When we moved into our current home, I knew we needed to do something with our dated curved staircase. The carpet covered stair treads were on the way to its death bed—stained, matted and full of dangling threads—there was no easy fix.
Cruising the Internet and looking at staircase inspiration, the hubby and I had the brilliant idea to remodel our own staircase. “How hard could it be?”, we thought. After all, it’s not uncommon for us to take on pretty adventurous renos we have never done before!
So we set forth in October 2014 and ripped out our entire staircase. Little did we know that this project would drag on for the next year causing us to live with plywood steps and no railings.
Finally our happy ending came just before Christmas (2015). The once hazardous staircase is now fully functional, upgraded and safe.
Looking back, I do see all the areas where we went wrong. We would have never been able to foresee half of those issues due to lack of experience.
Would I try to accomplish a project to this magnitude again? Maybe. If it’s years from now and this project becomes just a distant memory. As of right now, as discouraging as this may sound, this is probably one of the very few remodeling projects that I would say, “just leave it to the pros”.
If you want to start from the beginning of this project, you can catch up here:
The final step!
After we installed all the stair treads and newel posts, we thought we were so close to the finish line. The last step was to paint and install the balusters.
So we painted everything white and brought them back into the house. Only to realize yet another mistake. We didn’t number our balusters when we took them out a year ago. It was quite a challenge (not to mention, extremely time consuming) to figure out which ones went where.
Once we sorted through that mess, we began installing the balusters on the three shortest rails (the two on the second floor and one on the main floor). We measured, marked and drilled the holes.
During this process, we made one minor adjustment—rising the height of the railings. We did this because we originally had carpet upstair, which we switched over to hardwood flooring. That meant the new thickness of the floors bumped up the balusters, which in turn, also bumped up the railing height.
At this point, we were feeling good. We had one last rail to install! This was the longest rail, the one that curves from the bottom of the steps right to the second floor. . .
But then this happened!
As we began drilling holes on the first few steps, we realized something was off, which made us stop immediately. We measured a dozen times and noticed that the balusters weren’t lining up with the stair treads.
After a few days, we eventually came to the conclusion that the railing needed to be cut to pull the bow in tighter. The new nosing and newel posts that we installed on the second floor changed the position of the rail completely. Something we didn’t even realize.
Since we were at the very end and we spent so much time trying to perfect this staircase ourselves, we threw in the towel and decided to get a professional in to do this final installation.
It would have taken us weeks to find the correct radius of the curving rail versus a professional who could fix it in one day. He advised us our biggest mistake was removing the posts and rails, he said they should always stay in place (if you are reusing them). Just to prove to you that this was no easy clean up, it took him roughly 8 hours to fix our mistake on this ONE rail!
Although we cheated in the end, there was one big positive about doing this project ourselves. We saved huge money! After talking to the pro who helped us, I asked him how much a typical project like this would cost. He blew my mind when he said around $8,000. I guess I can now see how much time and expertise goes into these sorts of projects. In total, we spent roughly $2k including materials and the last minute service call. That’s a savings of nearly $6,000!
I am definitely happy it’s over and knowing we saved that much money did make some of the headaches go away.
In the end, I learned that tackling a curved staircase is unlike tackling a straight staircase. You can’t get away from the fact that anything curved is a custom part that needs to be custom fitted. It does take more time, money, skill and patiences to complete. However, it is totally doable even if you do have to call in for help!
Next step, infusing this empty hallway with a little artwork!