet vinyl in kitchen looked dirty even after steam cleaning and scrubbing - the pattern just looked grubby.

Bedroom before

Downstairs bathroom (glue-on vinyl baseboard removed, laid out flooring for taking measurements)

DURING (at this point I wondered what I had gotten myself into)


Bedroom being painted BM Wedgewood Grey

Floor going down in bedroom - the paper peels off and underneath is a very strong adhesive strip that the next plank sticks to

Careful calculations let me transition smoothly between rooms as one continuous install

I sealed the concrete slab downstairs after scraping it clean of ancient excessively-glued carpet padding, then laid floor

Flooring progress (after all painting was done too)

Downstairs bathroom after

Office almost done - have not hung decorations yet

Messy living room not set up or fully unpacked yet, I have a mantel shelf to install and thinking of putting glass doors on the fireplace. I didn't really want to show these as "after" pictures because it's still not finalized layout and all the things still waiting for a "place" in the new house!

New headboard, now waiting for new bedding and art to be hung

Our pool view

Next project will be the sad neglected gardens!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 11:27AM
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Thanks for all of the detailed information and for posting more before & after pics, Tinan. :-))
Everything looks excellent, a lot of work but the end result was well worth it.
Now I have to think about the plank flooring for the basement.... after I tackle the stairs.
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 9:26PM
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You have proved what I've always said about flooring--- the installation is even more important than the materials used. Your floors look great and you are The Flooring Goddess, as far as I am concerned!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 10:16PM
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Wow....great job! Happy new home!!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 5:46AM
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Brilliant job! You should be so proud! A huge amount of work, and such an amazing result!

I will also vote in favor of a handrail. I would even paint it black. It would look great. But mostly, overwhelmingly, for safety reasons. One clumsy guest, one enormous lawsuit.

And when you sell the place (at an enormous profit), you might have to install one anyway, to pass inspection. Just sayin'...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 7:40AM
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What a wonderful transformation....I love what you have done!! keep posting your progress.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 9:14AM
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Fantastic transformation!!

Brillant job -- and your floors and stairway look amazing!! :)

Love the cat! :)

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 5:07PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Love the staircase! You certainly have put a lot of hard work into your home. Time to enjoy it!

I would definitely check your local building code re: handrail. Even if a railing isn't required, it is a very good idea and it is definitely a safety feature.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 6:44PM
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Great job; I'm thinking about using that type of flooring in a large basement room...
It looks like it would be easy to remove and replace if a section were to get damaged.

And, sorry, but I, too, am going to mention the handrail.

It is code in our area. We wouldn't have passed inspection without the handrail.

In the industry my husband is in, they have safety training constantly, and one of the things they teach is how to safely use stairs. Of course, I got some training from him after I fell down some stairs in our home.

Now I carefully and deliberately go downstairs with one hand gripping the handrail. So after you install it, do remember to use it.

You also may want to make sure whether a handrail is a requirement of your homeowner's insurance.

Again, your townhouse is looking great!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 8:34PM
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Very impressive! I'm another who was amazed at how realistic the wood-look vinyl flooring has become. I'm considering it for a bathroom redo and even in the laundry room. I HATE the tile in there.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 8:44PM
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melsouth, yes it is very easy to remove either individual planks or whole sections if it were damaged. That's one of the reasons I went for it - you can use a hairdryer to heat the plank/adhesive and it will allow you to pull it up. However it is a very tough floor and I doubt we will have to do much repair!

The entire floor is floating but the flooring itself is quite heavy. During install I made a miscalculation and had to move a section over 3" and it was very heavy even though it was only about 6 planks wide... I used pliers to grab it and pull. In fact when I ordered the flooring I got 20% overage and ordered 75 boxes for store pickup, and I showed up with my Ford Focus hatchback... hahah! I got 16 boxes in the back and had to stop loading for fear of the suspension. The Lowes store manager was really nice and delivered the rest for me on their truck for free!

