If you own a two-story house, you likely know how important a staircase can be. It is often a focus of your home, giving a strong statement that says a lot about your style. A staircase can also make or break a remodel. They aren’t easy to do, and their intimidation is well worth it as they can quickly become a massive undertaking.
How To Remodel Your Stairs – Part One – Introduction
When we purchased this house, I knew the staircase was going to change. To be honest, I had this on a “later” docket, but our daughter broke a stair part our first week here, so it quickly got moved up the list. I knew I wanted it done without costing an arm and a leg. This remodel may have been costly with time, but not as much when it came to money. All in all, this staircase remodel costs me less than three hundred dollars. So let’s dig in and see How To Remodel Your Stairs on a budget.
For this first article, I am going to walk you through the hardest part, the Demo and Stripping process. Before I get to the Design and Install you have to get the hard part over.
How To Remodel Your Stairs- Part One – Supply List
- Chip Brushes
- Mineral Spirits
- Contour Scraper
- Wire Brushes
- Masking paper (sold by the roll)
- Shop Towels
How To Remodel Your Stairs- Part One – Tool List
How To Remodel Your Stairs – Part One – Stripping and Sanding
First, we will talk about Stripping. I did as much of this as possible before removing the spindles, so these steps are somewhat reversible. Thankfully products like CitriStrip make the job relatively easy without harsh fumes. There are stronger strippers out there, but since we were living in the home, I didn’t want to be concerned with hazardous fumes. While I can’t guarantee it, I would guess this had shellac on it. Why? Well, it wasn’t a uniform shade entirely, and it was a bear to remove. Shellac isn’t an easy product to remove, but thankfully it wasn’t my first go around.
Make sure you protect your floors and walls, this is a stripper so it can absolutely damage other surfaces if you aren’t careful. Here I used an old blanket but I quickly switched to heavy masking paper.
I applied the Citri Strip liberally using a chip brush. It is somewhat transparent when you apply it, but be generous with it.
After it dries, it turns somewhat opaque and almost white. Once this happens it’s usually ready to remove.
I used good old fashioned paint scrapers to remove the bulk of this, and let me tell you, scraping it is incredibly satisfying! You can see I have my assistant here!
Be careful when scraping, metal scrapers are more effective than plastic, but can also easily put gouges in the wood. If you find the Citri-strip to become to dry, a quick spray of water helps remoisturize it.
You may need more than one coat in any one area. I found some areas did well with one, while others tools several times to get the bulk of the finish off.
On trim areas, and in trim seams, a stiff bristle brush helps to get every bit out of every crevice. A Contoured scraper is a tool I would recommend you use, but one I didn’t have at the time. This helps with the contoured areas, particularly on the handrail as well as joints and seems.
The last step in stripping is to give a good wipe with mineral spirits to remove any residual residue. I went back and stripped again in a few areas that seemed previously done, so definitely take your time making sure you’ve removed the finish entirely.
Next, settle in for some serious sanding. I started with 120 grit and went all the way to 220 in steps. You want a nice smooth surface to put the stain on. My wood is Red Oak, which is naturally hard to ever get perfectly smooth given its open grain. The better you do on this step, the better the end result.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the stripping and sanding step. I broke down areas and really spent the time to get it right. Citri-Strip was a great product for me because there aren’t fumes, just a pleasant orange smell so I could apply it then do things like cook dinner etc, then come back to do the peeling.
For the bulk of my sanding I used my DeWalt Random Orbital Sander, I had a corded one but recently upgraded to the cordless and it would have been awesome for this project! I used the Dremel Multi-Max with the triangle sanding head for corners and hard to reach areas. Love this tool for its versatility!
The sanding and stripping should look like this when done, you can see here I had already installed the spindles. I will explain that process in How To Remodel Your Stairs – Part Two.
How To Remodel Your Stairs – Part One – Demo
This phase is pure demolition. Obviously, you have to remove the old stair spindles before you can install new ones. You want to do this when you are somewhat ready to get the install underway or you’ll be left with a hazard. This is why I did the bulk of the stripping and sanding first because it is time-consuming it was easier to access what I could prior to installing the new spindles.
I used a reciprocating saw and sliced right through the middle of my spindles, then knocked them out with a hammer. My spindles were installed by nails from above and below, you will undoubtedly have to adjust the removal based on how yours were installed originally.
I removed the old stair parts and repeated the earlier stripping and sanding for areas I didn’t have access to prior.
For some, it will make more sense to remove spindles first, it really all depends on how far you’re taking this project. When it comes to truly getting your staircase ready for the next phase, you will definitely regret taking any short cuts when it comes to the prep stage. Just take your time and remember in the long term it will all be worth it!
How To Remodel Your Stair – Part 1 Demo – Wrap Up
I broke this down pretty simply, but remember that this project is labor intensive. The prepping stage is a big project but one I loved every moment of. The process of revealing the wood below layers of orange shellac was nothing short of awesome. I wouldn’t say this project is entirely DIY friendly. Some experience with stripping and sanding will greatly help in this project. Even the most experienced woodworkers will grumble at a stripping job, but it is absolutely possible!
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