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Old 01-03-2008, 09:36 AM   #1
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


I'm ready to start replacing the carpet on my stairs with hardwood strip flooring - put off long enough - but trying to figure out what material to use for the risers. I want to have white painted risers as I like the contrast to the hardwood plus eventually will replace the ballusters of the railing with painted white ones. I see that many woodsuppliers sell hardwood risers unfinished, for example, 3/4 in thick 36 inch length birch for approx $22 each. My question is, shouldn't I just buy solid Poplar or Birch in 8 foot lengths from Home Depot since you have to cut each one to exact measurements anyway?? I have seen the cheaper and thinner prefinished density fiberboard or something but believe I need the 3/4 in since I need the riser to cover gap left by the last wood strip on each stair.

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Old 01-05-2008, 10:45 AM   #2
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


Today I am replacing my previously carpet covered stairs with red oak treads and risers. I bought the riser material from HD and it is also red oak. The material cost for 1 X 8 which measures 3/4" X 7 1/4" is about $4.00 a foot. I am going to use Danish wood oil on both. I suppose if you are set on white, a Behr Premium Plus Flat white enamel (which is not as flat as you might imagine and cleans well) could be used. I personally think you should stay with the same hardwood so the grain matches.

I have to start applying the wood oil this morning, everything has been fitted, numbered and removed for this process. My dilemma is whether to sand or not first. I used a jitterbug sander on a sample piece and didn't like the swirl marks it left. The sample I did without sanding actually looks better. Also, being a step, I'm thinking rougher is better. The problem is the fuzz that the wood picks up if not sanded.

So I guess I'm asking anyone who has done this before to advise me as well. Good luck on yours...

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Old 01-06-2008, 12:30 PM   #3
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


DrDave - thanks for the reply. It's been awhile since I have used Danish wood oil on a project, but remember having great success with a Bosch palm random oribtal sander I used on a bookcase - did not leave swirl marks. But I would recommend sanding if the surface is not smooth. Did you spend alot of time getting the sizes correct? Did you scribe onto scrap boards first?

I just installed the 1st riser cut from 1 x 10 solid poplar over the existing riser. First I cut off the tread bullnose flush with the riser below. This left 2 semi circular holes on the stringer left from where the original tread bullnose was mortised into the stringer. These show even after installing the poplar riser. After using adhesive and 4 finish nails to attach the poplar riser, I cut small pieces from a dowel and glued into the hole, then spackled over. I'm waiting for the spackle to dry so I can sand and then apply Behr semi gloss (swiss coffee) to the riser and stringer. This paint matches the trim paint in the rest of the house. Once painted, then I am going to try and install the new prefinished bullnose strip and planks onto the tread - these match the hardwood strip flooring on the floors. I bought 6 ft long bullnose planks which I cut to size - allowing me to finish 3 steps with one plank. Alot of work, especially getting the cuts just right, and all for 1 stair, this leaves 12 more. I'm doing one step entirely first, so I can learn, then I willmost likely do each step on all stairs - cut all bullnoses, attach all new risers, fill in all holes, etc.
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Old 01-06-2008, 02:03 PM   #4
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


First of all, I spent about 8 hours over 2 days to cut and fit both flights. I have an "L" shaped staircase so there is a landing. That said, I had 12 treads and 13 risers to cut and fit. I took careful measurements, then left each one up to 1/16" long. I then checked the fit and found most had to be trimmed at an angle to eliminate gaps and slide in. They are all tight and some coaxing will be done at assembly. I numbered them and put an orientation mark on each so it should be easy to install.

Yesterday, I spent about 4 hours sanding by hand then rubbing in the first coat of Danish Oil. Today, I just finished the 2nd coat. All 25 pieces in just over an hour. I must say they look great! I'm sure that I could have done better but these are steps and will soon be walked on. I think rougher is safer especially when I occasionally have an 86 year old mother in law staying upstiars. I don't need her slipping.

So now I'm wondering if I should use Tung Oil next or a wax. I don't want to use urethane. As long as I stick with oils, any scratches, dings or gouges can be easily fixed and the blending the color/grain with oil should be simple.

The landing is yet to be cut or oiled. I think I'm going to finish this first, then come back for that. That will be a jig saw puzzle once cut and I don't need that many more loose pieces laying around.

Do you know if Tung oil produces a smooth/shiney finish, or do I have to go with the wax for that? I am a rookie at this kind of woodworking.
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Old 01-06-2008, 06:33 PM   #5
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


Don't believe tung oil leaves a shiny finish but it is not very durable on floors or steps. There are several products that add additives to tung oil in order to make more durable and still penetrates the grain. Waterlox is one - check out waterlox.com, once there go to "about waterlox", then "waterlox for woodfloors".

As far as slipping goes, have you considered laying down a runner over the middle of the steps? I eventually plan to.
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Old 01-06-2008, 09:44 PM   #6
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


Cpaff,

Not sure how far along you are now, so this info may not be of any use. I am actually doing the exact same project as you. Putting down wood planks and painting the risers white. The research I did advised to start at the bottom and work up. First doing the riser and then the treads. That way the next riser will cover up any gap between the last board and old riser material. This also allows you to face nail the edge of the last plank because it will be covered with the next riser.

