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New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Posted by imjayhawk (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 24, 10 at 9:52

Hi all -

First time posting my message here. Looking for some help from woodworking experts.

Currently the stairs in my house is carpeted. Its dirty and I want to replace it with hardwood. Its a split-level house so there are not many steps but there is a landing at the entrance. I called in a carpenter yesterday and he mentioned that I should look at birch given the existing stained railings and stringers made out of pine. He then caught me off-guard when he asked whether I'd like to replace the existing stringers and railings since I wasn't planning for that.

When I hesitated, he said that he should be able to match the birch hardwood stairs he installs to the stain on the pine railings and stringers pretty close. However, he didn't seem too confident.

What do you suggest? Should I go ahead with the railings and the stringers along with the stairs? I didn't budget for it, but if it will look real bad even if its pretty close and possibly I'll regret later - I might as well dig a little deep into my pockets to do this now.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Different types of wood look different with the same stain. Even different boards from the same tree can take stain differently.

Staying with the same wood is better. Another part of the difference is aging. Different woods age differently.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Are you planning on keeping everything else and just replacing the treads?
Few people realize that in newer houses it's very easy to have a stair co. come in and make new runs of staircase and replace the existing totally. In a remodel we worked on, a three-run winding basement stair was redone in solid cherry for about 1800. We made the two landings out of cherry flooring, and it looked like this when we were done:
Photobucket
Casey


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Thank you both. I will try to see how much it'll cost to do the entire thing rather than have a mismatch later.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

I would reaffirm what sombreuil said. Furthermore you cannot replace treads in a split level house and expect anything other than poor quality. If there is no access to the underside of the stairs they are only glued and "pressure fit" and the top two treads will be guaranteed to squeak as soon someone breaks the glue. There is no way to get the wedges or glue blocks properly in place.

Pine is also very uncommon for rails and balusters unless you're referring to an "Alpine" style balustrade where the balusters are screwed to the side of the stringer. If they are not that style and pinned into the treads you'd be better off replacing them. If they are that style they are most likely yellow pine as the others are too soft.

Another thing to consider is that if the upper floor was originally carpeted and you are going to do hardwood there too the top riser is going to be 3/4" different than the rest so the stringers and risers would have to be replaced anyway or you'll end up with the bottom of the flooring on top of the stair nosing and not flush as it should be. What is the finish on the landing? Is that changing or staying the same?

Birch is also very expensive compared to other readily available stair parts and floorings. You may end up paying as much per riser as the cherry stair above and if you replace the rail to match it will be finger-jointed or you will pay a premium. Red oak and yellow pine are the most common and inexpensive tread materials readily available and most else would have to be made or special ordered. Even for a stair company.

Do you have any pictures you can post?


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Jey_1:

Thanks for your reply. I don't have a pic with me but will post when I get home. The balusters are pinned on the treads and stapled to the rail. The balusters are nothing fancy - 1" by 1" square. Last weekend I peeked through the side of the carpet and saw that the entire staircase is made of Pine.

I'm not going to do hardwood on the upper floor as yet. The carpet is quite new and would like to keep it for now. As for the landing, it has Linoleum and want it gone real bad. I want to put wood flooring to match the stairs. Also I do have access to the underside of the stairs.

Anyways here's some new development - after the quote from the carpenter, I searched around and found a local mill shop that is going to make me custom Cherry treads and risers, and flooring for less than a grand. But its going to be unfinished.

Hopefully I'll get the treads ready by early next week. Now I need tips on finishing the treads and installing them. For risers, I'm just using Cherry plywood. Any tips or diy advice will be greatly appreciated.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Yes. Have them make the stringers too and preassemble the stairs. It sounds like an open stringer on the side with the balustrade and much easier to assemble in the shop than in place for someone inexperienced with stair building. You can install a preassembled stair yourself in about 10 minutes. As a person who can build any type of stair I would never build anything in place. Also allow for the new flooring and put the landing tread on the top of the plywood upstairs. I could give better ideas and provide some visual details at some of the critical spots when you post the images. I have designed tens of thousands of stairs during my career from the mundane to the monumental and often times it is the little details that make the biggest difference.

Looking forward to the photos.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Ok here's the pic

Here is a link that might be useful: Pic


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Hi imjay,

I'll be back in a bit to post some notes. I may just write an article and post it in the home remodeling forum and post a link back here for you. There is supposed to be a way you could go to my profile and iVillage will notify me via email but I haven't gotten that figured out yet. In the mean time note the location of the newel at the bottom of the stairs. A great condition that allows you to keep the newel nice and low but do you have the room at the bottom of the stair to the door?

