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JLam 09-07-2006 11:03 AM

Stair riser protection question
Hi folks, first post here.

My wife and I are putting laminate on a small flight of 5 stairs in our house leading from the entranceway into the dining room. We stripped the old linoleum from the stairs so it was down to bare wood. For the treads we did laminate, but we wanted the risers to be painted white.

Unfortunately the original wood was full of knots and looked horrible even after several rounds of sanding/priming/painting. So we decided to take a thin piece of plywood and attach it to the face of the risers, and then prime and paint that. We did that and it looks fabulous, but now I've got a problem

Now the stair tread is just slightly smaller due to the extra plywood on the face of the risers. I've found myself hitting my heel against the risers and leaving marks. I can adjust the way I walk down the stairs so my heels don't rub, but I'm worried about guests and such.

So...long story leading to a simple question...Is there any sort of protective coating or varnish I can paint onto the risers that would protect them from scuff marks, etc.? I really have no idea if that would even work or if it would just be easier to wash the paint if there are scuffs...Please help, I'm new to all this DIY stuff.

Thanks. :)

oddjob 09-10-2006 09:49 PM

Maybe a different color that wouldn't show scuffs as bad, just a thought.:(

mickeyco 09-11-2006 12:50 PM

How thick is the plywood that you applied to the risers? By adding to a piece of plywood (depending on thickness and existing stair thread/riser measurements) you might have brought your stairs out of code compliance (same for adding wood to the threads). There are codes that dictate rise, run and nosing to prevent accidents. This might not be a problem until someone tumbles down the stairs and contacts an attorney. With that out of the way assuming you have a safe rise/run/nosing you could use a water based polyurethane, 3 coats, with a light sanding in between coats. This should prevent the scuff marks or make it very easy to clean them off, additionally it will prevent water from penetrating the wood. You could also buy and install wood veneer, not much thicker than a sheet of paper, apply it over the risers and apply polyurethane, this would probably eliminate the entire problem. Another alternative might be applying (with contact cement) a white or wood grain formica over the risers, it's also very thin, easy to clean and would be less receptive to scuff marks.

You can look at the links below to see if your stairs are within the code requirements:

IRC 2006 Visual Code Interpretation

View the IRC 2003 Visual Code Interpretation

View the IRC 2000 Visual Code Interpretation

J187 09-11-2006 04:28 PM

Agreed with Mickey 100% to check to ensure you are within code. IF you are, you may not have to worry about company. It may be a problem with just those that live in the house. You are the only ones "used" to the old way they were. Which may explain why you are hitting your heels. I know it sounds funny but if you added just 1/4" of thickness to one of your treads, you would find that your family would probably constantly trip on that stair. Its a weird phenomenon, but a well documented one. The poly idea is good as well, but it may detract from the look you are going for if you desire a flat appearance of the paint - I think I would. Invite some guests to walk up and down without telling them anything is different, after you check youir local codes of course, and see if there is a problem. I wouldn't be surprised if no one other than your family hits their heels! If this is true, then you can rest assured, you'll probably get used to the new dimensions in a couple weeks or so.

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