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Old 01-03-2019, 01:15 AM   #1
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Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


Not sure if this is the right forum to ask this but we are looking at purchasing a new home in the next 2 months. I went to look at an older 1920's built colonial style home this week that I fell in love with, the bottom floor had an amazing open floor plan that was perfect for us. The downside to the home was that the second floor, and access to that floor was bordering on minature. Like the house was built for Oompa loompas in the past.

The staircase is in the dead center of the home with a door to access the staircase from the kitchen area, it is surrounded by load bearing walls on both sides and directly below the staircase is the basement staircase leading down, very typical build style for this particular house.

The unfortunate thing about the staircase is that it is very narrow, and very steep. This isn't very good for my mother who is 61 years old and is starting to develop disabilities as she gets older.

So my question is, is it possible to modify the staircase on these older homes to get a less narrow staircase that has a slightly larger footprint without tearing down half the home? One thought that crossed my mind when I looked at it was that it would be virtually next to impossible to get any of our current furniture pieces to the second floor unless we had a crane and took the roof off, it was that bad. While I could always sell the furniture and buy stuff to assemble onsite in the rooms themselves, the dangers posed by the incline of the staircase are still pause for concern. So before we put an offer in on the house, I wanted to see if such a modification was even possible. I have no background whatever regarding structure changes to a house so this would be entirely done by a contractor, just looking for pointers from anyone who has maybe had this done in the past.
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Old 01-03-2019, 01:45 AM   #2
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


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The staircase is in the dead center of the home... it is surrounded by load bearing walls on both sides and directly below the staircase is the basement staircase leading down

...is it possible to modify...?
Possible is about your bank account.
Practical? Probably not; at least not unless you had ten other things that NEEDED to be done that would impact on that framing enough to justify the work involved for a "while we're at it" level redesign of the stairwell too.

As to planning around 61yo and older residents... think single level.
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Old 01-03-2019, 02:43 AM   #3
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


Hire an engineer to look over the house with you, he will have you out of love with it pretty fast. That would be a big destructive change.
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Old 01-03-2019, 10:05 AM   #4
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


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Originally Posted by TarheelTerp View Post
Possible is about your bank account.
Practical? Probably not; at least not unless you had ten other things that NEEDED to be done that would impact on that framing enough to justify the work involved for a "while we're at it" level redesign of the stairwell too.

As to planning around 61yo and older residents... think single level.
rough idea, how much do you figure redesigning a staircase would cost, ballpark?

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Originally Posted by Nealtw View Post
Hire an engineer to look over the house with you, he will have you out of love with it pretty fast. That would be a big destructive change.
I plan on having a structural engineer who is a home inspector in the local area look over the home top to bottom. There are some things in the basement I am a little unsure about myself and they converted the 5th room which was in the attic back into an attic space and removed the window and switched it to a gable vent. Far as I can tell the attic space is completely uninsulated.
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Old 01-03-2019, 10:26 AM   #5
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


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Originally Posted by TarheelTerp View Post
Possible is about your bank account.
Practical? Probably not; at least not unless you had ten other things that NEEDED to be done that would impact on that framing enough to justify the work involved for a "while we're at it" level redesign of the stairwell too.

As to planning around 61yo and older residents... think single level.
Forget this idea and house and fall in love with a single story - think smarter not harder
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Old 01-03-2019, 11:50 AM   #6
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


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rough idea, how much do you figure redesigning a staircase would cost, ballpark?
$30,000?
The big variable is the labor rates where you are vs me.

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I plan on having a structural engineer ...
here's an idea you might want to explore:
ADD a stairwell to the OUTSIDE of the house. No/little messing with existing loads or footings and you gain some real usable space out of the effort. Might even make adding an electric stair for granny (in a few years) practical as well.
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Old 01-03-2019, 12:06 PM   #7
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


Not that 61 is old to us but a Colonial is the worst possible house for old people. As Tex said, look for a single story house with a cellar for storage.
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Old 01-03-2019, 12:40 PM   #8
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


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Originally Posted by Texasdiyer View Post
Forget this idea and house and fall in love with a single story - think smarter not harder
We definitely are looking at single story homes but pricing here in jersey is pretty insane. Average property taxes in NJ are around $8,690 per year for a 4 bedroom single family home. Some of the cheaper areas are cheap for specific reasons, older areas, lots of industrial surrounding the residential neighborhoods, and some in flood zones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TarheelTerp View Post
$30,000?
The big variable is the labor rates where you are vs me.

here's an idea you might want to explore:
ADD a stairwell to the OUTSIDE of the house. No/little messing with existing loads or footings and you gain some real usable space out of the effort. Might even make adding an electric stair for granny (in a few years) practical as well.
Outside of the house is not a bad idea at all actually in a pinch, if it did wind up that this home was the only thing that met our needs during the search it would be something to explore.

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Originally Posted by Guap0_ View Post
Not that 61 is old to us but a Colonial is the worst possible house for old people. As Tex said, look for a single story house with a cellar for storage.
Well the good thing about this home is one of the bedrooms is on the first floor with direct access to the kitchen, bathroom and living room areas. So worst case scenario if someone did become wheelchair bound, the house is easily able to have someone live exclusively on the first floor. One of the things I considered during the walk through. Not the BEST layout, but not the worst by far from some of them I have seen.
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Old 01-03-2019, 01:01 PM   #9
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Re: Changing a staircase in an older style colonial


A first floor bedroom would be my second choice. However, that would have been if you already owned the house. My parents owned a colonial & we did exactly that for my father when stairs became a problem. I also built a 9x6 handicapped/wheelchair accessible bathroom & shower. The inspector said "It looks like a dance hall in here."


Since you are still in the buying process, take some extra time to look for a ranch or something more suitable than a colonial. Besides the stair problem, a lot of space is lost in a square house. The smaller square in the middle of each room is unusable. It can't be used as living space or storage. A rectangular house doesn't lose that space. It's similar to railroad apartments. Every inch can be used.
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