When we first moved into our Washington house I didn’t hate the stairs, they were fine. But as we replaced the baseboards, upstairs floors with hardwood, and the downstairs floors with laminate, having carpeted stairs was an eyesore. Plus, am I the only one who hates vacuuming stairs? It’s seriously the worst, and it pretty much never happened in my house (can you tell by the before pictures? In my defense we were remodeling). Our house here in Texas is a one story and I kind of love not having stairs 🙂 But sometimes I miss our stairs in Washington because the end product was so beautiful!
For a general idea of the ‘look’ I was going for I was inspired by Remodelaholic’s Staircase makeover and loved Centsational Girl’s staircase remodel – this remodel gave me hope that our dark floors mixed with light floors wouldn’t clash too much.
So, here’s the before picture. It’s messy, don’t judge 😉
Going into this we were really unsure of if mis-matching the dark wood with the light wood from upstairs was a mistake. If you read our post on what we think about our laminate floors after two years of use, you’d know that we weren’t huge fans of the laminate and someday in the far away future would like to replace it with real wood. Ultimately we decided on: matching the upstairs floors with 3/4″ Handscraped Hickory from lumber liquidators, having white risers/skirt, and having a dark walnut handrail, to tie in with the dark wood downstairs floors.
*If you need more detail on how to install wood floors please go to this post: How to Install Hardwood Floors
- Pneumatic Flooring Nailer *Amazon Affiliate link* (this is the flooring nailer we purchased, you can also rent nailers from hardware stores.)
- Regular Nail Gun
- Nail Punch
- Circular saw
- Jig Saw
- Tape Measure
- Tapping Block
- Hardwood Flooring
- Vapor Barrier
- Nails for Flooring Nailer
- Nails for Regular Nailer
- Puddy to fill in holes in wood made from Regular Nailer
- Dark walnut stain
- 3/4″ Handscraped Hickory
First, we ripped out the old carpet! I was able to give it away for free on craigslist. Once the carpet was removed we pulled out all the staples and carpet tac. Our favorite staple remover tool is the Bully Tool Floor Scraper *Amazon Affiliate Link* It makes such a big difference when getting all those pesky staples out of the floor.
We also used our circular saw/ jigsaw to chop off the composite bullnose. We did this because the individual stairs would stick out too far if we added the bullnose on top of the composite bullnose.
We decided the easiest order to do things would be building the newel posts, installing/making the stair skirt, then stair risers, then painting as much as we could, and THEN installing the wood floor treads.
For us, the hardest part of this project was getting a perfect cut on the stair skirt. We figured between making a perfect stair skirt, or making perfect floor tired cuts we were far more likely to end up with a wonky stair skirt, so we needed to hide our whoopsies on the stair skirt. It was hard, but there is probably only one spot that I don’t like (and nobody else will ever notice it).
Before we could start the stair skirt I had to construct the faux newel posts. I don’t actually know if these are faux newel posts? I just assumed they would be called faux because they aren’t free standing. But the look I was going for was newel posts…. I looked over Sawdust Gril’s Newel Post tutorial and Beneath my Heart before I started.
To start the newel post I essentially just wrapped 1×10 poplar boards around each wall end. I thought about adding wood underneath to make it look nice and beefy, but I didn’t want to take any space away from the staircase so I decided against it. While looking around online at newel posts most of them appeared to be around 55″ so I stuck with that height for the bottom and top of the stairs. The newell post on the landing is different heights depending on which stair you measure it from.
I used shims to get everything square, because trust me, the walls weren’t square. On the first floor newel post I learned the hard way and ended up with an off square post so I used a chisel and hand planer to slowly shave the uneven edges.
Next up I added base boards around the bottom of the posts. At the top of the stairs I used 1×10 and both posts are uniform. For the middle and bottom newel posts you can see the trim around the bottom is all different sizes in order to run a clean line from the stair skirt into the baseboards.
Next up, the stair skirt. We used THIS tutorial on how to scribe a stair skirt. This tutorial shows how to cut a stair skirt with bullnose, we didn’t have to deal with bullnose since we waited to install the floor until after all the trim was put in. Cutting this stair skirt was the hardest part of the entire stair remodel. We ended up cutting 4 stair skirts and they all turned out nearly perfect (we were shocked).
Two of the stair skirts came up a teensy bit short…or maybe long? Depends on how you look at it. So we cut two tiny triangles, glued them into place and painted/caulked over them and I doubt anybody will ever notice..
After all the trim was in we divided and conquered. After laying vapor barrier I started putting in the stair risers (we used cheap pine) and puttied nail holes, sanded, and painted as fast as I could while JG started installing the actual floor (trees). He did the back pieces of the stairs first and waited to do the bullnose so I could slap some paint on the stair risers/skirt. I figured painting around bullnose would be a pain.
Can we talk about how expensive bullnose is?!? It was the most expensive part of this remodel! When we were planning this out I definitely underestimated the cost of the bullnose. The floor wasn’t bad because we purposely ordered extra so we could install the leftover in our closets and stairs.
So, after priming, and a few coats of paint we finally finished the stairs by adding the bullnose!
Annnnd the stairs stayed like this for a very, very long time. When I had time I would do touch up paint/scrape the gobs of paint I spilled on the floor (whoops).
Eventually, we got around to designing the banister/staining the handrails. We waited almost until it was time to move to finish the banister/tops of the newel posts which meant I didn’t get any good pictures of the actual process. At this point we were running around like crazy people trying to finish the house before moving/having a second. We ended up sanding down the hand rails and staining them a dark walnut color. For the banisters and the top of the newel posts we used actual walnut and it turned out beautifully! The top part of the banister is about 3/4″ thick while the sides of the banister are closer to 1/4″. We kept the tops of the posts relativley small, and rounded the edges with a router. JG was convinced the movers would destroy the newel posts, but the posts survived moving and look still look beautiful!
After painting all those risers white I was concerned about them getting dingy/dirty, but in the months before we moved I noticed little to no damage or dirt on any of the risers, skirt, or newel posts. We’ll see how they hold up after few renters!
I was talking to JG about what house projects are our favorite from the Washington house. And we agreed that the pantry, bookshelf door and stairs are our most favorite 🙂
*I’ve had many people ask about the bookshelf door. It’s a DIY and you can read about how we made it HERE!
This project was well worth the DIY. This is officially the LAST downstairs remodel project! Eventually when I finish posting all the upstairs remodel updates I will post pictures of a little tour 🙂