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Old 04-01-2019, 10:42 AM   #1
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Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


I'm renovating a building in NYC which was framed with lumber that's 100 years old. I'm tearing down some walls and I'd like to keep some of the lumber to fabricate stair treads for an open staircase design.

It's an ambitious project which will require me to buy a planer and maybe even a jointer and glue up lumber to make treads 3 1/2" - 4". Any open space on a staircase can only be 4". Smaller than baby's head. I've been getting quotes for treads 3 1/2" x 11" x 36" in the $350 range finished. A bit less for unstained.

I think the lumber I have is Northeastern Pine. Some of the lumber measures actual 2 5/8" x 3 3/4".

So my question is can this lumber be used to make staircases or is this a total pipe dream?

Thanks.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:03 AM   #2
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Mostly the biggest problem is the nails, can you be sure none are broke off in there.

Even dry lumber has a moisture content so you want to plan on keeping the centre of the board in the centre. I don't know how much you worry about that with old timber, but cupping in a finished product is very disappointing.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:31 AM   #3
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


I can attest to the nails. I reclaimed most of the hardwood in this house and reused to it for door and window casings. I scoured the boards looking for nails, used a detector as well, but still hit plenty.

One nail hit ruins a set of planer blades from doing any finish work. All you can really do after you hit a nail is find it, dig it out and keep using the blades to rough down. Then put in a new set of blades to finish with. I dare say I went through half a dozen sets doing the entire house. I have a nearby sharpener that kept me going.
I am sure I saved a couple thousand dollars on oak lumber, but it came with a good level of frustration.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:43 AM   #4
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


If it is for your own home and on your own time, and it is worth it to save money on wood costs, go for it. I would not take on a project like this for a job you are getting paid to do.
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Old 04-01-2019, 12:08 PM   #5
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Do you plan to cut the stringers yourself or do they already exist? If they already exist you might think about the thickness of the treads and code.

Also 100 year old pine isn't really that hard and will show dents and scuffs easily, unlike the really old slow growth pine of the late 1700s and early 1800s.
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Old 04-01-2019, 12:21 PM   #6
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Are you living in this building while renovating ?

If not, you need to figure out what your monthly carrying costs are.

Then compare the time and total costs of each method. Pushing a project out into the following month can add substantially to the cost of doing a project the slow way. An additional months interest on any loans, additional rental fees on dumpsters, porta potties, scaffolding, etc. If the space will be rented out, it's the loss of a months rental.

When you toss those costs in, some of the "cost saving projects" really don't save money. They may actually be more expensive.
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Old 04-01-2019, 09:37 PM   #7
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


I sort of recall your other threads and, if I recall correctly, you are renovating an apartment/condo (don't know if you are living in it or not). Jointers and planers of decent size and quality take up a fair bit of space and generate a fair mess. What would you do with them once the job is done.
Perhaps I'm not understand - you want to make 3 1/2" wide treads??? Do you mean you want to make normal width treads from jointed boards?

I, too, would not be a fan of pine or any softwood as stair treads. You would also want to think about a router or some way to shape the nose, otherwise they will be prone to damage.
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:39 PM   #8
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


@Nealtw , what do you mean by keeping the center of the board in the center?
@Yodaman Didn't think about the cost of the planer blades and how frequently I'd be running through them. Looks like $30 for a set.
@BigJim I was going to have the stringers welded. I'll attach a pic of what I am envisioning. There is an existing staircase. It's hideous.
@Oso954 - I have a tenant on the first floor, I live on the second and I'm renovating the 3rd floor now. The staircase is going from the 2nd to the 3rd floor. The opportunity cost of not making rent is an issue.
@lenaitch - I finished the condo in the city. This is a new place. 3 family in BK. I have the space here to operate the machines. I could run the planer/jointer on the floor I'm renovating with dust collection, or in my "backyard". 20x40' piece of land. The treads would be 3 1/2" thick. i need them to be in that ballpark b/c of the open staircase design. Normal unit rise is b/w 7" and 8"
tall. If the staircase is open, the gap b/w the top of step 1 and the bottom of step 2 is 5" assuming I have 2" thick treads. That's a code violation.

I have a handheld router but I'm assuming you're referring to a table router.

Sounds like pine isn't a great staircase option tread. I'm assuming it's pine, but I'm not really sure. I'll post a cross-cut pic in the morning.

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Old 04-01-2019, 11:11 PM   #9
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


@jaketrades.
What ever the moisture level is, the center may be different than the top and bottom surface, if you only dress the top of a board the two surfaces are not equal and that is when cupping can occur, but you lumber may be dry right thru.

Planing and jointing have a learning curve.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:13 PM   #10
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Forgot the pics. General idea of what I'm going after.
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Old 04-02-2019, 05:59 AM   #11
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Is this wood indeed pine?
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Old 04-02-2019, 06:55 AM   #12
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Thinking out loud, another option is to use a harder wood board as the top layer and glue the pine lumber underneath it.

Not sure the expansion and contraction of dissimilar woulds create a warping issue.
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Old 04-02-2019, 09:55 AM   #13
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


A few questions on those stairs.

I don't see handrails or guard rails to prevent someone from falling off the stairs into the area downstairs. Would that meet code where you live?

Both pics you show have a fabricated, I'd guess steal, structure to support the stair treads. Have you found a source and priced that out? I am betting it will be expensive.
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Old 04-02-2019, 11:57 AM   #14
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Quote:
Originally Posted by jaketrades View Post
Not sure the expansion and contraction of dissimilar woulds create a warping issue.

Your instincts are correct. Why spend your time building something that may ruin your work.


Regarding type of wood. Identifying from end grain will be tough for most. A section planed or possibly smooth sawn along the grain might help.
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Old 04-02-2019, 12:45 PM   #15
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Re: Relcaimed wood to build stair treads


Quote:
Originally Posted by Photobug;
A few questions on those stairs.

I don't see handrails or guard rails to prevent someone from falling off the stairs into the area downstairs. Would that meet code where you live?

Both pics you show have a fabricated, I'd guess steal, structure to support the stair treads. Have you found a source and priced that out? I am betting it will be expensive.
Good questions...

Handrails are required.

I got a quote from all in one company for the current project. (I've used them for Steel posts, handrails, and stainless cable in the past. They are fantastic and very professional. But pricey.)

Here's the quote for the current project.

Welded Stringer 3100
Treads - 3700
Metal posts, handrails, stainless cable: 3000


This is for one staircase! I've got 2.5 to build (short run into the basement).

This is why I'm playing around with the idea of DIYing parts of the project.

I know a guy who welds MIG and can do the job. If he's available.
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