Sunday, July 26, 2009

a new project - stairs!

I worked very hard this weekend, and I can feel it in my back, but I'm happy because FINALLY I'm having the stairs redone. It'll be seven years in October since the fire. I won't rehash why it's taken this long to complete these final projects except to say there was a contractor fiasco. This is the last big project of what remained to be done, and I'm very happy to finally have the end in sight.

I worked hard this weekend because the man who’s redoing the stairs is scheduled to start next Thursday, and I needed to get them ready. Before the fire, the stairs were carpeted. I don't like the look of carpeted stairs, and I hate vacuuming them. After the fire, I got rid of all the wall to wall carpeting in my house. Every floor, upstairs and down, is now either hardwood or tile or, in the game room, Pergo, so at first, I decided to have the stairs tiled too. I found some Mexican tiles that I loved, and in anticipation of having this done, I had a carpenter put down cement board over the wood. Kath immediately said it was a bad idea, arguing that tile is too slippery for stairs. I wanted the tile, but worried she was right, so I decided to wait “for a while” to make up my mind. The stairs have now been covered in cement board for about six years. A couple of years ago, vowing to not spend another Christmas with cement board covered stairs in the front hall, I decided to bite the bullet and simply have them carpeted again. This was definitely the cheapest alternative. But about that time I was having the fence built, and one of the guys from whom I got an estimate walked through my house. It turns out he was a builder in another life, and when he saw the stairs, he asked what I was planning to do with them. I told him I was going to carpet them. He advised against it, pointing out that on the bottom step, the carpet would meet the Saltillo tile, and no matter what type of carpet I picked, that would never look right. Originally the lower stairs were open, and so although they were carpeted, the carpet never abutted the Saltillo. After the fire, I had the lower stairs rebuilt to match the upper stairs, so all 12 steps are closed in. I realized he was right, so I put the carpeting idea on hold, but the prospect of finding someone to remodel the stairs in wood (to say nothing of the price of doing that) was daunting.

This summer I decided the time had finally come when this project needed to be underway, so a couple of weeks ago I started getting estimates. A friend who had had the stairs in his townhouse remodeled told me the approximate cost, per step, so I had a ballpark figure in my head for what it should cost. However, he had no landings; I have two, and it turns out landings are a separate expense, and not a small one. The stairs themselves (risers and treads) will be constructed by one contractor; when he’s done, a flooring contractor will come in to do the landings and will then sand, stain and finish everything.

The good news is that I’ve found two guys who seem to know what they’re talking about, and whose numbers, although not cheap, are in the ballpark. But before any wood can be installed, the cement board needed to be removed. To save money, I decided this was something I could do myself. I started Friday night and ended up working all night Saturday finishing up. The carpenter had used construction screws on the top floor landing, an area approximately 9’ x 4’, and those pieces of backer board came up easily, but for reasons unknown to me, he decided to nail the rest of it with 3” nails. My guess is that’s what he had in his truck. Most of the nails were slightly counter sunk, so the only way to remove the cement board was to force a pry bar under it and pry it off. There was no easy way to do this. For most of it, I had to start with a chisel. In some places, to make the cement board flush, he’d placed sheetrock behind it. It appeared that he had glued a couple of sections. For the tile to adhere properly, all of the cement board should probably have been glued, but thank goodness he didn’t do this, because removing the glued sections took forever. When the last of the cement board and sheet rock had finally been removed, I was left with a zillion nails sticking out of the wood. I was able to remove most of them, but some simply could not be pried loose, so I hammered most of those back into the wood. I discovered a couple of areas on the plywood on both landings that my Bengal cats Mia and Leo had nailed (i.e., sprayed with urine – which is why they are no longer living with me), so I painted those with a coat of Kilz, and I’ll probably apply a couple more coats before the remodeling starts. I'll post more pics as the project progresses.

1 comment:

cw2smom said...

I am impressed at your thorough work! Good job and I look forward to seeing how they turn out! Blessings, Lisa