The Risers and The Treads
October 7, 2010
OK, first, let me announce that the eligibility criteria for the upcoming HomeGoods Link Party has been expanded to include how you would create your own ‘Mom Cave’ with a prize from HomeGoods. I thank my kind readers for mentioning this obvious category. I officially smacked myself on the head and said "Well duh!"
So, please take note of that modification and mark your calendars for Oct 25th. Also, you can submit your entry via email if you don’t have a blog (Smack, "duh" again.)
Yesterday, a very good thing happened in my world. A ten year dream of mine came true. The hardwood risers and the treads on my entry staircase were installed.
A month ago we had just the top landing and the bottom step professionally installed because, long story short, we couldn’t use the standard wood treads, we needed strips of plank flooring and also a special routed curved edge.
Our good friend owns a flooring company, so he sent out the special order materials and the very helpful Felix to do the job in just a few hours. It’s so nice to ‘know a flooring guy’, especially one who will let you DIY as much of the project as you choose to keep costs down.
But the rest of the steps sat as plywood for nearly a month while the riser and tread material gathered dust in the living room. Tick tick tick went the clock.
After living with plywood steps for nearly a month, I noticed my husband preferred to spend his fall weekends watching football on the couch, not renting a table saw to cut risers. Not that he’s ever lazy, he’s just working hard during the week, very tired, and in need of down time.
Growing impatient, tapping my toe on said plywood, I gently suggested we enlist some help. I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye. Maybe it was a tear of joy.
We called our contact and found out we would have to spend enough for about six more hours on extra labor to help us cut and install the risers.
So we did this calculation:
In conclusion, bringing in the experienced staircase riser and tread installer for another $300 made the most financial sense, especially since we needed an absolutely professional look. The best part of all was I played apprentice during the install yesterday.
Here’s the step by step we followed for installing new risers and hardwood treads:
1) First we cut the edges of the plywood steps with a jig saw. I had planned to use my SkilSaw but the blade needs sharpened so Felix used the jig instead. Sawdust everywhere!
2) Next it was time to install the risers, so we worked our way up from the bottom to the top, setting the riser first, then cutting and installing the tread, one by one.
The edge of the risers are measured with a carpenter’s right angle, then the first horizontal cuts are made so the riser’s edge sits just above the edge of the plywood tread, in order that the hardwood tread will set perfectly on top. That unpainted wood you see along the sides was where the carpet used to hide the oak.
Then came the cutting, which was thrilling and scary at the same time working with a table saw. Especially after Felix told me some stories of careless workers he knows who have lost fingers on table saws. There were serious heart palpitations followed up by the pride of my anxiety conquered. And I cut me some risers!
Not only did the risers have to be ripped at the perfect height with the table saw, but Felix showed me how he sets the blade at a 1/16 angle when cutting the sides to create a subtle wedge shape (see below).
The angled cut prevents gaps after installation, and guarantees a clean seam up against the tread, which avoids the need for caulking or trim. Pretty nifty! Another thing I never would have thought of on my own, and another reason I was grateful for an experienced installer.
We made the same angle cuts on the sides as well.
And that’s how you get seamless risers that don’t need any trim to hide gaps or imperfections. (The dark spots on the sides under the treads are the unpainted edges where the carpet used to cover the wood.)
The risers were set with some subfloor and deck adhesive (see below) and nailed into place.
3) Installing treads. After the first riser was installed, we cut the first tread. Again, the sides of the treads are cut at a very slight angle with the compound miter saw to create a seamless fit. Each step required a proper amount of subfloor and deck adhesive, used to eliminate squeaks and glue the steps into place.
Then we used a mallet to wedge them into place and secured them with a nail gun.
And we went up, one by one, riser then tread, riser then tread, until it was done. This was so much fun! Honestly, I’d rather spend a day learning how to cut and install hardwood stairs than go on a wild shopping spree. Call me construction crazy.
There are miles to go before I sleep. I still have to strip the bottom step (curvy side); fill holes with putty; sand; stain; poly three coats, prime and paint.
Every. Single. Step.
Easier said then done when you’ve got two little munchkins running around.
But they’ve grown up around sawdust and power tools with all their limbs intact, so I’m sure I can get them to cooperate.
I’m seriously pinching myself today because I now have this.
I even experimented with some stains yesterday, and I can’t wait to show you how it all turns out in the end. Hooray for hardwood steps!