Some of my notes pertain to things in the drawings that are not correct and how to avoid them. Many stair part manufactures haven't kept up with the times and many of their parts are for ancient rail heights. I will post some companies that have newer product lines and sell directly to the consumer too as many won't. The colors in the isometric view are only intended to draw your attention to the small things. You'll want to ask the mill shop for the cut-offs and scrap as that is all you would need for most of it and it will already be at the appropriate angles and closely matching grain/color.

May take me till tomorrow afternoon but I will get it to you so you can get going.

Jey L.

some_text

some_text

some_text

some_text


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Jey -

Thanks much for this. I do have 8" spare at the landing where the newel post can go. Also, based on your above diagrams - it seems like you are accounting for treads and risers directly nailed to the frame. My plan however is to add the 3/4" cherry treads on top of the existing Pine treads, and also add 1/4" plywood riser to match the tread. Glue it and then finish nail it. The link below is the video that shows the installation the I was going to follow

What do you think? How would the above diagrams differ given my plans to install new treads on top of the existing ones.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stair tread installation


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Hi imjayhawk,

Sorry I couldn't reply sooner. Had to go out of town for the weekend.

I was starting to write an article but it was getting to lengthy and I won't have time to finish it until this coming weekend. Unfortunately it addressed everything in this video and it is all a big NO. I am showing no framing in the drawings. The box stringers are routed and wedged and the open stringer is mitered with the risers. The best and easiest solution for you is to remove the entire stair and drop in the two pre-assembed units. I was thinking you were using 3/4" cherry risers which is a good thing but covering over what is there is wasting your money and time. The riser should be mitered into the stringer on the open side. It will especially be a nightmare when it comes to installing the rails. You can remove the old and install the new pre-assembled stairs in a fraction of the time.

Some other things I would consider is why cherry? If you do hardwood upstairs in the future will you be using cherry or oak?
WIll you be wanting your rails to match and have you gotten prices for the parts?
3/4" for the tread is not thick enough. I am beginning to think the price you got isn't really all that good.
Now that you are removing the carpet how will you treat the ends of the treads?
Do you have any stair companies listed in your area?
Can you post some pictures of the underside of your stairs and the rail terminations of the balcony?
The existing riser to riser dimensions?
The floor to floor dimensions?
Are you putting the hardwood on top of the vinyl or removing it first?
Are you adding anything to the floor at the bottom of the lower stair?
What is the SR to SR dimension of the lower stair.
What is the same for the upper stair?

Your lower stair should look like this when it arrives
some_text


And your upper stair should look like this.

some_text


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Some other things I would consider is why cherry? If you do hardwood upstairs in the future will you be using cherry or oak?

--> I really don't like the grain of Oak that's why I went for Cherry.

WIll you be wanting your rails to match and have you gotten prices for the parts?

--> No I have not. I'm thinking maybe I should go with Iron Balusters. I have really not thought about rails because I was hoping to re-use which looks like its not going to work out.

3/4" for the tread is not thick enough. I am beginning to think the price you got isn't really all that good.
Now that you are removing the carpet how will you treat the ends of the treads?

--> I got 3/4" inch because my plan is to glue it on top of the existing tread. The riser will cover the front end of the existing tread. I'm lost as to what I should do with the open left end.

Do you have any stair companies listed in your area?

--> Hmmm .. I didn't know that such companies existed

Can you post some pictures of the underside of your stairs and the rail terminations of the balcony?

-->

The existing riser to riser dimensions?

--> 7"

The floor to floor dimensions?

--> Not sure which floors you are referring

Are you putting the hardwood on top of the vinyl or removing it first?

--> I was thinking of leaving the Vinyl on and nail the flooring on top.

Are you adding anything to the floor at the bottom of the lower stair?

--> Yes that is the plan.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Just checking on the cherry. Can't say I'm too fond of oak myself.

There are few instances where balustrade removal and replacement work out too well unless you're disassembling the stair re-milling and reassembling it. Even then unless you are talking about a stair that's made out of a rare or exotic lumber that would exceed the cost of the time and labor of doing so It is not often the best practice. I would still use care taking it apart and use it to make something else. How solid are the newels, are they loose surface mount or do they go into the floor?

