July 12, 2012

#3- Part 3- Covering the Floating Steps

Its steps time baby.  As I mentioned earlier this week, after a couple of tried and failed attempts, we finally have a plan that we think will work.  It's a little complicated, and it's also not very likely that others will have our same exact situation, so I won't bore you with too many details, just the fun stuff.  Yes, rebuilding steps is totally my idea of a good time.  I'm letting my freak flag fly. 

First we got our wood.  We decided to go with a light maple that will match our new wood floors, making all the various spaces and levels feel cohesive.  We actually like how the light maple and Golden Pecan stained oak go together in the Living Room, Foyer and Loft, giving it a duo-tone look that appears slightly more modern. (Plus, I just couldn't get myself to stain anything new in the house golden pecan.)  I ended up going to 3 different lumber yards on an endless trek for maple, but here's what we found:

1.  3/4 inch plywood with maple veneer for the stair risers.  (I wanted to use solid boards for this, but 1 x 10 maple boards were going to break the bank, so we'll take the time to cut down our plywood and apply veneer to the raw edges.)

2. 1/4 inch plywood with maple veneer to the stair treads. (The part you step on.)

3. Ranch style maple molding for the edges.

It will make more sense in a second.  Here's a section of my big ugly stairs now:

 First we cut down the 3/4" plywood to the width of the step, and the height from the bottom (underneath) of one step to the bottom of the other, plus 1/4".  (I'll explain the 1/4" in a second.)  In theory this should be easy, but every single one of our 19 steps is a different width and height, so I was the crazy Type A one with my measuring tape, graph paper and insane lists.  When you cut plywood you get a exposed/raw edge that is not very attractive, like this:

So for each riser we have to iron on a veneer strip to the exposed bottom edge, which makes it look like this:

The bottom riser has a veneer applied, the top does not.

Hubs maned the ladder underneath the set of steps (did he ever), and placed the stair riser in place, using a small level to make sure it was perfectly vertical.


 Once set, I went to work with 3 different drills.  One 1/4" bit to bore a shallow hole in the step that the screw would fit into to make it flush, one tiny bit to create a pilot hole so that the board didn't crack, and finally one to drill in a 2 1/2" wood screw.

My screw nested in the face of the step, completely hidden.

Then the hubs used finishing nails on the nail gun to tack in the bottom of the riser to the stair from underneath.  Hubs stands on the dangerous ladders, I make the babies.  We all have our roles. 


Once they are all in, it looks like this:

Next step, we cut the 1/4" plywood to the exact width and depth of the stair tops.  Again, this insane house did us no favors, every step = different size.  We used Loctite Sub Floor Adhesive and finishing nails on our nail gun.  Starting to look better...

A little finishing touch with the molding is the icing on the cake.  You'd never know there were ugly floating stairs under here:

Unless you were looking from the floor below that is.  

The flash kept coming on in these pics, making the trim look much more orange than it is in real life.

Nothing that a little more 1/4" plywood can't fix.  Remember when I said we cut these risers 1/4" longer?  That's so that we could fit a piece of plywood, in the quarter inch thickness underneath the step, and the riser caps off the raw edge perfectly, creating a flush corner.  It's the type of thing I come up with when I'm laying awake at night planning every detail of a project.  I can't shut it off.  It's a sickness.

We're waiting to put on the bottom riser until we have a finishing piece for the floor.  More on that later.

It's not going quickly, but we're getting through about a section each night after work when the kiddo goes to bed.  After all the wood is on we'll still have a bunch of work to do with wood putty and sanding, and then the fun worst part- polyurethane. Since you basically can't get to any room of the house from another without using the steps, we're going to have to get creative about the poly, but let's jump off that bridge when we get to it.  I'm just going to take a few deep breaths and appreciate the progress. 



  1. You have quite the system!

    When we refinished our stairs, we did every other step at a time. It made it feel like the project was taking Forever, but at least we could walk up and down the stairs, as long as we kept track of which stairs were where in the process.

    1. That's exactly what we were thinking Bryahnn! it's going to take forever...

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