"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Saturday, February 18, 2017

continuing carpet removal

I'm not a big fan of carpet. Sure, it feels nice and soft and warm on your toes, but it gets dirty so easily and is hard to clean. The carpet in our house is covered in stains, and it's only 6 years old. Maybe that's unusual, and we're just extra dirty people, but either way, our carpet is still gross. And so I'm on a slow crusade to rid my house of it. Some areas are a bit of a battle since Zach does like carpet. However, this year I convinced him to get rid of it on our entryway stairs. Those stairs connect our first floor entryway, which is tile, with our second floor hall/living room/dining room/kitchen, which is hardwood. It always seemed a little weird to me to have carpeted stairs connecting two areas that were not carpeted. This argument eventually wore Zach down. I made plans, ordered material, and Zach and I pulled up the carpet and staples. Then we waited for reinforcements, i.e. my dad.

My parents came to visit for 4.5 days on their way down to Florida, so my dad could help me. We got started on Wednesday with a trip to Home Depot for liquid nails, plywood and saw horses for making a work table, and a giant miter saw that I tried to tell my dad we didn't have room to keep. However, it did turn out to be extremely useful - more on that later. I had also borrowed a regular miter saw and table saw from my awesome tool buddy.

Our stairs curve around near the top. We wanted the flooring on the stairs to continue to line up with the same direction as the floor they would meet. That's how we did it for our previous little stair project. This meant that, for the main part of the stairs, the boards would go straight across, but for the top few stairs and landing, the boards would need to be at a 45 degree angle. My dad tried to talk us into doing all the stairs with the boards just straight across, which would be easier. We thought that would have been OK if we had done the other stairs that way, but since we'd done them to line up with the hall flooring, we wanted these to match up too.

On Wednesday, after our shopping trip and getting all the saws set up, we got to work getting the stairs prepped for installing the risers. The existing stair treads had noses, which we needed to cut off so the risers could sit flush with the top of the tread. My dad had brought a small circular saw, which we used to do the majority of the nose cutting. Then he had a multi-tool with a cutting blade that we used to trim off the rest that was too close to the wall for the circular saw. I moved up the stairs cutting with the circular saw, and Dad came behind me with the multi-tool. This sped things along quite nicely. 

Next came the riser install. The stock risers I'd gotten from Home Depot weren't quite the right size, so we had to trim them down. Dad worked on that, while I ran back to Home Depot for semi-gloss super white paint to paint them with (I'd thought I had some, but it turned out to be a dried-up mess). By the time I got back, Dad had started gluing and nailing the risers in place, and I went behind painting them. With this teamwork, we got all the risers installed and painted the first day. 

Thursday morning, we started on the 'easy' landing. This was the first landing as you come up the stairs, so the boards would just be going straight across. It was still tricky, though, because the landing isn't just a square, so there was a lot of measuring and cutting angles. That one landing took us all morning. After lunch, we started on the easy steps. Just ignore the surrounding steps in this photo; I didn't take a picture of this landing until everything was done.

My dad had the idea that it would probably be easier and faster to assemble the steps a little large in the garage, glue them up, then cut them to the exact size, and install them on the stairs. The nosing came in 72" lengths, so we cut them in half, leaving us about 5" more than we needed for the stair width. We cut flooring boards to fit in. For the depth of the stairs, we needed about 3 and 1/3 board widths. After the first couple steps, we got into a rhythm of Dad cutting the flooring, while I glued the steps together. When we ran out of places to build new steps, we went back to the first one we had assembled to cut it to width and install it.

Dad had built a jig to measure the non-squareness of the stairs. We'd place the jig on the stair, expand it to the correct length, adjust the end angles to line up with the walls, then tighten everything down. Then we'd take the jig back to the garage and line it up on the assembled step, tracing the edges to know where to cut. Most of the stairs were pretty close to square, so we maybe didn't really need the jig, but if they hadn't been as good, it would have been super helpful. And it was still useful. 

After cutting the step, we glued it down with Liquid Nails and put a few 18-gauge nails in. We installed every other step, so we could go up and down the stairs relatively easily without walking on the new treads while the glue was still setting. In this way, we finished up Thursday with all the 'easy' steps assembled and half of them installed.

