Friday, September 13, 2013

From Carpet to Hardwood Stairs

Dark treads and white risers on a staircase could stop anyone in their tracks, at least that's how I see it.

via Pinterest
Via Better Homes and Gardens

Freaking amazeballs!
 (Is that a word? I'm going to say it's a word.) 

Add in that stained banister and you have me seriously salivating.  Pavlov's dog over here! I can't even help it anymore, I'm conditioned to start drooling. 

I knew my stairs could look like that too, and for relatively very little cost.  The only thing that I was a bit concerned with was making a stair skirt.  Every staircase picture I looked at had a nice wooden (or painted white) stair skirt along the sides.  If your confused, this is a stair skirt.

My stairs didn't have a stair skirt.  Instead, the lovely builder of our home thought that a 70's approach would be more of an elegant touch.  They placed carpet up the walls where the wooden stair skirt should have been.  

This is the best picture I could find of the carpeted disaster.

I looked into options on how to make a stair skirt and a few people had some really great ideas! 

Mia and Jilly did an AMAZING job creating a stair skirt when they did their staircase makeover
 Those women are geniuses!

Mia and Jilly

Mia and Jilly

 This was just the blog I needed to see to make me feel like I wasn't crazy.  That this could be done.  I must have read that post a million times.
                                                                  I. could. do. this. 
One problem though.  I had trim already up. On the wall. Above the carpet!  I wanted to find a way to leave the existing trim in place and just add skirting below it.  You know, the least amount of work? Ha! Plus, I'm not as handy with the jigsaw just yet, getting there, but not quite alllll the way there. Certainly not as skilled as Mia and Jilly were with theirs. Also, remember I may have mentioned in previous posts that I don't own a nail gun? Yup. Trim couldn't come off or it wouldn't be able to be put back up :( 

Then one weekend, while visiting our cousins, I noticed that they had recently replaced the carpet on their stairs and since their home is eerily similar to ours, they were blessed with a carpeted stair skirt as well.  I snooped around a bit to find out what they did when had to build a new skirt.  
Turns out there is a huge gap along the sides of the original treads after the carpet is removed and it's just big enough to slide a piece of 1/4" plywood down into. 

The only cutting we would have to do were the angles to match the top and bottom of the trim on the sides

So lets begin!  I decided to remove the carpet on a whim when Mr. Serene wasn't around ;)  I had already purchase the materials that I needed about a week prior and had the pine boards sitting upstairs for a few days to have them acclimate to our home.  This is REALLY important.  Wood expands and contracts according to it's surroundings and you don't want to find yourself having issues with shrinkage down the line. 

Again, I brought all of my measurements to Home Depot to have them rip the boards for the risers and for the skirting board.    At that point I was only concerned with them ripping them length wise because any other cuts could be done with a miter saw.  I just don't own a table saw to do the ripping.  Measure each and ever stair riser individually because they are all different.  I had 8 stairs and not one single measurement was the same.  Seems crazy right? 

We also planned to stain our stairs a dark walnut color and I love the look of a worn softer wood so we chose Pine as our tread material.  Even now, I am in LOVE with how each and every dent that gets made in them, makes them look kind of like old barn wood.  I probably would have tried to get the look myself if we had used a harder wood like oak.  If you don't like that kind of style, choose a harder wood.  

Materials used:

  • 1x12 pine boards for treads (make sure they are not warped)
  • 1/4" plywood for skirting ripped to the size you need, we chose 15 width
  • 1/4" plywood for risers, ripped to the height of each space
  • Liquid nails
  • caulk
  • wood conditioner (always use this before staining wood!)
  • stain
  • cloth to wipe away stain
  • cheap paint brush 
  • wood filler
  • screws
  • drill
  • miter saw 
  • sand paper
  • palm sander
  • saftey goggles!!
  • screw driver and needle nose pliers (to get those staples out)
Step one: Remove carpet
The existing carpet will make you want to vomit when you remove it.  The stains, the dirt, the smell! BLAH!!!  But don't worry, it has seen it's final days :)
With your safety glasses on, pull up on the carpet starting at the top of the stairs and pull hard!  You will want those glasses on because not just dirt will be flinging around but a crap-ton of staples will be running amok too.  Protect your eyes, you only get two.
My sweet little daughter snapped this of me while I was wrist deep in my shenanigans and briefly regretting my decision!