The Lowes Surface Source floating plank was less than half the cost of the Home Depot Allure, and it would be easy to lay a new floor right over top if I need to in a few years if it does not last. However I did scratch and wear tests on samples before buying it, and this stuff is far tougher than any of the engineered wood. It's slightly easier to scratch than laminate, but it is not subject to the water damage that laminate is.

Strangely, I was looking for the link to include and Lowes does not have the Surface Source Floating Vinyl plank on their website any more - not even marked out of stock. That's strange I bought it only a month ago... I hope they didn't discontinue it because it's an excellent product and if I ever wanted more... I did keep one extra box for any repairs I might need to do but I returned several unopened boxes.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 11:33PM
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Bravo! Your stairs are gorgeous- love the dark wood. Congratulations on your beautiful new home.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:38AM
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I found the link for the flooring for anyone interested, I am not sure why it didn't come up when I searched Lowes' website

Surface Source Floating Vinyl Plank

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 10:30PM
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Tinan, your work is absolutely amazing! it must have taken so much time to do all of this. The flooring and the stairs look so perfectly done that it's just amazing you're just starting out with diy. what a fantastic transformation

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 2:13AM
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Your stairs and flooring look great! Very polished! I did the same thing with out stairs too and am happy with the look.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 4:27PM
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That looks great! are the planks pretty hefty/stiff? I know I've looked at it before in Lowe's but didn't recognize the name so I wasn't sure about using it.

I've recently thought about going w/some allure vinyl (not really sure it's allure but it's from 2 samples I have here but of course don't remember what they are...). I'm just guessing it's allure. Didn't see anything like it on my last trip to Lowe's so figure it's from HD.

I do have a box of laminate here i was testing out but I noticed this past wk that I almost slipped twice on a few planks I put together in the hallway (checking the look of it).

Did you remove the baseboards to put it down?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 8:09PM
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The planks are floppy not stiff (at least on the 80 degree days I was handling them!), but they are heavy and substantial. The finished floor is very heavy - I had to move a section of about 6 planks wide and 11' long due to a miscalculation, I used pliers to grab the edge and pull it over, but it was heavy and if it had been much larger I would not have been able to.

I left the baseboards in place, would have been a lot of extra work to remove them and probably would have meant replacement, which would have added up. The only place I removed baseboards were the kitchen and downstairs bath where there was ugly sheet vinyl with glue-on vinyl baseboards. I put in larger (than the rest of the house's baseboards) wood baseboards to cover the glued-up area.

Since the baseboards were installed over carpet there was plenty of room to slide the floor a little under. You are supposed to leave a 1/8" gap all the way around the floating floor to allow for expansion. I didn't worry to much about that since I was installing on a very hot weekend, but I did leave space and didn't shove the planks all the way to the wall on any side. Otherwise it could buckle in future especially if you install in cooler weather an later it gets hot.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 11:51PM
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Wow. Your floors really look great. How did you transition from the 2nd floor to the stairs? (Where the vinyl stops at the top of the stairs)??

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 2:49AM
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If you get a chance
could you please tell what it says on the box
is the thickness of the planks ??
I can't find that info online..


Oh, and looks great..As easy as it is to install
by theory I know that was alot of work.
Just carrying the boxes into the house can break a back :)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 12:32PM
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I just ended the vinyl and snugged the riser right up to it level. There is about a 3 mm gap right now and I've been looking for some very thin threshold trim to put over it. I don't want a ledge that will trip someone. So right now it's just flush.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 12:36PM
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"I left the baseboards in place, would have been a lot of extra work to remove them and probably would have meant replacement"

that's what I was thinking. I have a few areas where it is missing already... don't need any more work if it isn't necessary! I can see in my bdrm where there is a slight gap from prev carpet that I can slip it under a bit. The only 'one' who will be close enough to notice baseboard is the pup anyway!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 2:20PM
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