Friday morning, we got to work on the 'hard' stairs. There were 3 of these, plus a landing. We had actually assembled the first step on Thursday, but it took a long time to dry. We needed it super dry so we could cut a tongue into the edge. Since we had cut all the boards at an angle, the front no longer had a tongue or groove, and we needed a tongue to fit into the groove of the nosing. We cut a tongue very carefully using the table saw. It took awhile, but eventually we got it cut, attached to the nosing, and the whole thing installed on the stair. We assembled the other other 2 'hard' steps and brought them in the house to let the glue cure in a warmer environment than the garage. 

Those seemingly few items took us all morning. Over lunch, we discussed our plan of attack for the 'hard' landing. Those boards would also be cut at an angle, eliminating the necessary tongue to fit into the nosing. It would be a lot harder to do any sort of precision assembly and then cut a tongue into those pieces. However, my awesome tool buddy had also given me some splines, which fit into a flooring groove, turning it into a tongue. We figured we could use those to turn the groove in the nosing into a tongue, then get a router to cut grooves into all the angled step pieces. Of course, this meant another trip to Home Depot, but it was totally worth it because this tactic worked great. We cut all the initial angle pieces and grooved them up and dry-fit them in place, so we could measure the rest of the pieces needed. With all the angles of the landing, this took the rest of the day, but we managed to get the landing all glued and nailed in with even a couple of hours left for relaxing before bed.

Saturday, we started with one of the 2 remaining 'hard' steps, routing a groove in the front, attaching it to a nose, cutting the assembled step to fit, and filling in extra triangle bits in the corner. We didn't do the last step since we were trying to keep to an 'every other step is new with the glue curing' philosophy to make it a little easier to go up and down the stairs without stepping on stairs that hadn't had 24 hours to cure. 

Next, we started looking at the very bottom step. It had been curved, but in all my searching, I hadn't found anything that I felt sure would work to maintain the curve, so we decided to square it off. However, if we just boxed off the existing riser, Zach and I were concerned it would stick out rather far, increasing the risk of us running into the pointy corner. We weren't sure exactly how the curved riser was constructed, but my dad agreed to just start cutting into it and see what happened. It wasn't solid and broke apart pretty easily. Unfortunately, cutting it out seemed to severely reduce the structural integrity of that end of the step. My dad built a little box out of a 2x4 I had lying around to fit snugly under the tread to provide support. We cut the front riser to length, then used more riser pieces and other scrap wood to build out the remaining 2 sides of the box to the correct depth, while adding surface area for the tread to rest on. 

While Dad got to work figuring out the cuts for the nosing to make perfect 'picture frame' corners at not perfect 45 deg angles, I went back to installing 'easy' steps. We had 5 rough-cut assembled steps that needed to be cut to size and installed. These 2 tasks took us the rest of the day. My part should have gone faster, but Friday I had started getting a cold that had become much worse by Saturday afternoon and had me taking frequent rest breaks. Still, it was good teamwork, splitting up the jobs to get everything done before my parents were scheduled to leave Sunday afternoon. We got the rest of the 'easy' steps installed, and Dad got the first step nosing cut and the glue started curing with a make-shift clamp made out of rubber bands!

Sunday morning we hurried to finish up before Mom and Dad had to leave. I got to work on the last 'hard' step, measuring, cutting, and filling in the corner. Dad measured and fit boards for the first step. We got it all done in just an hour or two and even got the garage all cleaned up before it was go time! 

Of course, things still weren't done. I had to spackle and repaint a bit of wall where the drywall had gotten torn when we cut up the rounded first step. For this, I was extremely grateful for the spreadsheet I started a few years ago, where I listed what paint colors are where in the house, so I knew which light brown paint to use! Then there was caulking all the open seams between risers and walls. I had to measure and get some shoe moulding for around the first step and on the 2 landings and nail that in. Finally, most of the risers needed some touch-up paint where they'd gotten scuffed during step installations. I left all that for the next weekend, when my cold had gone away. 

Before Caulk

After Caulk

And now it's all done! And it looks super awesome, if I do say so myself :-) Huge shout-out to my dad for all his help!