The steps to the basement were carpeted before we started the demolition. We plan to keep the stairs carpeted, but we wanted to change how the carpet looked. Here is a picture of the original staircase:
You can see that the carpet goes up on the sides of the stairs. This is very unusual. Jim absolutely hated it. I didn’t like it, but never really thought much of it. On top of the weird carpet, the stairs were very creaky. Jim figured he would take the carpet off and fix some of the creaks but adding some new nails and making it more sturdy. Well, when the carpet came off the stairs, we saw that the stairs were no good.
These are not finished stairs. These stairs were installed when the basement was unfinished and the look of the stairs didn’t matter. Instead of having normal stringers to hold the stairs in place, these stringers had grooves in them to slide the stairs in. These meant that the sides of the stairs that are normally uncovered would have grooves and be unfinished. Jim and I brainstormed the many different ways we may be able to fix this problem. Jim’s first thought was to re-do the stairs completely. I came up with many different options that unfortunately would not look as good. In the end, Jim won. We were going to learn how to build some stairs.
Jim figured out all the measurements to make the steps work. He had to work around the support beam in the basement which is located right at the very first step of the stairs. He also had to make the stairs end before the door to the tool closet at the base of the stairs. He had a design and measurements worked out. On one of our March snow days (because we did have more than one), we decided to start working on the stringers.
The stringers are the skeleton of the staircase. It holds everything in place. The cuts on the stringers are the most important part to getting the stairs to be even and level. After measuring out what needed to be cut on the stringers, Jim used a circular saw to cut each step in the stringer. Unfortunately, circular saws do not all the way through because they are, well, circular. So after doing all the cuts on one side, we flipped the wood on to its other side to cut out the stairs there. Then a little piece was left that we needed to use a hand saw to get rid of. It took some time. Once we had one stringer done, we used it has a stencil for the next two stringers.
Two weekends ago, Jim decided to tackle the stairs. I had been sick that week and unfortunately was no help (outside of taking pictures and handing Jim things no and then). He tore down the old staircase and got started on the new one. He put a ladder in place so he could still come upstairs when he needed to.
Jim got to work figuring out where the stringers would go and also installing the support beams for the stringers. Jim quickly realized some of his original calculations were off. The stringers fit in place, but the stairs were incredibly slanted. He had to rework all of his calculations and that took a lot of time. He eventually ended up taking away one of the stairs and increased the height of the platform at the end of the stairs so that everything would be level and even. Luckily, he did not have to do completely new stringers and just altered the ones we already cut. Once all the measurements were corrected, Jim attached the stringers at the base and the top and then put them in place. Jim also had the foresight to add drywall to the sections of the wall that had been previously covered by the old stairs that would no longer be covered by the new stairs. He saved us a lot of time from cutting out triangles of drywall to install.
The next step was to add the risers and the treads. Treads are the part of stairs you step on while the risers are the vertical part that rests between the treads. Risers prevent you from putting your foot through the stairs and they add support to the treads you walk on. Luckily, we were able to order finished treads and risers. The treads have round edges which make them look really nice. Jim add wood glue and hammered them into place. Before you know it, we had a brand new staircase!
With the staircase finally in place, we were able to build the half wall by the end of the stairs. The stairs originally were tunneled in to the end of the staircase but we decided to open it up. We needed to build a wall frame for the new half wall. Jim was checking his measurements and had me figure out some of it as well. We were building the wall frame with an angle in it, so we had to pull out our cosine, sine, and tangent knowledge. I even searched for my high school graphing calculator, which unfortunately, was no longer working. The math was done and the measurements worked out. We also finished the last of the drywall and we are ready for the drywall guys to come in and finish the seams. The basement is getting so close to being complete!