Iron is nice. You can either use a metal rail or wood on top of it. For a long while iron/steel balusters were a bit less expensive than wood but now they are comparable. The wood rail will usually be less expensive than the metal and easier to install. Newel posts can be either as wood newels match the iron quite well.

A few of the things I was mentioning about not being correct in the drawings were the balusters and newels. The newel is an Arcways product whose turning is sized for the 30" rail heights of days long gone by. Note the extremely tall base. The balusters are StaiParts Inc. made for the same. The upper turnings don't even come close to matching the rake of the stair which is common for too many stair part manufacturers. Even with the stair and balcony rail set to the highest height in order to use a closer matching baluster combination to make it less noticeable. Arcways however does have some fabulous rails and fittings, checks their small orders for matching, offers cherry as a stock item and will sell directly to homeowners. They also carry iron and steel balusters.

I believe OakPoint sells direct and Crown sells through Brosco/Brockway Smith, 84 Lumber and even a few Lowe's locations as well as numerous stair companies. Use the dealer locator on their website. Both have a good selection, have cherry as stock on some of their profiles, good quality and a product line that looks correct for todays codes.

"Solid" or one piece treads sound nice but they are not really what you want unless they have relief milling on the underside and even then it's not much of a guarantee against checking or cupping especially if they are only 3/4 thick". How will the 1 1/4"+ overhang hold up? Construction adhesive and a finish nail through the top of the finish isn't going to last too long and will squeak like crazy after a while. A typical tread is 1 1/16" thick and will be made of three to 5 pieces. Cherry treads are most often made "in house" from random width/length material and a good stair shop will cut out any sap wood, match the grain and the leading piece will be well beyond the riser. Engineered treads are also available but like everything they have their pros and cons and I think the cons still outweigh the pros. The open left end should have a return nosing mitered into the front left corner and extend past the next riser by the same distance as the overhang with a scotia below. That is the dark piece I am showing on the edge of the tread in the image above.

If you go through your phone book or search for stair companies or stair manufacturers and not stair part manufacturers you should find a few. If you call a stair parts manufacturer they will direct you to someone in your area that they sell to.

I was looking for the dimension of the face of riser to face of riser or the run. I'm assuming 7" is the height?

Floor to floor height. From the top of the plywood where the upper stair lands to the top of the vinyl on the landing and from the top of the vinyl on the landing to the top of the vinyl(?) in the basement.

If the vinyl is flat I would agree with keeping it in place if the glue has failed and it's lifting remove it and in either scenario use a quality felt paper underlayment.

Did you already place the order with the millwork shop?

How soon do you need to get this done? I really think it would be in your best interest to explore all avenues and plan out the whole project before you buy anything. As Casey noted above it is often cheaper to remove all and replace. It would take you less time to install the two units than it would to even do one single tread.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Jey - I can't thank you enough for taking the time to post on my thread. I believe I have learned much and come to the conclusion that this job should be best left to a skilled carpenter. Yes, unfortunately I have ordered the treads .. its here in my basement. At 35 bucks a tread, I thought it was very good price and couldn't resist. The price of 3/4" vs 1" was the same. I went with 3/4" thinking that it is going to go over the existing tread. Prior to ordering, I had checked some Stair companies and they were asking for close to 100 bucks for a finished tread. And on top of it, shipping. So I have one master carpenter coming in today to evaluate my stairs. Let me see what he says.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Sorry I didn't see the post sooner. See what the carpenter says and if he thinks it's more work than it's worth get the treads and stringers and let him assemble them that way. Up in my neck of the woods an all cherry stair w/ 4/4 stringers and risers and a 5/4 tread would run about $160 to $200 per rise on the colonial (open stinger) and about $100 to $125 on the box stair. The box stair takes all of about 10 minutes for them to assemble and the open about 2 hours so you wouldn't get any breaks if they sent it out as knocked down. The majority of the work is in making the treads and open stringer.

Let me know how it works out.


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Jey - Not sure you will still follow-up on this thread, but the carpenter came up with 1800 charge just to put the it in, and not finishing. So I'm back to taking this one my own. I'll start with the bottom 6 before taking on the top 6. Wish me luck :)


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RE: New Hardwood stairs and existing stair stringers

Hi ijh,

Was away for a bit and had a hard time remembering where this post was. Too bad on the carpenter. How is the project coming along? Still working on the article but haven't had much time and am trying to gather some pics together and I think it would be too long to post here or as a single article.


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