I wanted to use poplar for my risers, but dang that would have been expensive. I ended up getting 2 x 4 sheets of birch ply and should be able to get 3 risers out of each board. I hope the ply holds up ok.

Good luck with your project.
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Old 01-08-2008, 06:11 PM   #7
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


ACobra289, How are you attaching the wood strips to the stair? I have read that a Urethane type adhesive troweled onto the step is a popular method - ensures good coverage. Then you nail the last strip in like you said. Not sure where to find it or how much it costs.
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Old 01-08-2008, 06:20 PM   #8
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


Home Depot recommended using Acrylic Urethane Latex Adhesive, Roberts #1407 and a 1/8" trowel. A couple nails in the corners to hold it while drying. I am using red oak over existing wood stairs that had carpet on them.
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Old 01-08-2008, 07:18 PM   #9
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


Another question - Do you slide the 1st plank (with the bullnose) snug so that the lower lip of the bullnose is resting against the riser below?
My guess is that you do, just would like for someone to confirm.
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Old 01-08-2008, 07:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CPaff View Post
ACobra289, How are you attaching the wood strips to the stair? I have read that a Urethane type adhesive troweled onto the step is a popular method - ensures good coverage. Then you nail the last strip in like you said. Not sure where to find it or how much it costs.
I am putting down 3/4" prefinished maple. If you are doing a different thickness, the techniques I am using may not apply.

I am using PL 400 construction adhesive. I am not troweling, just putting some good beads under each board making sure I have good coverage. I have no doubt the troweled urethane would work great, but I was told the PL 400 would work fine also.

I cut all my boards and do a dry test fit. Once I'm sure the fit is good, I put down some adhesive and the first board (against old riser) with the tongue facing out. I then face nail at the back of it (under where the riser will be) and I also put about 3 or 4 nails in the tongue with my 16 gauge finish nailer. (15 gauge is preferred, but I only have a 16) Then I just keep gluing and nailing in that fashion till I get to the stair nose piece. I glue and put 3 nails in the stair nose (each end and the middle). These holes will have to be filled, so make sure you have some fill that will match your finish. Some people may just glue the stair nose without nailing, and that may be fine. But the stair nose piece gets most of the wear and tear and I would hate for it to pop off or something. So I am nailing just to be safe.

I apologize if I am telling you things you already know, but maybe somebody else reading this will pick up any tips they need.

Bill
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Old 01-08-2008, 07:49 PM   #11
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


Quote:
Originally Posted by CPaff View Post
Another question - Do you slide the 1st plank (with the bullnose) snug so that the lower lip of the bullnose is resting against the riser below?
My guess is that you do, just would like for someone to confirm.
Yep, it should be tight up against the riser below. That's why the dry fit is important. If that first board is not ripped to the correct width, then when you get to the stair nose, it might not fit exact. I suppose it wouldn't really matter if there is a small gap (1/16"?). It shouldn't be noticeable and I wouldn't think it would compromise the integrity of the stair nose. You just don't want to have the other problem of the stair nose not quite reaching the next piece of wood. That would be harder to fix.

I have read that some people install from the front to the back, but then you can't nail through the tongues. Now, if you are installing a glue down only floor, then installing from the front would be fine... I guess.

Keep in mind, I am no pro. Just a DIYer like yourself. But I have been reading up on this project for quite a while.
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Old 01-11-2008, 05:38 AM   #12
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


ACobra289, Thanks for the information. I like details. I'm using 3/4" Oak hardwood. Based on all of the information that I have seen, I believe I will install the bullnose 1st with PL400 and face nail (due to the pounding it will take), then for the next 2 planks just use adhesive (they will still have the tongue inserted into the grooves of the preceding planks, and facenail and use adhesive on the last plank (nail holes covered by the next riser). I would be a llil' worried about starting @ the riser because you have to be so exact with the fitup that if you are off just slightly you will have that gap between the bullnose and the next plank. Hope to rip up rest of carpet off today and get on with the project!! But knowing me, I will take my time and it will take a few weeks due to my real job etc.
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Old 01-11-2008, 07:18 AM   #13
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


Quote:
Originally Posted by CPaff View Post
ACobra289, Thanks for the information. I like details. I'm using 3/4" Oak hardwood. Based on all of the information that I have seen, I believe I will install the bullnose 1st with PL400 and face nail (due to the pounding it will take), then for the next 2 planks just use adhesive (they will still have the tongue inserted into the grooves of the preceding planks, and facenail and use adhesive on the last plank (nail holes covered by the next riser). I would be a llil' worried about starting @ the riser because you have to be so exact with the fitup that if you are off just slightly you will have that gap between the bullnose and the next plank. Hope to rip up rest of carpet off today and get on with the project!! But knowing me, I will take my time and it will take a few weeks due to my real job etc.
CPaff, I like the sound of the way you are doing it. It definitely reduces the chance for screwing up. I may have to give that a try. Be sure and post some pics of your project when you get finished.

Thanks.
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Old 04-02-2008, 10:31 PM   #14
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Choosing Stair Riser Material


CPaff, did you ever finish up your project?

I have finished my stairs/hall and am working my way into the living room and dining room.

Bill M.

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