the stairs: a before post


We are tackling the staircase, again,   and again…     and again. This is how blogging works, if I’m absorbed by it, I write about it so you get to enjoy too!

This project has, by necessity, progressed through a few phases of repair. It has also been one of our more challenging & epic time consuming projects. I’m hoping we are in the final finishing stage (cue insane laughter now)!

So I blew it and don’t have great pictures of the staircase when we bought the house. The ones I do have I thought I’d share with you so I can feel better about how far we’ve come. Lately, I am focusing all my efforts into getting the staircase finished, well when I’m not working on products or visiting the new grandbaby! So not focusing like a laser beam, but wishy-washy LED light.


Why was the house gutted? Well if you have heard it before I’m sorry but here it is again, there was 13 ft. of flood water on the property that brought the water level up to a few steps from the very top of the stairs. There was 23 ft. water in town during the summer flood of 2011 and it remained that way for several weeks. The house is higher than street level, but very close to the river. This is why the water level was almost to the top step. 

We purchased the house from the previous owners, gutted and sanitized, in the fall of 2011. The men were all working crazy hours in the oil fields, we were living in two large camping trailers with three small children and winter was coming.  After getting minimal power restored to the house with water and gas a short time later, we hooked both trailers up in a more permanent fashion.  

We were set up to survive the winter; however, the house required MAJOR rebuilding to make it livable. Who buys a house with: bare stud walls and sagging structural supports; all the electrical, plumbing, windows, insulation, walls, lights, etc. needing replacing or repaired. Hmmm? We were short on time and looking at a very daunting job ahead. It was going to be just another walk in the park, Nut House style.                                     

70’s disco lives

After the minimum electrical was installed and signed off, we decided to insulate the walls. Hubby likes to try new ideas, so we settled on installing a Double Bubble Reflective Foil Insulation. Imagine bubble wrap, used for packing, with foil bonded on both sides. It is clean, easily installed and works fantastic! It also gave the main floor a cool disco look. All we needed was a mirror ball and voila’ instant 70’s awesomeness, dude! Our roommate and friend Kris was ready to buy another “Disco Sucks” t-shirt.

stair well walls with insulation

We used the existing wood burning fireplace insert to warm the house while we worked on it but it was getting colder by the day. Soon, we were able to install temporary natural gas garage heaters to keep the house warm enough to work in and were stepping over extension cords running to light stands.

where we hit bumps in the road

The structural problems associated with settling from the past floods and now the non-existent lathe and plaster were mostly centered around the stairwells. In this old prairie four-square house, they designed a type of stairwell from the basement straight up to the attic.  Yes, three flights of stairs stacked on top of each other.

The situation required jacking up the floor above the basement and installing new beams, then just repeat, level by level, up to the attic. One of the interesting discoveries was the way long past owners had compensated for the settling by cropping doors in sagging doorways! Now we had level floors, lopsided doors and messed up stairs. This brings us to our current phase of insanity remodeling.

newel post at bottom of stairs

Even after we got the electrical signed off and the walls insulated with fiberglass and the drywall sheeting done, we were still unsure of how we were going to tackle the staircase.  In the meantime, we had little kids running around and needed to use it daily. A handrail had to be cobbled together using the original pieces, in which the glue was failing, and ingenuity. Our temporary solution? Duct tape. The universal fixer. Duct tape and different colored masking tapes combined with braces and cordage were used to stabilize the railing. We all assured ourselves that, it was temporary (cue more laughter). It worked for the kids but, no smart adult really relied on the railing. In fact some guests were quite startled when it swayed in their hands.

Cinderella ain’t got nothing on me

Over the years, I spent many hours scrubbing and cleaning then removing nails and staples, so that anyone with the idea of putting carpet on these stairs and using staples to secure it will risk life and limb.

stairs in poor shape
lower landing

Early on, our friend Kris and Hubby stabilized the steps from underneath and put fancy screws in the treads to secure them. It was very reassuring when the stairs stopped leaning away from the wall and only creaked enough to catch grandkids sneaking down the steps at night. I have never minded noisy floors; I believe they are a great tool in parenting.  That’s pretty much how the stairs have been for years, till last fall when I decide “now” was the time to tackle the staircase again.

The next death defying post! Sanding! I know you can hardly wait.

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2 thoughts on “the stairs: a before post

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