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Old 07-23-2014, 12:55 PM   #1
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Home Renovation Staircase Help


Hey all, I have a unique situation that I have come across in the remodel of my house. I have gotten most of the walls up and drywalled, and am beginning to focus on how I am going to fix my stairs. The house is a few years over 100 right now, and has had a couple renovations before me the way it looks. The stairs wrap to the left behind a closet/air return chase on the first floor, and had old solid newel posts, stringers etc that for some reason continued all the way to the top of the steps, with the wall butting up to the railing (the newel posts were actually notched out to jam the wall tight against. I had wanted to remove this closet and wall and open the stairs up completely, but with the layout we chose upstairs, we had to keep this wall in place. I removed the newel posts and railings all the way up so that we can replace the cheap wood paneling with drywall all around and update the staircase.

When I took everything down, I noticed that on the right side of the stair the stringer butts up against the plaster walls (and will be overhung by a ½” with drywall), on the left side there is a 1-1/2” gap to the wall on the steps above the landing, and a 2” gap on the steps below the landing. The steps were carpeted before, and for budget and schedule purposes of this remodel I think I will keep it carpeted for the most part. How can I go about widening these steps the most cost effective way? On the steps above the landing, which are 33” wide, the stringers are located at the ends of the steps. On the steps below the landing, they are 35” wide, but the stringer is recessed in 1-1/2” from the edge of the tread.

For the steps above the landing, I was thinking of removing the existing treads and cut them to the inside to inside width of the stringers and attach them flush to the top of the stringers to maintain strength, and just overlay them with plywood treads and risers to maintain the same height of the current treads. Currently the treads are 1” thick. I plan to cut them to the width from wall to wall and overhang the one side by about 1-1/2”

For the steps below the landing, there is already a 1-1/2” overhang for the treads. For this, I am contemplating doing the same thing with recessing the treads, but also bolt a 2x12 to the outside of the stringer to sort of widen it another 1-1/2”, and then overlay it with plywood with only a 1” overhang.

Am I overthinking this? I am trying to keep material costs down as low as possible for this project, and tearing open the staircase and starting over isn’t really an option as everything around it is already finished.

I am also toying with the idea of running an open stringer railing where the steps are open, which will widen the steps a bit more, but want to understand what I have to do for the basics first! Any help or thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old 07-24-2014, 08:30 AM   #2
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This is not helpful to you at all, but would you mind telling me what software you used for your design?
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Old 07-24-2014, 08:57 AM   #3
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I just used Google Sketchup for the design. You can play with the settings to turn hidden lines on etc. I used one of the free renderer plugins for the rendering.
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Old 07-24-2014, 10:04 AM   #4
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Maybe I am just old and thick headed and can't grasp all you are saying all at once. That is a lot of information and a little hard to sort out. Starting at the top of the stairs, what does the upstairs have to do with removing the closet? Does the closet walls bare the weight of something upstairs that can't be supported otherwise?

The upper section of stairs I am understanding to be mortised stairs. Mortise stairs have the tread and riser mortised into the stringer and usually have only the two outside stringers. An open stringer or conventional stairs will have the treads and risers on top of the stringers, and depending on the stair width, will have three or more stringers.

The lower section of stairs could have an enclosed stringer (mortised) on the right and an open stringer on the left with a center stringer, it is hard to tell from here.

Once we understand what you have, and all there is to know about this, then hopefully we can help you with some of the details. If you have open stringers all the way up, you will have less problems modifying the stairs than if you have mortised stringers.
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Old 07-24-2014, 11:35 AM   #5
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Sorry about that, I tend to write books sometimes. The closet doesn't have anything to do with the upstairs structurally. I had wanted to remove it to open up the stairs and foyer, but it contains an air return in it, and the girlfriend wants a coat closet.

Both parts of the stairs are open stringer. The tread and risers are sitting on top of the stringer. Both portions only have 2 stringers each.

If it helps, I uploaded pictures of the stairs how they currently look.
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Old 07-25-2014, 07:23 AM   #6
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Few thoughts,
1. You can't over think stairs. It is part of the house where people naturally look at how it is finished.

2. Top and middle landings and treads are finished. But not the bottom landing. This changes the riser height, and the difference can make the bottom step uncomfortable or a stumble point. The building rule allows for less than 1/4" difference (check this). You can't cover the treads with 1/2" ply. Patching the bottom landing with hardwood also changes the riser height. This can be adjusted somewhat with tread thicknesses.

3. Although air ducts can be easily re-routed (duct size can change, just keep it at similar volume air delivered), I'd keep the closet since floor was probably laid around it.

