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Mike in Arkansas 04-04-2009 05:30 PM

Stairs refinish/rebuild ????
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First question in the Carpentry forum but I read a lot here :yes:. I just took up the carpeting on one of the steps of my 100 year old house to see what was what. Couple of pictures attached. You can see lots of paint splatters and general crud on the stairs and moulding at the side. The treads are heart pine like the floors and I would like to restore them to a better condition sans carpeting. My question concerns the best way to go about this. I see I could just rip up the carpet and tack strips and sand/refinish each tread, repaint the risers and replace the moulding that goes on the riser underneath the tread that was removed to apply the carpet. Due to all the corners I can see quite a bit of hand sanding which is hard for me due to shoulder problems but not impossible. I assume I could rent an appropriate sander to do the majority of the work. Other option is to remove the treads and run them through a drum sander (excuse to buy a new tool and I do have good dust collection) Problem is the moulding on each side overlaps the treads and would need to be removed on at least one side. Removing both would be best as it looks like hell from someone just slopping on a thick coat of latex right over anything that was on it including what looks to be some kind of jute padding residue. There are 17 stairs and the moulding is one continuos length on each side. Some of the applied moulding is cracked and/or broken and needs to be replaced anyway. Anyone have an opinion on the best way to proceed? One sub-question. The moulding on the sides overlaps the treads which means to me the treads were put down first. If so how in the world was the moulding cut so accurately to fit exactly at each tread and riser and especially around the front of the tread where it hangs over the riser remembering the moulding in one long piece. Maybe I'm wrong and they were assembled somehow else. Would like to know though if anyone can say. pictures below.

Ron6519 04-04-2009 08:26 PM

The sides of the staircase are called stringers. The treads and risers are inserted into recesses on both sides. If you went under the staircase you would see wedges under each tread and behind each riser They're usually glued and pin nailed in place. They hold the parts together.
The way you described refinishing the staircase is the way to do it. You would leave the parts in place and sand them. You'll need another excuse for that tool. But I would definitely use a sander on the steps. Random orbital for the middles a palm sander for the edges. This will minimize the amount of hand sanding.

Mike in Arkansas 04-04-2009 09:33 PM

Thanks Ron. So if I understand what I am describing as molding (the large white board on the wall at the stair edge) is actually part of the structural assembly? I thought stringers went underneath the treads and the treads just rested on them. Didn't realize that they could actually come above the treads. Can't get behind the staircase but your description tells me how the treads and risers fit so closely to what I thought was molding. Stringers installed and then the treads/risers fitted using shims. Makes a lot more sense than what I was imagining:laughing:. So to disassemble the staircase would require the ability to get behind it?

hayewe farm 04-04-2009 10:57 PM

It'll be a great excuse to get a Dremel Multi-Max for sanding in the corners.

Gary in WA 04-04-2009 10:59 PM

Pages 9 and 19:

Be safe, GBAR

Ron6519 04-04-2009 11:02 PM

There are open stringer staircases and closed stringer staircases. You usually see the open stringer units on exterior deck staircases and basement staircases in older houses. The closed staircases are in the finished parts of the house.
If you could get to the back of the staircase you could disassemble it pretty easily. Many of these units have finish nails through the front of the treads into the riser tops. The squeaking on the staircase is the tread riding up and down on the nail shaft.

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