In each room where we’ve completed a major renovation, there remain a few minor projects to complete before we can say we are 100% done. Mostly little things like placing a small piece of trim or securing an electrical fixture. Sometimes, there remains something more involved such as replacing a window or finishing a ceiling. These require one last giant push from us and of course, there are lots of other things to do, including enjoying what we’ve done and contemplating next steps.
In one such instance, while we were sitting by the fire in our most recently finished project (not withstanding there remains a window to replace, a ceiling to hang and two electric outlets to secure), we decided to refinish the stairs. To add to it, we had an extra deadline as in three days our friend Yvonne and her son were coming to visit. With a self-imposed completion date looming and a new project to address, we got busy.
We don’t have any idea when these stairs were installed, or their origin, but they do not appear to be original to the house. There are different rises between the treads and a turn, which taken too quickly while wearing socks, can land you right on your backside. This is actually preferable to slamming your knee into the granite wall which runs along side the stairs. Despite the potential bruising hazards, they are perfectly serviceable.
They had been painted a dingy chocolate brown, which was looking tired and pretty banged up. The dark colour robbed the stairwell of all light, predictably making it a gloomy area even with a window at the top landing. We considered our options for some time before diving in on this project. We wanted the paint off, but what was the wood going to look like underneath? If the stairs looked worse, then we needed to consider how we might paint them. Neither of us were too keen about using paint stripper for these steps as they are in regular daily uses. We could treat every other step which would be fine for going up, but the coming down seemed a dangerous proposition. How about the left side then right side? And, how do we prevent Sam from following us up the stairs each time one of us ascends them? After our recent exploits in getting all the paint off the stone walls, we were both fed up with the smell of the low-odour, paint stripping option and so wanted an alternative.
Well, something was afoot and before I knew it, Roger had his belt sander on the first step to see how easy it was to remove the paint. Meanwhile, I searched the internet and discovered there are far too many pictures of what people have done with their steps. Without exercising discipline, I could easily just look at all of them and never turn my attention to another rung on the ladder of our home renovations. Spoiler alert: I’m now about to take a step too far and contribute to the plethora of stair photos available to eager home-improvers and Pinterest enthusiasts. Onwards and upwards!
The rabbit hole of Internet stairs photos was almost immediately shut to me as Roger made quick work on two steps and they looked fantastic. We knew what we had to do: Sand the steps and then use stripper in the corners. It took Roger about 90 minutes and the steps were mostly cleared of paint. After a quick clear up of dust, I came along with my trusty old paintbrush, the environmentally friendly paint remover and applied the goopy stuff to all the corners. After twenty-four hours, the residual paint came up easily with a scraper and a bit of water.
A day later, we were able to return to the project. The stairs needed time to dry before Roger could sand and smooth all the wood. He also gave a light sanding to the toe-kick bits. Once done, I came along with some light-coloured paint, addressing the trim and toe-kicks. Roger then treated the treads with some tough matt finish product called Osmo (this stuff is amazing!) and the job is done. Our one project that doesn’t have anything left to do on it.
When Yvonne and Lorenzo arrived, we showed them the stairs before heading out for a long walk to return and relax by the fire, enjoying the company of good friends. Now, as I walk up the stairs to the studio, I feel really pleased with the beauty of the wood beneath my feet. And I look at the room where we work and I feel ready to get going on this project too. Of course, what we need to do in here will wait until we get the plumber out to do a water tank switch over and move a couple of radiators before we repair a wall, refinish the floors, paint the walls, and replace a window. One step at a time.