Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Staircase Is (Almost) Done!

Well, it took twice as long as expected, but we came in a bit under budget and the stair case is installed!  My goal with this project was to create a staircase that was functional for today's living (read: can fit furniture up and wasn't a giant trip and fall hazard) but almost as important, to create a staircase that fit the style of the house and looks like it could have always been here.  I feel like we have succeeded on both fronts.  Check out where we started here and here.

Our house is a1925 bungalow, so the mouldings and millwork are Arts and Crafts style.  By using the square top newel posts in a style that is authentic to that period, I think that it makes the stair case look natural to the home.  We used 1 1/4" square balusters and grouped them into clusters of 3 spindles per step, continuing the classic Arts and Crafts/mission styling.   The treads, landing flooring and handrails are red oak to match the existing red oak flooring in the house.  The newels, risers and skirt boards are poplar, and will be painted white.

We hired out the staircase construction, but we demo'd ourselves and I laid the hard wood flooring on the landing.  I am SO glad that we didn't try to tackle this project ourselves.  I learned so much throughout this process and some of the input that our contractor had as far as the layout of the stairs was absolutely invaluable.

Although the project went quite smoothly overall (besides the construction timeline) there were a few hiccups along the way.  One of them was the handrail height.  City code was updated a few years back requiring handrails to be 42" high, instead of 36" high.  In a house of this age, if the was a staircase with handrails constructed, it would have been probably been 32"-34" high.  People were just smaller back then, so you really didn't have to worry about a 6'5" person tumbling over your railing...

The challenge then comes when you are trying to match up current building codes with old construction - a lot of times it just doesn't fit!  Since our project is considered a "remodel", we were not required to pull permits.  However, we stuck to current building codes with respect to head room clearance, the width of the stairs, the rise/run, etc.  We did deviate with respect to the handrail height; we went with 36" high handrails and let me tell you why I am okay with that.  Pretty much no one in my family clears 5'6" tall, so a 42" high rail is nearly chest high - kind of ridiculous.  Also, if you see in the last picture above, a 36" handrail allows the newels to just clear the bottom of the curtain wall.  We would have had to run the balusters in to the curtain wall on the landing, which would give it a jail cell effect.  Obviously, no one is in danger of falling off the landing in it's current construction...

There is nail hole filling, painting, staining and some drywall work to be done as well as a light fixture to hang.  Also, I will be custom milling the basecap moulding to match our existing basecap moulding to use on the landing and as the skirt board trim.  I haven't decided if I will stain and finish the treads and landing myself or hire that project out.  Our next "big" project will be to refinish the floors on the main level, so I am going to get a quote for the treads and landing and that time as well.  The upstairs floors will also be refinished, but we have some walls to move around, which will leave flooring to be patched, so that probably won't happen for another year or so...

We are so, so happy with the how the stairs turned out.  It has totally transformed the heart of our home and upped the functionality by a factor of 10!



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