Step 2: Remove Staples and Sweep
Remove all of the staples or tack strips along each and every stair.  Once you think you have them all, go over it again!  You will have missed like 50 if you are anything like me.  
Sweep everything off of the stairs and wherever else those sharp little things may have gone.  The last thing you want is to have one "find" you when you least expect it.  Don't ask how I know...

Step 3: Adding the skirt boards
Slide your newly cut skirt board down into the gap on the sides of your stairs.  And by slide, I mean make up a bunch of new cuss words and jam that baby in there as best as you can.  It WILL go in, it just needs some caressing. 
We also had glue on the back of ours so it caused a bit of nerve wracking when glue was getting everywhere.  Have a damp rag ready, you'll need it.

Step 4: Remove existing treads
If your treads are being completely replaced like mine were, remove the old ones with a crow bar and a bit of elbow grease. I tried to do this myself but after about 3 treads, my little noodles were getting sore.  Time to call in the big guns, the hubs.  
I don't know why this is so blurry, stupid camera...

Step 5: Dry fit each new tread
You will want to make sure that each new tread will be a nice, tight fit when you are ready to put them on permanently.  To do this, we did a dry fit to check out our measurements. 

 After everything checked out and all adjustments were made, we started to permanently attach our treads. 

Step 6: Attach new treads
Using a drill, make pilot holes where you will be placing your wood screws.  This will make the screwing in process easier and prevent any splitting of the wood.  Remove the tread again, and place adhesive glue on the supports under where the tread will go and place your tread back in place.  Using your drill again, countersink your screw into the spot where you drilled your pilot holes.  (the countersinking will allow the screw to be below the surface of the wood and be covered up with wood putty to hide it)

Step 7: Wood putty the holes
Using a putty knife, spread your wood putty into the holes and smooth over.  Don't worry too much about excess, you will be sanding anyway. 

Step 8:  Sanding the treads
Using your palm sander, sand each tread in the direction of the wood grain to smooth everything out and check to make sure that all of your holes are covered completely and smooth. 

Step 9:  Staining and conditioning
Softer woods like pine need to be conditioned first before applying any stain to ensure that you won't have a blotchy surface.  Once you have followed the instructions on the can you are using, you are ready to stain!!  Since this is our main way to get to our living room, bathroom, kitchen and bedrooms, I had to stain every other stair to allow for us to still make it upstairs.  The kids liked to make a game of it :)  I did two coats of stain per stair and doing the every other method was taking forever to get them done.  

Also, it's super helpful to place an object on the tread that is safe to walk on once you have them all stained.  It's easy to forget which ones are freshly done...again, don't ask!
If you notice, I wasn't concerned with taping off anything before I stained, paint will cover that anyway.
Step 10: Apply Polyurethane
This is one of those steps that you really need to plan carefully with.  I knew that poly takes a while to dry completely but I also didn't want to mess with the "every other" method this time.  Ain't nobody got time! I made a plan to have the kids in bed when I tackled this and quickly apply my poly starting at the top of the stairs and working my way down.  I had a fan set up at the bottom of the stairs too.  Once I finished my last step, I walked down to my basement and went out the patio door and up to my deck.  Yelled down to the kiddos to lock up the patio door and BAM!, we were all set until the next night! Worked like a charm. Looking back, I'm thankful that my kids didn't have any nightmares that night and need to make a run for my room.  That could have been a disaster!  

Step 11:  Sand and reapply
You will want to lightly sand the coat of poly once it is dry in order to get the glassy finish. It only takes about 30 seconds per stair so don't skimp out on this step.  Once that is done and it's wiped down, you can add your next coat of poly.  I did this a total of 4 times for durability.  