4. The gap is good way to insert a skirt. It'll match the skirt on opposite side. If treads need cleaning/straightening, time, chisel and japanese pull saw will help. In tight corners, cut outside of line and finish with chisel.

5. Your design shows the bottom hand rail ending on 3rd step! The hand rail must continue down to the bottom first step. Imagine an old lady having to step down last 2 steps without a rail, or an absent minded person still stepping down but the hand comes up empty. This is a building code, not just a common sense.

You are pretty much committed to that stairs. I'd finish removing rest of the cheap panels, etc, to the rough frame, then look at what you have. Scraping the threads to cleaner wood and getting rid of garbage also will help with seeing what you have.
Gaining extra few inches is not worth it. I'd keep it as is and think about how the finish will look.
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Old 07-29-2014, 07:39 AM   #7
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The bottom landing is finished as well. I just haven't pulled the carpet up yet. Well, it is a patch of the original hardwood tongue and groove. I will make sure that each step is within 1/4" difference. I may actually be adding a 1/2" subfloor for carpeting on the upstairs landing to hopefully help flatten the floor out a little bit. I attached a picture of what I was thinking about doing. The bottom picture is existing, the middle is where it butts up to a wall, and the top is where I plan to have a false tread cap butt up to the carpeted tread.

I did reroute the duct a bit, but the closet does have to remain, it can just be used as a closet now instead of a duct chase.

I was thinking of using a skirt, but it would require me to install a 2" thick skirt, I can't figure out how to make that look decent.

For the railing, it technically wont meet code anyways because it isn't continuous to the top. I wanted to start it on a higher step because there is only 30" from the bottom step to the wall and wanted to open it up a little. It is a bit tight to move things up and down the stairs. I was planning on adding a full length railing on the right side at some point.
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Old 07-29-2014, 08:55 AM   #8
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1. The riser difference allowed may be closer to 1/8 than 1/4. Sorry can't remember. Check. Just googling may give you answer. Look for national code.

2. Don't add 1/2 ply on top landing. Including the carpet, changes the riser too much. Why is the original floor that uneven? If the floor does not flex, just uneven, I may think about floor leveler. Dont worry too much about absolutely feathered edge. You won't feel them under the rug.

3. Skirt can be thinner than 2". Gap covered with trim.

I was thinking of how the finish will look when I said you are committed to the work. It is taken apart to the point where you have to plan to the finish. Finish will dictate your rough work. Plan it now.
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Old 07-29-2014, 10:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carpdad View Post
1. The riser difference allowed may be closer to 1/8 than 1/4. Sorry can't remember. Check. Just googling may give you answer. Look for national code.
It looks like ICC and Maryland code is actually 3/8". I don't plan to be anywhere near that though!

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Originally Posted by carpdad View Post
2. Don't add 1/2 ply on top landing. Including the carpet, changes the riser too much. Why is the original floor that uneven? If the floor does not flex, just uneven, I may think about floor leveler. Dont worry too much about absolutely feathered edge. You won't feel them under the rug.
I am not 100% sure, but part of it is due to me having to jack joists up to sister them where the previous owners decided to notch out all but 2" of a couple of them, and in another location I had to re-replace an architectural beam and columns with a structural steel beam and columns. There are a couple areas where I can feel a few boards kind of pitched higher than the others along with some sags. Maybe I can try to screw the high spots down to the joists. I still have the old linoleum flooring down and can feel it through that pretty well. On a side note, I didn't know that linoleum flooring was ever popular in bedrooms!

Quote:
Originally Posted by carpdad View Post
3. Skirt can be thinner than 2". Gap covered with trim.
Do you have any details or sections of how this will look? I cannot picture anything really.

Quote:
Originally Posted by carpdad View Post
I was thinking of how the finish will look when I said you are committed to the work. It is taken apart to the point where you have to plan to the finish. Finish will dictate your rough work. Plan it now.
I agree, I am staying away from the area for now until I figure out what I am going to do 100%
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Old 07-29-2014, 12:34 PM   #10
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Have you considered wainscoting for your stairs, something like the picture below? That would be a good way to fill the gap.
It is a little hard to see the skirt added onto the 1X of the wainscoting but that would an option.
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Old 07-30-2014, 10:08 AM   #11
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Wainscoting is an option, although I am not sure how I would be able to terminate it at the top of the stairs. The hallway continues flush down that wall. I was also trying to get away from the wainscoting look. The previous wood paneling was painted to mimic it, and it made the house feel small and very outdated.
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