How to reno staircase

sandcaDecember 1, 2009

I need help big time on how to renovate my staircase.

Stair details Closed stringer winder staircase: 5 steps  3 step winder  6 steps, treads are 33" wide.

Bannister is 21 ½" iron spindles, individually embedded into 1 ½" wide stringer, another 11 spindles are driven into the subfloor on the second level. Distance between spindles is about 3 ¾". The stringers are construction grade wood.

Spindles are attached with screws to a 1 ½" wide iron ribbon which is covered in plastic forming a continuous handrail.

There is a 4 ½" wall running along the outside of the stringers on the left side. The top half forms the wall separating the hall from the basement stairs. Below the winder box I believe it is only a décor wall. There is also a 4 ½" wide half wall on the right side of the staircase

The stringers extend out past both the first and last step

The following link shows photos

What I would like to do remove both décor walls below the winders and drywall flush with the stringers

add iron spindles and handrail to the stringer on the right side so both sides will match.

improve the appearance of the stringers by capping/veneering the stringer with ¼" oak ply or MDF. I would have to unscrew spindles from handrail and remove them from stringer to cap the stringer. Would this be too difficult? Would shoes be a better idea or would they look silly in a 1 ½ stringer?

If possible I would like stringers embedded in a wood molding on the second floor landing so I could replace carpet with hardwood.

Replace the plastic covering the steel ribbon with a wooden handrail attached to steel ribbon. If I purchased stair parts such as the goosenecks could they easily be made to fit the steel ribbon? Would it be better to remove steel ribbon and embed spindles in wooden handrail?

Add a couple of simple iron or wooden newels. I would prefer to cut the stringers back a bit at both ends if that doesnÂt interfere with stability and attach the starting newel to the first or second step. Would this destroy the structural integrity of the staircase. Is there a "best" placement for the newel posts?

I have phoned several stair and railing companies but they are only interested in my business if I were to replace the whole staircase. I have 2 dogs so IÂm not interested in wood treads and I pefer iron pickets to wooden ones. Any suggestions that I could do to improve its appearance would be appreciated. Thanks for the help.


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Until I got to the last paragraph, I was inclined to tell you to simply replace the whole staircase. Your plan is so complex that I suspect complete replacement might be cheaper. Are you trying to keep costs down by "renovating" instead? That sort of strategy doesn't work nearly as often as people hope it will.

What are you trying to accomplish here? Forget the itemized step-by-step and describe the look you'd prefer over what you've got. It's not a lovely staircase by any means, but the most off-putting thing I see is the dirty / worn carpeting, which is relatively easy to fix.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 7:16AM
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Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am replacing the floors on my first floor. I would like to do any renovations first that would impact on the floor installation. My staircase is not attractive. The handrail is plastic and although it looks fine in the pictures it really does look very cheap. The professional stair and railing people arenÂt interested in just replacing the handrail so I need to plan what I could do myself or if it is worthwhile replacing the whole staircase. Since I could be moving within 5 years, I would like any changes to be a reasonable balance of improvement in appearance and cost. IÂm very flexible. I would be happy with any improvement.

My dogs would ruin hardwood treads so I was planning on just replacing the carpet. It might be nice to put laminate or hardwood on the second floor. That would not be possible without changing the way the banister is installed.

I would just like a simple banister similar to the first 4 photos using my existing iron spindles and new iron or simple wooden newel posts and a wooden railing. I donÂt know if it is possible to only replace the handrail or if a whole new banister would be more economical.

link for pictures of possible changes (see first post for pictures of existing staircase

I would like to remove the ½ wall after the winders and add a matching banister. I assume there is a stringer under the dry wall. I would have to embed the spindles in the stringer. I could only do this if I could change the existing handrail because I could never match the existing plastic handrail.

I donÂt like the placement of the current newel post. I would like to cut the stringers back a bit and install them closer to the first step or change the first step to a curtain step and install the newel posts to the curtain step or in front of the second step. Similar to the last 3 pictures.

I am feeling very frustrated trying to find someone to do any or all of this. My floors are on hold until something is decided. I think that I could veneer and cap the stringers myself but fitting a new handrail would probably require a professional stair person. The DIY books have very little info on renovating a closed stringer staircase. I'm really confused about what to do or where to go for help.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 2:02AM
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Have you tried talking with a (more skilled than average) handyman about the project? The problem with modifying, rather than rebuilding from scratch, is that you can't tell exactly what you're dealing with until you begin so it's difficult to quote prices ahead of time. The fact that you're not clear about what you want done -- maybe this, maybe that, etc. -- makes it pretty much impossible.

If you asked me to do this job (you wouldn't, though - it's not really my specialty), I would be unable to give you a price until I'd spent a chunk of time working up a clear plan and proposal, which I'd rather not spend time doing unless the potential payoff was worth the time spent. My spider sense tells me that this project could consume a lot of my time for very little reward, and I'd be inclined to steer away from it unless you were paying me by the hour.

Paying somebody by the hour and designing as you go carries its own risks, but might be the best way to get it done to your satisfaction. I do think you should get a quote / proposal or two for complete replacement from the stair companies. At least then you'd have something to weigh other options against.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 6:58AM
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I'd demo and start over. Seriously. I'd do wood treads and add a runner down the center for the dogs--with dogs, it will wear out a WHOLE lot faster than the rest of the carpet, and then it's easier to change out.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 1:07AM
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