Step 12: Caulk and paint!
You're almost done!  Caulk any areas that you need to cover up mistakes and get ready to tape off your stairs and paint your stair skirts!  The risers for the stairs can be primed and painted prior to installing them.  Believe me, I am so glad I did that before hand.  It would have been a pain in my side to do it after putting them up.  

Step 13: Add your risers
This is probably the most satisfying part; seeing your stairs completed.  We used liquid nails to adhere our risers to the existing wood risers. They went up in a snap and made me giddy!  
(my father in law came down to visit recently and brought his nail gun, so we also added some brads for extra security)

Step 14: Brag about your accomplishments!
Go ahead, I won't judge.  

Happy Friday everyone!

We have been featured on:I was featured on Remodelaholic!

I'm linking up with:
DIY Show OffChic on a Shoestring Decorating


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! We love the way they turned out :) Wish I had done it sooner! Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Thank you! We love the way they turned out :) Wish I had done it sooner! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. They look great! Are they slick? We have unfinished plywood stairs going into our basement, but I'm about ready to tackle them. My builder has suggested adding some sort of walnut shell or sand to the stain to prevent slipping, but it sounds like a dust-collecting nightmare to me.
    Also, what colour stain did you use? It is the perfect colour! Thanks!

    1. Hi Tracy! We were really nervous that they would be slick as well being that we used glossy Polyurethane but they really aren't at all. We have 3 small children who run CRAZY around the house and we haven't had a single slip since we installed them. The color is Minwax Dark Walnut. I conditioned the wood first with wood conditioner to make sure the stain applied evenly and then did two coats of the dark walnut. Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. Can you please tell me how you painted the skirt board to to look completely smooth? Brush? sponge? Ours were just done but painted the wrong color so we have to redo them!


  4. I am thinking to do the same for my spiral stairs. Currently I have carpet on my stairs and I do not like it very much. I will bookmark this page and change the carpet on my stairs when I have enough confidence to do it! Great post, very informative!

  5. I love how these turned out! This is so inspirational for the stairs in the house we're buying...that are covered with 30 year old 80's blue carpet.

  6. I truly like the stairs turned out, it looks extremely decent and truly one of a kind. I have been needing to add something to my portal or stair case, yet I couldn't make sense of anything. I think this would be impeccable on the grounds that it includes only the appropriate measure of point of interest go here.

  7. Love the way you described the process. How did you treat the trim at the top of the staircase?

    thanks in advance,

  8. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic. I need to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this information for my mission.

    Home Spa Services in Mumbai

  9. I'd love to know how the stairs have held up for you. Are you still happy with them?

  10. Woodworking guide offers anyone of any skill level the ability to build amazing projects. The guide is extra helpful because it offers more detailed explanations, videos and blueprints then your typical woodworker magazine.
    Arbor Projects ,
    Adirondack Chairs ,
    Artwork Display ,
    Bathroom Unit ,
    Box Designs ,
    Billiard/Pool Table ,
    Barn Plans ,
    Bed Plans ,
    Bedside Cabinets ,
    Bee Hive Plans ,
    Bench Projects ,
    Bird Feeders ,
    Birdhouse Plans ,
    Boat Plans ,
    Book Case Plans ,
    Baby Changing Table ,
    Coat Rack ,
    Cabin Plans ,
    Cabinet Plans ,
    Carport Plans ,
    Cart Plans ,
    Cat House Plans ,
    CD/DVD Holder ,
    Cellar Projects ,
    Chair Plans ,
    Chest Designs ,
    Chicken Houses
    Childrens Room Plans ,
    Clock Plans ,
    Coasters ,
    Coffee Table Designs ,
    Cold Frame Plans ,
    Compost Bin ,
    Computer Desk ,
    Containers ,
    Cradle Projects ,
    Small Crafts ,
    Cutting Board ,
    Deck Plans ..
    Download 16,000 Woodworking Plans & Projects